Straight Outta Canada

Musical vagabond Awna Teixeira on her inspirations, improving interpersonal skills and why she loves the gut bass.

Curve caught up with the ever-touring Canadian all-girl folk quartet Po’ Girl and managed to get singer and multi-instrumentalist Awna Teixeira to pause just long enough to give us the lowdown on playing atypical instruments, how constant touring develops excellent people skills and what she would have done if she hadn’t been a musician.

How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard you play before?
It’s all original and based on and influenced by a lot of old jazz and old country and the long standing tradition of song writing, which is basically storytelling with music. So you can get anywhere from an Eastern European sound to country or folk or kind of more blues oriented. Its really kind of all over the map, which is fun for us and I think really fun for our audiences too, because our shows are never the same.

I also noticed that you guys tour relentlessly. What are some of the pros and cons of that?
We’re constantly growing as musicians and getting a chance to be on stage every night is really good for our craftsmanship and we’re just getting a chance to really hone our craft, so it really amazing for that. Also that our network is just growing all the time, that we get to travel and experience new places as well is really an amazing thing to get to do with your music. And getting to hear other music that you wouldn’t you wouldn’t’ t normally hear if you were just listening to the radio. There’s a lot of perks.

We miss out a lot on the lives of our loved ones, I think is the hardest part. We all have a lot of little friends that are just growing now from babies to 15 year olds and we’re missing out a lot on their lives and as much as we do try and keep in contact its not the same as seeing people. We are in and out of everybody’s lives like within a day or two so even when we do see people its not for very long, so it can be pretty strange, its kind of alienating.

I always wondered if people dropped out of the band because they just got exhausted.
Yeah, actually with some previous band members, you know people just didn’t want to be touring as much as we were. It’s a really hard life and its not for everybody, so…a lot of people don’t thrive in this kind of scenario, its really challenging. You know you are with four or five other people 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so there’s a lot of …you know we have to have meetings a lot and there’s a lot of learning about yourself and really how to communicate with other people.

You must be developing some awesome interpersonal skills.
Its unbelievable. I think I’ll be ready, you know when the time is right for me to get married I’ll be a pro at having a serious crazy relationship with one person, because I’m already having it with five people and I’m being successful, so. Its been pretty wild, it’s a pretty wild way to live.

Can you tell me a little bit about the different instruments that you play?
I play about five or six on stage with this band. Accordion, banjo and electric bass. I play an instrument called the gut bucket bass, which is just one string, a piece of doweling and a metal tin can and its played like an upright bass. It originates from Western Africa and was brought to the Americas with the slave migration and it’s a really old instrument. I can get about an octave and a half to two octaves on a good day. Its really fun to play and not too many people know about it or have seen it before so it a really eye catcher as well sounds really amazing, people really don’t expect that they are going to hear what they hear from it.

Can you tell me a little bit about, if you were always musical as a kid or how you picked up the various instruments or a little bit about your story with getting involved with music.
I’ve always been into music. I was always obsessed with it. I was kind of a loner when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time in my room listening to my little radio box. I didn’t have much in the way of support in my family. So no one really noticed that I was into music.  I saved up some allowance and bought a little organ from a garage sale and I started figuring out songs off the radio when I was like 10…Its always been there, I’ve always been obsessed. And once I realized that I could do it as well I kind of couldn’t stop, I got really obsessed with all different instruments. Its probably a good thing that I don’t actually have a house because I would have more instruments then anything else and no room to brush my teeth in the bathroom probably, so.

So do you play by ear or do you have more formal training.
All by ear, I’ve never had any formal training. Either has Alli. We both kind of picked it up on our own and have never had any formal training. Which is really amazing in a lot of way because its always been by feel. It does inhibit us in some ways, you know meeting different musicians who are only trained musically. It can be hard to communicate what we want to have happen in a song and stuff because her and I are like, ’It kinda goes boom-chi, boom-chi’ and they’re like what the hell are you trying to tell us? It can be pretty entertaining too.

If you weren’t a musician what do you think you’d be doing?
Oh God, I have no idea. Maybe like a pool hustler. I’d be trying to make some money playing nine ball somewhere in Vegas maybe.

Do you play pool?
I used to play tournaments and stuff. I don’t know that that’s what I’d do. I’m not sure what I’d do. There’s a lot of things that I dream about doing and never have the time to. Alli and I are both trying to make time for other things. I’ve started the beginning process of writing children’s books. I’m doing a series that’s actually based on Alli and I, we have these little cartoon alter egos and we’re going to be traveling around the world and teaching children how to speak through music, so I have like the whole  works in the process and we are going to be writing music for the books as well. There’s other things that we try and do but mostly it has to do with music.