Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 4, 2014
It’s coming: For a glorious six-day stretch starting March 11, the music world will have all eyes and ears on the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin. Leading up to the festival, we will profile a different artist each day.
From: Toronto, Canada
Online: basiabulat.com; official SXSW page
SXSW shows: TBA
About the artist
Browse YouTube for videos of Basia Bulat songs, and you’re likely to find one where she’s playing acoustic guitar. Or one where she’s using a Bolivian charango. Or one where she’s covering Springsteen with a hammered harp. Or one where she’s simply singing a cappella while clapping her hands and stomping her feet.
"I get excited by the fact that there might be something new and fun to play in the room," says Bulat, who’s also been playing a fair bit of keyboards on the tour to support her new album "Tall Tall Shadow," released last fall. "I don’t think I’m necessarily amazing at anything, but I do like to feel like I can at least play a song or write a song on almost anything."
Such versatility helps Bulat steer clear of easy stereotypes, even if it makes her music challenging to categorize. There are elements of classic English folk-rock here, but also shades of the Canadian indie rock community where she encountered such acts as Arcade Fire (whose members have helped produce her records).
The unifying factor his Bulat’s voice, which has a disarming, charming quality that instills her heart-searching lyrics with a vulnerability that cuts deep. Which may explain why she was drawn to cover former Austinite Daniel Johnston, a similarly heart-on-the-sleeve songwriter.
Bulat remembers meeting Johnston in her teen years when he played at a small pizza joint in Toronto. "I was calling my mom to get a ride home, and he was there," she recalls. And I said, ‘That was a good show.’ And he said, ‘Thanks, can I buy you a slice of pizza?’ It was so strange, this bizarre, surreal moment: Daniel Johnston offering to buy me a slice of pizza. Although I politely declined!
"I didn’t know that I was going to have my own musical career and then be playing his songs. But it’s one of those things where, I love that it happened, looking back."
Perhaps they can hit Home Slice together during SXSW.
Could share a bill with: Sharon Van Etten, Josh Ritter, Feist, Steeleye Span