Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Calgary Folk Fest Interview July 23, 2022
If generational trauma exists, which we know it does, generational grace should too. It does exist perhaps, but we don’t necessarily name it or focus on it. Feminism can get a bad rap because it often involves anger…of course it does. Women have endured living in a world designed to take away their power for a very long time. There used to be little to no legal protection for women against physical domestic abuse, and emotional abuse was wholly unrecognized. It used to be illegal for women to vote or carry out certain professions, which we are very clearly capable of doing. I am writing at this very moment and thinking about how women in the romanticism era still had to write under false names to have works taken seriously or be able to speak politically. The way patriarchal society has treated women is incredibly heartbreaking and insulting, and unfounded in terms of its justifications. Societal structures are based around control, not the intrinsic qualities of those being subjugated.
Thus, breaking out of societal restrictions, biases, and taboos that have impaired the quality of life and amount of respect given to sections of society often requires people to get a little riled up. However, Selci has taken feminism to a place less often visited. Fallen Woman is a love letter to the women who have been harmed by societal structures both in the past and echoing into our present day lives. Sometimes in the thick of the fight for something we forget to or cannot turn around and say ‘you are loved, you are understood, you are seen and cherished’, to those who have fallen or been wounded in that very battle.
The title track for Selci’s double album, “Fallen Woman”, is yet unreleased because it belongs to the upcoming second volume in the record. Calgary Folk Fest 2022 patrons however had a few chances to hear this powerhouse of emotion. Seeing Selci in two workshops as well as her show on the National Stage, I literally was brought to tears more than once, and it was very involuntary – entirely fueled by something so pure in the song along with Selci’s delivery.
Fallen Woman 1 came out in March of 2022. Having the benefit of listening to that album fairly extensively before speaking with Selci in the media tent at Folk Fest, I had some questions in regard to the inspiration.
My interpretation being that many songs were written from different stages and perspectives within relationships, I inquired about my accuracy. According to Selci, ”It's kind of a breakup album. It's a relationship album. There's commentary on different stages of a relationship. There's definitely a few songs that are in the breakup phase, like “Talk About It”, and “When I Became A Routine Task”, those ones are very much like how you're in the middle of the breakup and dealing with this chaos. And then there's some that are post breakup, like “Luscious Love” was about reclaiming. So yeah, there's songs I had written in different states from a few different relationships, but the theme that I was following, ‘fallen woman’, was a leading theme. Fallen woman, it's a Victorian era term and most people have probably heard it from Bridgerton or something like that.”
Expanding, Selci continued, “If you were a woman and they were like, "Oh she's fallen," it'd be like fallen from grace,
essentially. If she did anything outside of the regular relationship norms, say she was found cheating or say it was a young girl like a teenager and she wasn't married yet, if she was found with a man, then she would be considered fallen. Or sometimes even if you were outside of the norm, like if you were having mental health issues or even if you were educated sometimes, you could be considered fallen. And basically, your status would be taken away from you.”
“Oftentimes, if you had any inheritance money, it would be taken away, any support from your family, it would be taken away... also from society, oftentimes leading to sex work. That's what the fallen woman represented at the time.”
…Just rereading this quote, there is so much to unpack, but let’s start here: society finds some fault in you as a woman, you lose everything and have few options left to you so you do what you must to survive or maybe feed your children, including potentially sex work, which would entrench you further in being “fallen”. And who is patronizing these services, if they are so shameful? Why is there a demand for these services? To make the powerful feel more powerful? Once you start following the threads you can easily see how the cards are stacked against particular people, and on a grander scale, this is a self-perpetuating system designed to chew up and spit out those deemed to be lower. And one of the worst parts is we are conditioned to accept it, through generations. When things like sexual assault are so commonplace that often the response when speaking with other women is, that’s just how it is, everyone has a story (as in an actual experience). I think it makes this notion held by some nowadays that everything is okay so very sad. And then I am falling into this same trap of feeling upset about the system when I could be empathizing with the lived experience of fellow women, both past and present. Both are important.
Per Selci, “A lot of the songs were just…I think I was just in a period where I was reading a lot of Victorian literature and I was pulling from a lot of these feelings and emotions that I was having, that I felt resonated with the idea of a fallen woman. And I felt a lot of the struggles I was having in my relationships and with my individuality and just in my life in general, I was just like, "Oh, it feels like some of these are fragments and remnants that are left over from this era where women were being so oppressed."”
I can attest personally, as well as from having spoken to multiple women who have corroborated this experience, gender roles are sticky creatures. We want to think we have progressed past a lot of that, but there is a very real presence still coming down from past generations.
It was incredibly relatable to hear Selci say, “I think sometimes it happens subconsciously where we don't even realize it. And I think that was really what I was feeling during Fallen Woman 1, whereas I was in this relationship where on paper, it was like, "Hey, we are really progressive. Neither of us really conform to gender roles.
Neither of us really identify with that," yet there are still these subtle dynamics that were coming up that were really confusing for me, and I was having a hard time understanding it. It was definitely like power dynamics where it was really easy for me to feel like I was losing my power.”
In further discussing, internalized misogyny or patriarchy inevitably arises. Selci continued, “And that wasn't even necessarily a product of his actions, I think it was some cases, but then in some cases, it was also how I was reacting to things and how I had been conditioned throughout my life to not speak my mind or feel silenced or feel weak. It's those remnants, that was what the concept album was about. It was, these are the remnants of that, of the fallen woman. And so that was where a lot of those feelings came from, I was like, "Oh, I feel so broken and I'm feeling empty and feeling... " I was just really relating back to the women of those eras”
For those of us anticipating the second installment of the double album, Selci explained, “And then Fallen Woman 2, it's definitely more like paying homage to those women of the past like the title track “Fallen Woman”, which is not out yet. It's like a tribute and a love song for those women who maybe had love that they could never pursue, like forbidden love and had these really high-risk lives.”
“And it's just a blessing to them and paying them tribute and being like, "I love you. You're honored. And you're in heaven," kind of thing. I'm not really religious, but that was how I was seeing it, they were with the angels, kind of thing. So that was how it turned out. Fallen Woman 1 was very... There's moments that are really ambient and ethereal, but there's moments that are really treacherous and just really confusing. And then there's also moments where it's like, I don't care, I'm sexually liberated. And it was like, this push and pull kind of resistance. And then Fallen Woman 2 is a lot more calm and ambient, just reflecting on it and being okay with it and moving forward with it and in honor to it. So, it's kind of this arc.”
Related to the theme of gender roles that threaded its way throughout the conversation, we also spoke about Selci’s work as a sound technician, along with some common complaints of women in the music industry in general. Selci has done AV for large venues such as Arts Commons and the National Music Centre, as well as assisting with CPO recordings. She also worked the tweener stage at Folk Fest when she was not performing herself.
Selci ruminated, “I definitely think that certain parts of the industry are still really male dominated. And at least for me personally, it's been super empowering to overcome the limitations that I've set in my mind. Like I never really imagined myself being a sound tech when I was younger. It seemed like this off-limits knowledge that was really hard to get into. And when I was first starting to learn, I had a lot of imposter syndrome where I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing. All these guys know so much more than me. Everyone knows more than I do. I'm really struggling."”
However, continuing, “And the more that I worked at it and kept sticking to my guns, I realized like, "Oh no, this is how everyone gets into it, they just start doing it." For me, it was really intellectually empowering to start taking on some more technical roles. It's really nice having women in those spaces. And honestly, most of my male colleagues agree. I've worked on almost exclusively male crews more times than I can count at this point. And for the most part, everyone's super lovely to work with, people aren't being assholes. Sometimes in tech, people have a wall up and you have to prove to them that you know what you're doing before you get the respect, but that's just with anyone. For a woman, you have to deal with that maybe a little bit more, for me, but not necessarily. I don't know.”
In regard to power dynamics and being able to advocate for yourself as a musician Selci noted, “anyone can learn about it, whether you want to actually go in and start doing tech or if you just want to learn those skills so that you can be a stronger artist and have more control over your setup and more control over your vision.”
“It gives you more control as a whole. So, you can show up to any stage, whether it's a warehouse in a basement with the crappiest sound system or you're on a huge, massive stage with all of the fixings that you'd need, then you can be like, "This is what I need. This is what I want. This is what I need to sound good." And you know what the sound tech is working against too so you can work with them. You're not going to be having any headbutting with technicians because you're going to have that more well-rounded knowledge of how it works. I think it's such an empowering thing to know as an artist, whether a male or a female, but I think it's harder to access that information as a female because it feels scary or intimidating or something.”
Selci explained a major point of satisfaction in respect to her AV work, “That's one thing though that I've really enjoyed about doing sound is that if there are people that aren't as experienced, that's one of the most rewarding things is that I can just make those people feel really comfortable and do everything in my power to get them sounding good and make sure they can hear themselves on stage and not be patronizing about it. And then maybe they learn something too for the next time or they just have a good experience. That's why I love doing it. I feel that's the biggest reason why I love it.”
Sound is not the only aspect of the music industry that Selci enjoys using her experience to support her fellow artists within. We spoke at some length as well about Selci’s penchant for conceptualizing and bringing to fruition highly creative music videos to compliment her tracks. This grew out of an enthusiasm for the art medium of the music video, with Selci expressing that being so deeply involved in creating your own video content is not for everyone, “I don't think that every artist needs to do that, I think it's super extra. I think most artists go hire an amazing video team or go hire a great director or producer. And if you have the funding, obviously, or if you don't have funding see if you can find some people that want to work with you or do something DIY. It doesn't have to be over the top, it's just something that I was always really passionate about since I started doing them. Almost 10 years ago now I did my first one. So that's been just a learning journey, just even figuring out.”
The video for Taboo was a fairly recent project that was quite memorable, both for the finished video and some of the behind-the-scenes social media content that went up prior to its release. These days the potential for extending viewer engagement via video/image content about the ‘making of’ serves as an additional element and can add interest and a sense of connection with the artistic process, as well as anticipation of the resultant music video.
I had a chance to learn even more about the Taboo video speaking with Selci. She shared that the location was a family property that was actually sold shortly after the video was filmed, “It's been in our family for a long time, at least 50 years it was in my family, even longer like 1918 or something. And it's in Trochu, Alberta. It's just this little French town, French settlement in Alberta. And it's called the St. Anne Ranch. It's actually notoriously known for being haunted. It's been in a few articles over the years for Alberta's haunted sites. And my Nana ran it, had a bed and breakfast for many years, and then my aunt and uncle ran it. And it's just the perfect set, I didn't have to bring anything because it was all just there.”
Selci continued, “There's just stuff on every shelf, on every wall. It's all the decor and design, it was the perfect location for it because all we had to do was just load in ourselves our costumes and the camera stuff. We didn't have to bring any set design or anything. And it was really nice that I got to do it because they sold it shortly after.” The video gave Selci a chance to immortalize a piece of family history.
Given my fascination with ghost stories and phenomenon I was intrigued by the mention of the location having a reputation for being haunted. Selci was able to describe a bit of the particular mythos of the ranch, “there's a few ghosts that are there apparently, not really anyone in our family has directly experienced it though, it was a lot of guests of the bed and breakfast that would have certain experiences with the ghosts, similar experiences across the board. One of them is a baby, Baby Booboo.” People had been able to hear the baby crying, as Selci expanded, “She was basically blind, deaf, couldn't speak, couldn't walk, lived her entire life in a carriage, lived to be probably I think maybe five or six years old, which was older than they thought that she was going to live to. And then it's her caretaker. I can't remember the name of her right now, but those are the two ghosts that occupy the space.”
We briefly spoke about energy transfer in historical spaces, and the potential for interaction with that energy or with entities, and Selci shared, “I think they were happy that we were there because the shoot went really well. Everything went really smoothly. So, it seemed like it was a good vibe.”
Another video I touched upon, having felt it was very visually striking due to the ethereal aesthetic and literature references, paired with the mood of the song, was “Ghost”. Selci noted the way the making of that video had a natural flow, ”Yes. I think that's the favorite video I've ever made, and the process was really amazing too. It was just so smooth from front to back.” It solidified for Selci how far she had come in terms of the art form. She said, “It was like, like, "Oh, yeah. I really know what I'm doing now with this. I'm not just flailing around trying to figure this stuff out. I have a great team, we know what we're doing. I'm super well organized." Nothing went over time, everything stayed in time and we got everything we wanted and it looked really good. We had no budget for that video. I spent some residual grant money and I spent a bit of my own money, but for the most part it was no budget. That's my favorite.”
Having put in the sweat equity and hours to learn the craft of making music videos, Selci is beginning to work with other artists on their ventures. She described a bit of the process, “As a producer, you want to do a scene breakdown and figure out how you want things lit and how you want things shot and what type of shots and certain angles that you want. And the more that you can suss it out and break it down ahead of time, then it's just going to go smoother when you're actually shooting. So, pre-production is literally, probably the most important part of doing film stuff. I like immersing myself in all parts of the process. And then now that I've done that for my own projects, just so that I could have music videos and have good sound, now I'm like, "Now I want to do this for other artists because I love it. It's so much fun."
Displaying a true collaborative and supportive spirit, which I find so many of the artists I respect embrace, Selci went on to say, “It is a way you can grow. And then I can make that experience easier and more fun for other artists who want to do that because I had to slog through some of the worst shoots and just being exhausted and not knowing what I'm doing and just being really frustrated and not sleeping. All worth it, of course. It's part of the journey, but if I can make that path easier for anyone else who's an artist or who's doing this, that's what I love the most. It's the same thing with doing sound, doing video with any consulting or energy and knowledge exchange, if we can make this easier for each other and make it more enjoyable for each other and then create something really amazing at the end, that is the most gratifying thing for me as a human being, it's the best thing.”
When I expressed my appreciation for the variety and uniqueness of the video work Selci has produced she responded, “Thank you. That's nice to hear. Sometimes it feels like I'm going uphill all the time, but then you see what comes out of it and then it's really nice. And then knowing that people are actually watching it and paying attention, sometimes just hearing it from one person being like, "I've watched it." Really?”
It is poetic that Selci selected AV as a “day job” because both the audio and the video elements in her musical career are so intrinsic to what she does as an artist. I have to say I appreciate both immensely. Being a visual creator myself who is very centred around music and musicians, being able to marry the two in a powerful inventive body of work is captivating. Selci has a way of tapping into an intuition and emotional awareness in a very thought-provoking way, while also orchestrating an immediate emotional response…like the tumult of ocean waves, while a simultaneous steady undercurrent flows. Through holding space for validation, vulnerability, capability, respect and love Selci’s work breaks down a societal power system in unexpected ways. Artists like this help us all to grow, both via their own work and their fostering of the work of others.
Thank you to Selci for taking the time to speak with me during Folk Fest 2022. It was lovely hearing more about the underpinnings of your method and inspirations.