L. Poushinsky Q & A with
L. Poushinsky

Interview by Ren Tomovcik
( Photo by Pedro Isztin)

Ottawa-based indie-folk beauty Lisa Poushinsky has struck out on her own with a unique sound, a blazing creativity and a delicious new album, "Heart Shaped Cookie Cutter," due out this November.

After spending her childhood on a farm southeast of Ottawa, Lisa’s wanderings took her to Boston and then to the GTA.  But she returned to the capital five years ago, and boy, are we lucky she did!   Lisa, formerly of rock bands Red Fey and Hollow Water, is now known onstage as L. Poushinsky, singer-songwriter.  Her MySpace profile describes her music as "feverish cabaret folk-rock for lovers and wolves" and the whimsical description could not be more apt. 

L.'s music is at once eclectic and sweet, poignant and introspective, and her lyrics cut right to the heart of the human experience.   How does L. do it all?  With lots of passion.

L., where do you get the inspiration for the whimsical tales you tell?  Are your songs autobiographical?Yes, it’s all about me, but fictionalized!  When I wrote my Red Fey material I used to make up characters, but the truth is, they were all just parts of me anyway.  Usually the dramatic parts!

Inspiration often comes when an emotion or situation or problem suddenly makes conscious sense. I had a moment last month when I was walking through Chinatown in a storm and the air was full of ozone and fish and garbage and incense and I realized that, if I was a cat, that’s what I’d want my life to smell like all the time.  The back burner is always scrambling to make sense of it all!

L. Poushinsky Photo (left) by Pedro Isztin

Once you have that idea and grab it, how does it evolve into a finished song?
Most of my tunes happen in one go.  I start with this nudge that comes from the back of my head, telling me to pick up a guitar or pick up a pen, something good is coming down the pipe.  Usually I have to write and play through a bunch of clichéd crap until something with a spark happens, and then I try and make a song where all the elements of it support that spark. 

I don’t believe in sticking to one type of music so I’ll grab those elements from wherever.  I compare myself to Tom Waits in that respect, that man is a sort of junk collector as far as musical ideas go and I hope that I can someday aspire to similar heights of, um, shined-up secondhand tunes!

How did you get started as a singer-songwriter?
I started writing half decent tunes while I was going to Sheridan College for glass blowing.  I’d had a terrible relationship breakup and the program was very high stress and competitive – performing at open mics relieved my stress. Now I’m hardly ever nervous on stage!

L. Poushinsky I also had the incredible luck of having local jazz legend Vern Isaacs in my extended family. Vern was a sax player / big band leader that helped start the Ottawa and Montreal jazz scene and my godmother and Vernon were great friends.  Both Vernon and my godmother Sue Galvin were always encouraging me to play, taking me backstage at the jazz festivals and into bars.  As a kid and young adult I was heading towards fine arts but I look back on those experiences now and realize that Vernon was actually teaching me how to lead a band, have fun on stage, book shows, and not get cynical! 

Photo (left) by Ming Wu  Tell us a little about your upcoming album! Heart Shaped Cookie Cutter has been a long time coming. I have enough unrecorded songs right now for three albums, but the ones that made the cut definitely tell a story. The story is about a gal who learns about love and “sweet teeth” the hard way: getting dumped, realizing that a relationship isn’t satisfying, giving without receiving, giving in to temptation.  Finally, hope and potential for a healthy relationship come up in “There’s a Sweetness,” “Vacation,” and the title track “Heart Shaped Cookie Cutter.” 

“Sugar = love” is a metaphor I keep coming back to. In real life I am definitely a sugar addict, I’ll eat a whole bag of cookies in one sitting if I don’t scrape up the self-restraint, to the detriment of my health!  I also have a lot of food allergies, so in some ways, healthy love and healthy food are both things I really needed to learn about!

L. Poushinsky Photo by Pedro Isztin
What are some of your favourite places in Ottawa?My favourite places to perform in are the Avant Garde Bar, the Raw Sugar Café and the Shanghai Restaurant.  Great food, great people, and a love for independent artists!  But what really inspires me about Ottawa is that I can walk the streets and hardly ever get harassed!  After living in Boston and Toronto, in this respect I really appreciate our government town.

Who are some other creative people that inspire you?  I learned to sing and write music by imitating Tom Waits, Martin Tielli and the Beatles. Locals that really inspire me are ones that work hard and keep workin’. Danny Michel and Jim Bryson and Snailhouse and Mike Dubue all work like dogs and they seem to be paying the rent while still making wonderful music!

Is there a local artist who has been particularly influential to you?Janice Hall, who played bass for me in Red Fey, really took the time to show me the ropes as far as performing independent music in Ottawa goes. Sarah Hallman and I were roommates in Oakville and we both started performing around the same time, I think we egg each other on!  And there is a definite community of independent artists here with whom I’m lucky to share both friendships and the stage, among them Meredith Luce, Dean and Tim Watson, Brian Simms, Dave Norris, Gianna Lauren, Mike Schultz, Shannon Rose, Phil Bova, and everyone else I’ve ever played with.  Without them I wouldn’t be doing what I do.


"Heart Shaped Cookie Cutter" Album Release
w/ Trevor Alguire @ the Ecclesiax Church, 2 Monk St., Ottawa
Friday, November 13th - doors open at 8:30
Tickets are $10, or $20 = ticket + CD

Lisa also plays keys and sings back up vocals for Dave Norris & Local Ivan, Jay Todd’s 40 Watt Monkey, and I played with Kader Blaine’s project Bandier Lake. 
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