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Maureen Washington. Bringing So Much Heart and Soul to Jazz and Blues.

Girl Warrior Stories| Views: 1932

Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, Canadian and International Jazz and Blues Recording Artist, Maureen Washington, one of Vancouver Island’s most sought after vocalists. Her rich tones and captivating emotions have cultivated large audiences with a styling that encompasses the soul of Etta James, Carmen McRae and the modernity of Holly Cole. And yet she remains a voice of her own. Maureen began her musical career in her hometown of Prince George, British Columbia, as the lead singer of a band called BOP. Their versatile repertoire, ranging from Jazz and R&B classics to lively originals, brought them sold out crowds. Now based in Victoria, British Columbia, Maureen continues to create new musical avenues and is blessed with a growing entourage of fans as she performs with duos, sextets, and solo artists, including singing back up on Canadian Folk legend Valdy’s 2011 album, Read Between the Lines. Having had the honor of working with some of BC’s best musicians, Maureen is an accomplished jazz and blues vocalist, songwriter, and instructor. In the winter of 2016, Maureen released her ninth album, Harvest Moon, working alongside West Coast producer, Joby Baker, who is known for his Juno and Grammy award-winning tracks. Not one to rest on her laurels, Maureen has also worked as a singer-songwriter, vocal instructor, hosted and performed main stage for four years at the Prince George International Folk Fest, where she shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Bruce Cockburn, Janis Ian, Martyn Joseph, and has twice hosted festival clinics with Florida’s Lee Boys and Ruthie Foster and Canadian Indie rock singer and guitarist Amy Millan. Maureen’s effortless charisma, crystal-clear control, and room-filling stage presence is enough to inspire any audience to fall in love with jazz again!

What makes you a Girl Warrior? 

Being a Mum of 5 adults, growing up in a small town where being mixed-race and overweight was ridiculed, living through abusive relationships and walking with my husband and our children through his death from cancer and I’m still standing!

You’re one of Vancouver Island’s most sought after vocalists. Was music always “it” for you?

Actually yes. But it was a secret wish. When I was a teenager, my desire was to be a Mum of a lot of kids and a professional singer. From my young understanding of the music industry and living in Prince George, I thought I would only find success in my first dream.

Who inspired you musically and why?

Probably my high-school choir teacher. It was in choir where music came to life for me.

Your musical career began in Prince George. What stands out the most about the early days with BOP?

First and foremost, how much fun it was to front the band, along with the fun we had creating and performing together. Everyone contributed musically, but then on the business side, we all had skills that fit brilliantly together. We had all the aspects taken care of, accounting, graphic/design, bookings, scoring, recording, and all our personalities meshed beautifully.

It was also extremely scary as I was an “uneducated” musician unlike most of my band mates. They all had degrees and spoke music language which I would just keep quiet with a “smile and nod” sort of position hoping they didn’t find out I knew nothing about what they were talking about.

You’ve shared the stage with some of the best musicians around – Bruce Cockburn, Janis Ian, Martyn Joseph, just to name a few. What’s it like to perform with such musical luminaries?

Connecting and getting to know them personally behind the scenes was the biggest highlight, along with working with them and seeing their amazing musical abilities. It’s impossible not to glean and grow as a musician.

While back in Prince George in 2004 you produced and hosted a musician’s showcase featuring local talent and young artists. Why are you so passionate about mentorship?

At that time, I was the newcomer to a songwriting group, which met once a week, where we would work on crafting songs and then perform them to each other. I was amazed at the songs that only our group would hear and so I decided to create an opportunity for all experience levels to play their amazing songs publicly. It gave those of us who were new to song writing a chance to learn from some amazing writers, and there is nothing better than playing an original song to a live appreciative audience. If we all work together we all move forward together.

Describe what it was like opening for Jazz Legend Joe Lovano?

It was an honor to be asked to open for him and to play at the McPherson Theater. He is a lovely man with a huge life of experience.

What has been your biggest challenge so far? 

That’s a tough question to answer briefly, as it depends on the day or moment. Probably, belief in myself, there is still the fear of not being good enough for this business.

What obstacles have you overcome, and walls have you broken down?

Just the ones in my head, of not being good enough (which is ongoing)

What do we need to know “for sure” about the music business?

That behind the gowns, and sparkly jewelry it’s VERY hard work. On stage we make it look simple and easy and for the most part the performance side of things, it is. But as the curtain goes down you are back to work looking for your next opportunity, improving your craft, charting, and learning more music, and schlepping your own gear.

What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?

You are brilliant, and YOU ARE ENOUGH!

What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?  

You are brilliant, and YOU ARE ENOUGH!

Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why? 

I would say all the women in my family. Gramma, Mum, Aunt, Sister, Daughters, Sister-in-Laws, Nieces, and Cousins. I know most of their stories through their life’s journey and they all inspire me with their courage to hold their heads up through their fabulous successes and struggles.

What’s next? 

Continuing to perform, teach and inspire others. I’m working at touring through Canada and going back to the UK to perform and hoping to open doors to in Europe.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Living part of the year in Europe performing in soft-seat venues.

If a song were written about your life, what would it be called?

This woman did it all!


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