Skip to content

Music’s power: emotional and political

Shari Ulrich trio coming to Knox United
Juno-winning singer, songwriter and musician Shari Ulrich, centre, will be performing with her daughter, Julia Graff, left, and Kirby Barber at Knox United Church on Sunday, May 7. — Submitted by Knox Presents

There’s a new wind blowing for Juno-award winner Shari Ulrich, and she’s never enjoyed performing more.

“I feel more passionate about the importance of music in our lives than I ever have,” she said during an interview with the NEWS. “It feels like one of the few jobs that has a real value in terms of allowing people to sort of weather what goes on in the world a little better.”

Ahead of her performance, to take place alongside her daughter Julia Graff and fellow High Bar Gang member Kirby Barber at Knox United Church on Sunday, May 7, she spoke with the NEWS on her music, her passion, and a bit about politics.

Ulrich was born in California and describes herself as a child of the ’60s on her website.

Her influences include The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and many others. “I still have a hippy heart hiding in there,” she discloses.

Along with that upbringing comes political action as inspiration for music.

It’s inspired Ulrich’s work in the past, and is inspiring her now to create some new music as a response to current politics, she said.

“I’ve sort of parcelled out my political songs throughout my career so as to sort of drop them and run,” she said with a laugh. “I like to try and keep my content balanced both in recordings and live, so I wait for them to brew and then figure out the best way to say it.”

Now, she’s trying to figure out how to say what she’s said before, but in a new way.

“I’m considering doing something with humour instead, as an escape, as a way for people to sort of help process but not necessarily become even more depressed,” said Ulrich.

That’s one of the major changes she’s seen from the rallies and movements of the ’60s to today, she said.

“We were much more aggressively speaking up than we are now. And I think that’s fatigue. Not in terms of generational (fatigue), but there are just so many things wrong…

“I think there are parallels in that we are heading into a very volatile period where those of us who are innately pacifists just feel like this is just so wrong to be approaching the world and any kind of conflict in this way, (and) we will be making sure that our voices are heard.”

That’s one of the powers music has, but Ulrich said her songs that most connect with people are about her own life.

She’s developed a bit of a reputation for writing about anything and everything personal without worry for privacy, though, originally, she said she never thought those personal songs would be used commercially.

“They would just pop out while I was writing songs for albums,” she said. “But I had a very wise producer who recognized that those were my strongest and most important songs, so they did always go on the record, and those are the ones that people still ask for 30, 40 years later.”

She said nothing negative has ever come out of sharing her stories.

“I would even venture to say that people keeping secrets is harmful, so I think sometimes it allows people to feel like the secrets they have been holding are OK to share.”

But recently, she’s felt an even greater need during her performances, and it’s what’s driving her now, she said.

“I feel like people are hungrier than ever to feel, to process, to find comfort, to find pleasure, to find meaning and depth in what they consume, and their cultural and artistic experiences,” said Ulrich. As a result, she said, “I feel more passionate about the importance of music in our lives than I ever have.”

Ulrich describes her style as singer/songwriter fare, but said, in this trio, all three women will be singing — a combination that she has fallen in love with, she said.

She’ll be on piano and guitar, Graff on violin, mandolin and guitar, while Kirby will be on bass.

Ulrich said she’s excited to return to Parksville, where, a handful of years ago, she performed in a trio and found it was her favourite way to perform as a group.

The performance takes place Sunday, May 7 starting at 2:30 p.m. at Knox United Church. Tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. They are available at the church, or Mulberry Bush Book Stores.