Looking back, this was the first time I was able play music for a year without the same worries and fears that money and personal safety had caused me beforehand; I was sustained through my student grants, my rent was cheap and I have a strong memory of feeling safe late at night on the streets, which is something I had never experienced before as a young woman. This isn’t to say that the city is crime-free, and it is important to say as a white woman I had safety privileges. I had thought freedom was something tangible that I could see or do, but one of the most freeing experiences I had was playing shows and afterwards walking down the street without fear.
Being given these opportunities to play and share taught me the value of playing with other people and how there is so much more to music than notes and sounds. It’s like a conversation, but one that comes from the core of you where all the indescribable feelings are, and together we communicate these things through sound. I felt like I had been welcomed as part of a musical community that was nurturing, inspiring and filling me with wonder.
If I had found that one perfect, fixed identity, I might not have had these experiences. The musicians I was inspired by weren’t following any kind of blueprint in their lives or their music; the same social timeline I had started to feel the pressure of in the UK felt non-existent here. The ever changing city, the explorations of its musicians and the surprises that jumping in the deep end created helped me feel maybe I didn’t have a blueprint to follow either, and that that would be okay. I will always be grateful to the musicians, friends, venues and spaces in Montreal for helping me learn how unimportant it is to be able to categorise or define who we are and what music we make in neat boxes, and how fun it is to follow a sound or a feeling of your own in all of its glorious chaos.