Glebe musician Jill Zmud nominated for Folk Music Award

By Martha Bowers

Glebe musician Jill Zmud’s album, Small Matters of Life and Death, has been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award. PHOTO: BLAIR GABLE

Glebe musician Jill Zmud’s album, Small Matters of Life and Death, has been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award. PHOTO: BLAIR GABLE

I had planned to meet local singer-songwriter Jill Zmud on October 22. Given the tragic events on Parliament Hill that day, we decided to postpone our meeting. I did get together with her the next day and we had a delightful chat about her music, living in the Glebe and life in general.

Having grown up in Saskatoon, Zmud says, “It takes a while for a Prairie girl to feel at home, but the Glebe has done that for me.” Although she came to Ottawa in 2000 to study at Carleton University, she then went to Toronto and back to Saskatchewan, where she taught political studies at the University of Saskatchewan. But in 2006 she decided that Ottawa was a better place for her music and the Glebe turned out to be the perfect spot.

Strange as it may seem, Zmud only got into music in her early twenties when her brother, seeing that she needed a creative outlet, gave her a guitar. In her formative years she had been a dancer and found that the freedom of choreography seeped into her music. Her first album, As We Quickly Drive By, made many “best of” lists in 2009. She has been influenced by the Sarahs: McLachlan, Slean and Harmer, as well as by Joni Mitchell. Her country-folk sound is lyrical, with gospel-tinged harmonies, and her songs are light and dark, joyful and pensive.

Her musical family has also had an impact on her; she sang Leonard Cohen songs in the kitchen with her mom, and her Uncle Ed had been a member of the band Witness Inc. in the 1960s and 1970s. It was the discovery of an old dusty reel-to-reel tape of her uncle’s in her parents’ basement that was an inspiration for her recently released album Small Matters of Life and Death. Zmud says, “It’s an album tied to the celebration of life, lives and the unbreakable link to family.” There are songs about loss and grief such as “Chained and Bound,” about the death of her father, but then she jumps to the other side. Zmud was pregnant while recording the album and her daughter Violet was born just six weeks before the release!

“In her formative years she had been a dancer and found that the freedom of choreography seeped into her music.”

Now Zmud is in the midst of juggling her musical career with a new baby, but she has lots of support from her husband, Alan, her mom and Alan’s parents. She loves living in the Glebe – the sense of community, its compactness. Being carless, she enjoys being able to walk wherever she needs to go. She loves the treats on Bank Street, especially the empanadas at Morala Café and the pancakes at Flapjack’s! She is also a tea aficionado, searching out new flavours, interesting pots and teacups.

Zmud will continue to create music, to share her stories with other artists, and to perform and tour while on the steep learning curve of how to be a mamma. She has already taken the baby to an out-of-town conference with her mom as roadie.
She did a show in Kingston in late October and will do a benefit for Cornerstone on November 21 at the Centurion Conference and Event Centre on Colonnade Road. Zmud is thrilled that Small Matters of Life and Death has been nominated for Contemporary Album of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards taking place in Ottawa from November 27 to 29.

Zmud’s records are available at Compact Music as well as online. Check out her website for information on upcoming shows: jillzmud.com.

Martha Bowers is an editor, proofreader and regular contributor to the Glebe Report.

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