The first thing that strikes listeners about Hamilton’s (ON) Gillian Nicola is the strength of her vocals. Nicola’s vocal delivery is full of power, while remaining authentic and vulnerable. The singer/songwriter calls on influences of folk, rock and alt-country to create a sound that honours her diverse taste.
In late 2015, Nicola headed into Hamilton’s Catherine North Studios to work with producer Dan Hosh (Whitehorse, City & Colour, Rose Cousins) on her sophomore EP, No Place to Call (spring 2016). Mastered by Elliott Brood’s Stephen Pitkin, the five-song EP is a move to a sound that Nicola feels fully defines her as an artist. On a base level, the songs are what many have come to know and love from Canadian folk music, but the vocal delivery and heavy instrumentation set Nicola apart.
Throughout No Place to Call, she employs the use of heavy textures and ambience coupled with emotionally-charged lyrics and vocal delivery. Nicola also uses the contrast of dark and light sounds to create a surface of calm, with undertones of commotion. Nicola explains, “No Place to Call is a work focused on atmosphere: I want the listener to feel as though they are surrounded by colour, while simultaneously allowing them to really feel the emotion that is clear in the songs.” The title, No Place to Call refers to a lack of being able to call anyone, or any place, home – a theme that is highly present throughout the recording.
The first single, “Oh Marie” draws directly on this idea. Nicola presents the story of a character who seemingly has everything she needs in life, but still has a sense of emptiness. Marie abandons it all for a new life – something that so many have dreamed of, but few have the courage to pull off. “’Oh Marie’ is just as much about questioning how she could go through with her actions as it is about envying them, ” explains Nicola. While at times it may be ‘pretty,’ No Place to Call is anything but that: it is charged with emotion, grit and vulnerability.
A classically trained vocalist, Nicola’s 2013 EP Chasing the Wind, was nominated for two Hamilton Music Awards (Best New Artist/Group, Alt-Country Recording of the Year) and the Toronto Independent Music Awards (Best Folk). Nicola has made many high-profile appearances, including: the JUNO Concert Series, The Love Song Edition and Hamilton’s Supercrawl. Nicola was a Regional Finalist in the 2015 CBC Searchlight Competition and was selected for the Canadian Independent Recording Artist’s Association’s Mentorship Program, where she received one-on-one mentorship with Livy Jeanne (Black Box Records, Universal Music) over the summer of 2015.