As the world seems to go through one travail after another, sometimes all we can count on to lift us up are the kind words and love of the people around us (or on our screens, as is often the case nowadays). That’s what queer, gender-fluid Scottish-Canadian singer-songwriter Evangeline Gentle reminds us of in their single, “Ordinary People,” an ode to “loved ones who keep me soft when I’m feeling hardened by the world,” they explain.
“It’s brave to be hopeful in this world/It’s brave to be kind,” they sing in a live acoustic performance being released on video today. “Just when I think I’d had enough, your love is a little bit of sweetness/Life softens at your touch.” Though the song was written a while ago, some of the lyrics seem suited to the current moment, such as “Headline after headline draining me/Oh the ugly things ordinary people do for more money.”
With Gentle’s voice front and center against acoustic guitar, the song is simple and sweet, as is the video, which was filmed in Peterborough, Ontario at the Sisters of St. Joseph’s convent. “I had been filming another full production video in their old laundry building, and the director Rob Viscardis and I decided to film a live version of ‘Ordinary People’ for the fun of it while we were there with the crew,” Gentle remembers.
Gentle’s past music embodies the same minimalist aesthetic as “Ordinary People.” Their latest singles, “You and I” and “Black is the Colour,” were both done a cappella and sound almost like old hymns, with repetitive melodies and universal, timeless lyrics.
On August 21, they’re releasing their first album, which will include the studio version of “Ordinary People” and other songs with a similar overarching message – “that despite all of the ways that we are different, we do share the same visceral experience of life,” they explain, quoting a line from “Black is the Colour.” “It’s hard not to feel connected when we realize this.”
The 23-year-old began writing the album at age 19, and the years it was in the making were full of self-discovery and coming-of-age moments, as well as artistic growth. At the end, Gentle realized that each of the songs in their own way was about the struggle to remain open-hearted amid pain and uncertainty.
“[The album is] driven by the belief that it takes extreme strength to be vulnerable, but that the rewards of doing so are far greater than those of being closed-off in the name of self-preservation,” they explain. This idea led to the chorus of the final track: “How do we become good and guided by the heart?”
Gentle, who started performing live by opening for touring bands in high school, considers the female icons of folk, like the Dixie Chicks and Dolly Parton, their biggest influences, though they’re also a big Taylor Swift fan who’s admittedly listened to “Lover” 50 times in a row.
Their goal with the new album was to incorporate poppier elements and expand on the traditional folk genre. “I wanted to experiment with synth arrangements, and I wanted to step outside of the genre I’d felt pigeonholed into as a ‘female singer-songwriter,'” they say.
Pigeonholing is something Gentle is familiar with as a queer artist, but ultimately something they’ve moved beyond. “I’ve spent lots of time struggling with internalized queer-phobia and this idea that I’m less likely to achieve what I want to with my life because of who I am,” they explain. “I don’t feel like that anymore. My hope has always been that in being an openly queer musician, I might help somebody feel less alone or inspire somebody held back by the same shame I have been to imagine a brighter future for themselves and the world.”
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