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Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Toronto Gypsy Girl plants her roots in Massachussets

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Kat Goldman seems to make a habit of disappearing.

A few years after she released her first CD in 2000, aptly titled The Great Disappearing Act, the Toronto singer-songwriter was forced to put aside her music career and plans to move to New York after a car smashed into a north Toronto bakery where she was buying a bagel and pinned her against a wall. She suffered severe injuries.

She resurfaced in 2007 with her critically praised Sing Your Song, and after a year of performing almost weekly in every nook and cranny of Toronto’s music scene, she seemingly disappeared again.

Now, Goldman has emerged once again – this time in Cambridge, Mass., where she attends university and where she recorded most of her new CD, Gypsy Girl.

“I had this restless feeling that I had to leave Toronto,” Goldman says over the phone from her new home. “Career wise, I was getting to a place where things were getting a bit tired and not very inspiring to me.”

Plus, she says, she felt she couldn’t fully recover emotionally from the accident unless she moved away.

So, after finding a sublet on craigslist around three years ago, she drove down to Massachusetts “with my dog, a bag of summer clothes, my guitar and a vacuum cleaner!”

At 39, she enrolled at Boston University and Harvard and started looking for a new identity. “I was looking for a fresh perspective and definitely got one from coming here.”

The songs on Gypsy Girl, most of which were written in Cambridge, are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark era. Musically, the songs are acoustically driven, but backed by a full band, giving them an up-tempo feel. Lyrically, the songs are personal slices of life, confessionals that reflect her restlessness and wandering spirit.

“The record did develop a strong theme,” she says. “Before I knew it, every song I was writing was about this restlessness, this feeling that there’s more out there for me to explore.”

At the same time, she discovered that she was finally becoming grounded in Cambridge. “I’m calling myself the Gypsy Girl, which implies I’ll never be tethered to any one place, but I feel like I have really found my place now.”

The 11 songs find her exploring how she fits into various situations in life. The song World Away, for instance talks about leaving Toronto and going back to school again in a new country.

“It talks about my confusion as a songwriter and as a new student, and I tried to capture that feeling of being on campus and all the young students walking around with knapsacks and wondering, ‘Do I belong to them? Or do I belong to the world of songwriting?’”

Goldman says she feels comfortable writing deeply personal songs. “I think that now that I’m in my 40s I feel a little more confident in what I’m saying and how I’m saying it – with no apologies. I find by being truthful I connect with other people because it rings true with them and becomes universal.

“The record is meant to convey that a person can make a change at any point in their lives, no matter how drastic.”

Goldman has been searching out different avenues to showcase her songs, some of which have appeared in TV shows and films. Artists such as American singer Dar Williams and Toronto jazz singer Sophie Milman have expressed interest in recording songs of hers someday.

One song she’s had particular success with is Annabel from her first CD. It was covered by Winnipeg’s Juno and Grammy-nominated folk band The Duhks on their CD Your Daughter and Sons.

Recently, she kept the melody and reworked Annabel’s lyrics for Kenny’s Song, a song featured during the closing credits of the Showcase TV show Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will.

“Kenny Hotz is hilarious. Some newspaper once said he is the funniest Jew in Canada, and it was so brilliant when he asked me to do this song for his show,” she says.

Even stranger is that the song’s title ended up being the inspiration for a Governor General Award-nominated book by Kathleen Winter.

“That was so weird!” Goldman says. “She e-mailed me and asked if she could use one of my songs as a quote, and I said, ‘of course.’ Then a couple of years later, I’m at this bookstore at Spadina village and I see this novel, Annabel, by Kathleen Winter. I opened it up and there was this quote by Kat Goldman, and I realized she had named the book after the song.

“I quickly bought the book and brought it to my parents to show them that I’m not a failure after all!”

Although she’s moved from Toronto, Goldman promises she’ll still return to perform here on occasion. In April, she launched Gypsy Girl at a sold-out show at Hugh’s Room.

“That was one of the most exciting nights of my whole life,” she says. “I had this whole band behind me, and it got me thinking that I have to get my travelling band together. I’ll always be a performer and will do a couple of dates in Toronto a year – at least.”

Gypsy Girl is released through Maple Records and can be purchased at maplemusic.com, amazon and iTunes. You can find more information and stream her songs on katgoldmanmusic.com.

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