Portrait of an Artist: Arielle Beaupré

Apr 5, 2023
Originally posted on

If you have been a patron at the Good Will Social Club over the past half year or so, you will likely have encountered the twinkly-eyed, broad-smiling visage of Arielle Beaupré behind the bar, enthusiastically providing beverages, singing along to Bands as Bands, and just generally exuding good vibes. The beautiful souls who constitute the Wednesday Night Karaoke faithful can count themselves among the as-of-now privileged few in Winnipeg who are privy to the fact that Arielle is also in possession of a sultry set of pipes, with the power to mesmerize all within auditory range. With her now being a member of the local indie-roots sensation Amos the Kid, as well as having a nascent project of her own, supported by some of the heaviest hitters in the Winnipeg music scene, there is little doubt that her artistic abilities will soon be common knowledge outside the confines of our city. This will be the first article in the series “Portraits of the Artist”, intended to shine a spotlight on the talents of the many creators found within the extended Good Will family.

I remember lots of music in the house growing up”

There’s an archetypal quality to Arielle’s description of her origin story, with a conventionality to the narrative that verges on being a How-To guide for the creation of a musical artist. Both of her parents are musicians: her mother, a first generation Canadian of Chinese-Malaysian descent, is a Royal Conservatory pianist; her father, a French Canadian from northern Ontario, is a skilled guitarist, singer, and classic rock enthusiast. After a few years spent travelling the world, the young family settled down in Montreal, long known as one of the North American urban epicentres of creativity, and where Arielle would spend the entirety of her formative years. The sounds of music were ubiquitous throughout her childhood, and it did not take much cajoling for her to get along with the program:

“I’ve been singing for most of my life. I remember playing Kelly Clarkson covers as like an 8 year old and singing along at the piano. I took piano lessons when I was little, so that was what I started with basic keys and singing and I’ve always loved it.”

Photo by Mariette Nadine.

This love of music would remain consistent throughout adolescence, with emphasis eventually shifting from piano to vocals, in part due to the influence of her first truly formative album, Adele’s “19”.

“I got into high school, got less interested in piano, still interested in vocals, did a bit of lessons, just like pop lessons, and then my dad gifted me a guitar for my 16 th birthday, cuz, well, it was one of his actually, but I was starting to learn at that point, just playing from a Christmas book or something, so then I started playing that guitar over there [points to a beautiful vintage Ovation Balladeer on stand], and I was pretty bad for many years because I didn’t practice that much”

This relative lull in focus was not to last for long, as a series of artistically impactful events would transpire after high school graduation. The first portentous moment occurred when, borrowing her father’s truck, she was aurally accosted by the winding riffs and searing vocals of “Black Dog”, the first track from Led Zeppelin’s legendary 4 th album, blaring from the speakers. Listening to that album immediately became a daily ritual, and a long simmering love affair with guitar rock quickly became inflamed.

“I had always enjoyed classic rock growing up, my dad was a big Guns’ N Roses guy, he loved Metallica, a little bit of Pink Floyd, some Doobie Brothers...he had a lot of vinyls, and I like stole his vinyl collection, cuz it was just gathering dust in the basement, so I just started listening to his random vinyls, and some of them were so good.”

Photo by Mariette Nadine.

A concurrent, complementary musical awakening occurred as Arielle began her academic career at Bishop's University, and she discovered that there was a jazz program on campus.

“I did some jazz vocals, joined a jazz combo...we would perform like 3 times a semester [and] started doing some gigs in the city, so that was probably when my voice started changing the most I’d say, with jazz practice. I also joined a choir, so I was doing the choir there and jazz at the same time, and playing some gigs, made a lot of really good connections, and then started playing more guitar... that was where a lot of development happened”

These two streams of influence would culminate with Arielle successfully convincing her fellow jazz comboists to perform a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve been Loving You”, as well as developing a deep intimacy with the near-magical emotive powers of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.

“It’s one of the first albums that I feel took me on a journey listening to it, and since then I’ve had many experiences listening to the whole thing through, either by myself or with other people. It’s just a very powerful shifting experience, you go through many stages of awareness while listening to it. I also have had various connections with it through psychedelics, both through mushrooms and with LSD...and had different realizations through each of them.”

“The album itself just has an ineffable quality to it, it’s like they tap into the ether in such a magnificent way, like it goes from being just a soundscape that makes you feel tripped up, and kind of shakes you out of whatever state you’re in, it just takes you, and then it goes into these magnificent jazz tunes like “Us and Them”, and what do you even say about “Great Gig in the Sky”, it’s just like someone’s vocal release, it’s just like ecstasy vocally, and then it just ends with a heart beat, it’s like what else is there to say...Pink Floyd just worms its way into your psyche, the more you listen to it, the more it influences you.”

Given the milieu of a musically inclined family situated within a cultural mecca abounding with opportunities for developing technique, Arielle’s artistic proclivities seem almost predetermined; however, the vital transition between being a technically proficient musical performer and becoming a true creator, in possession of a singular voice and process, did not come to pass until she made a radical change in her environment, leaving the urban matrix of Montreal to spend her summers tree planting in the austere wilderness of British Columbia.

“Tree planting just has this effect on me that feels like just sweeping out the cobwebs every time I’m there, because its such a clean space for the mind, you’re doing something physically every day, always the same thing, but like, obviously there’s little micro changes so you’re kind of just flow state all day every day, [and] you spend every day outside, just exposed to the elements whatever they might be. I often listen to music while I am planting, just whatever I’m feeling like listening to that day, so it can be very pleasant. It can also really suck, and I think accessing that difficult space within yourself, because all you have is your self and your thoughts, is really good for a musician.”

“It does feel like nature is trying to teach me something with my art”

Switching up one’s environment is of course a time honoured tactic for enhancing perspectives and discovering new sources of inspiration, and for Arielle, the spartan, oscillatory lifestyle inherent to tree planting ultimately created the ideal conditions for developing her songwriting ability, with solitary days on the cut-block providing crucial moments of epiphany and ecstatic connection with the divine in nature, complementary to the crepuscular hours being spent in a state of near monastical communion with fellow planters, with the obligatory sharing of songs and stories around the campfire. The daily commutes to and from the camp were often a source of great musical cross-pollination, where up to 10 planters would be crammed inside a truck, all taking turns playing at DJ and sharing their music. Arielle remembers one specific instance, where on the return to camp after a supply run, a crew-member began playing Rett Madison’s “Shame is a River”, and the collective reaction to the gut-wrenching lyrics gave rise to some creative fervour:

“Sometimes when I am about to write a song I have this feeling of tension, like something is wrong, and I don’t know what’s going on, and I have go and sit in a room by myself with a notebook...sometimes I’ll have an instrument, sometimes I won’t, but if I do have an instrument often something will just start happening, so I’ll just be playing the keys, or playing the strings more often, and I’ll write some words down...so this was one of those instances, I got out of the truck, and I had this feeling of I need to be alone with my guitar right now, and I just walked into my tent, picked up my guitar, went and sat in my gear tent, this tiny little two person sleeping space, where my head touches the ceiling, and I was just sitting there, just working away on my fingers, and then the words came and the song was done and it was like oh, great, I wrote a song, and then I showed it to some friends...and now it’s on the album.”

“Sometimes it’s less clean than that, sometimes I write something down physically, and then later on write a guitar part for it, because I have the thought like maybe this can be a song, but other times I’m fiddling around on my guitar and I have this feeling that I’ve been thinking about for a few days, an image will strike me, images from the outside world often are things that come out in my music, or specific feelings, like when those feelings of going through a tough spot emotionally and then something comes to break you out of it, often times those moments of breaking out are caused by the outside world for me, so standing on the top of a second level parking lot and just having the blue sky around you, or lying down in the park and seeing a crow soaring above you, coming above the trees, something will draw me out, and that image will just be playing around in my head, for days or weeks after...and then one day I’ll just have my guitar and a notebook and it will just become a song.”

Arielle is quick to emphasize that her music is not only a conduit for expressing negative emotions, but also a way for her to celebrate recuperative experiences.

“I think both [darkness and light] have been sources of inspiration and fertility, but I think I have noticed with time the attaining of equilibrium has been a better source for me, as it has generated music that I think is more beautiful and more shareable, and it’s something that I would like to have represent me, whereas the music that I write when I am in darker states is often very personal, and it’s something that I need to do but it’s not something that I would want to put into the world necessarily.”

“I do have some songs that are a little more along those lines, that I might put out at some point… but I like the direction that my music is taking, I like that it’s leaning more towards the fluctuations and finding my way back to the middle rather than just deep diving into darkness.”

Success as defined by localness is still success, because the point is, can you fill a room? Yes? You’re successful.”

Arielle’s academic obligations in Montreal would not long survive the after-effects of her tree planting experience. Issues with prerequisites had previously caused a switch in her educational focus from neuroscience to philosophy and mindfulness and contemplative studies, and while she found the subject matter fascinating, the combined gravitational pull of her love for both the freedom of the outdoors, and for Sam, the lovely Winnipeg native she met while planting, proved too strong to resist.

“I just dropped out [of university] the same year that Covid happened coincidentally, I just decided to go travel in Costa Rica, and then landed in Winnipeg...[Sam and I] were going to look at apartments together for the fall, and then lockdown happened 2 days later...and I was like I guess I’ll just stay in Winnipeg for like a month and a half or something, and then we went planting and moved here, and since then I’ve been here, just writing, hanging out, making connections”

Not even a global pandemic and the resulting unprecedented lockdown measures could dim the vibrancy of Winnipeg’s vital arts scene, which immediately drew Arielle in like a moth to a flame.

“It just felt like coming here, I had almost instantaneous connections with a bunch of musicians, there’s just so many of them, and I just discover more every day. I’ll just be talking to someone and they’ll be like oh yeah, I play the bass in this band, and we’re playing a gig this week, and I’m like what, what do you mean, where does that come from?!”

Photo by Adam Kelly.

“I did hear a fact the other day, apparently Winnipeg has the highest percentage of professional musicians in Canada...you can definitely feel it, I think because of its size, the community in terms of age....once you have one connection, it’s like suddenly the rest of the web has just opened up very suddenly, you’ll probably run into those people at events very soon, you meet one person and then its like oh there’s all these other musicians too. Also working at The Good Will is good for that, I just get to hang out and watch musicians all the time while working...and that’s been really awesome, because it’s also giving me a sense of what sort of performances I feel are successful, and how I can learn from those and then emulate them in my own performing art.”

“I have been saying this, and I’ve been trying to coin the term, but I feel like [Winnipeg is] Canada’s Berlin...where else? Montreal is too big, it doesn’t work, it’s about the affordability, Montreal isn’t the affordable place anymore, and it’s also vast in that things get spread out more. Winnipeg is localized, its like you go to a specific set of spaces to have a set of experiences, and you kind of know that if you are these at spaces enough you will have seen kind of all that is going on, which is really cool.”

“I mean obviously there are things going on in the background that we don’t know about, but if you go to The Handsome Daughter enough, if you go to The Good Will enough, if you go to The High and Lonesome enough, that’s where things are happening, music is being performed, and then there’s the festivals, the people who are performing in those gig spaces perform in the festivals, and then everyone in the city goes to those festivals, it’s really cool...I don’t think that what is going on right now, by which I mean a variety of different experiences, like suddenly having a band which is playing my original music...and having been asked to join another band that plays a lot in the city, as their pianist and vocalist, I don’t think that stuff would have happened nearly as easily in Montreal.”

Arielle still seems to be partially in awe over the serendipitous nature of the events that have come to pass since her arrival in Winnipeg, as she finds herself living out opportunities and enjoying artistic collaborations that just a few years ago seemed completely out of reach.

“It’s been awesome. I remember when I first moved here and it was Covid and things were just starting to open up, it was the first fall that things were kind of accessible again, and Sam and I went to an Amos the Kid concert, and that point we kind of knew a bunch of people who were there, because we had been hanging out with them having illegal fires on the riverside because gatherings weren’t allowed, so we were just meeting outside for these fires, and they were so fun, and these were the only people that I ever saw... we’re watching them on stage at the Good Will, and I was like wow, these people rock, and I remember going to get a drink with Sam, [who] turned to me and was like ‘you could totally do that’, and in my head I was like no fucking way, there’s just no way!”

Photo by Adam Kelly.

“Fast forward two and a half years, and their [backing] singer is retiring, and they ask me to [join the band] and I’m like what, you guys actually want me to do this with you?!...I’m just really stoked, I can’t believe that they want me to play with them, I’m very honoured, because I really enjoy their music, I love Amos [Nadlersmith’s] music, and Adam [Fuhr] (Yes We Mystic, House of Wonders Studio) is a really big part of that too, and the rest of the band is really tight and really cool people....very cultural time capsule too, a lot of references to things that only Winnipeggers would know about.”

Equally impressive in its own right to being head-hunted by an established local act is the speed in which Arielle was able to put together a project of her own, Bush Lotus, a vehicle for her to experiment with “a blend of jazz stuff, some indie folk stuff, and then some classic rock stuff”, with Ontario singer-songwriter Cat Clyde as the self-described best point of comparison.

“I really like her vocal tone, that’s something that, if I can pick out any one thing that’s influenced me recently it’s listening to mostly female vocalists who just can take this certain rawness on with their voices, I’ve really started to enjoy hearing like, the raw breaks [with them] accessing the higher register, but in such a way that it’s like almost too high for them, sort of them grabbing at it, I really enjoy that…recently I’ve been writing a lot of music that does that too, like kind of more intense stuff that I would want to play with a band, but then there is that quiet indie style”

In classic Winnipeg fashion, a fortuitous nuptial celebration was all that it took to provide the necessary momentum to get the project running.

“I actually connected with [Shawn Dearborn] musically as a result of Sam’s brother, who got married last summer and for the sake of the ceremony he asked me and Shawn to prepare a hymn to sing during the ceremony, so right after they walked down the aisle, Shawn and I were standing up there with two mics, and Sean had a guitar, and we sang ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ and the whole crowd had lyrics and everyone sang along and it was so beautiful, we sang in harmony pretty much the whole time.”

“That was the first time that we really connected, because while practising for that we played music together. After that we hung out for the sake of practising, and he’s just a really good musician, an incredible guitarist and great singer... I decided on a whim to ask him if he wanted to come and play lead on two tracks on the EP I was recording...and then he came in and showed up with these with these awesome parts...I was so impressed, after that I was like ‘wait, so, do you want to play live with me as well, that would be so sick if you wanted to’, and he was like ‘sure’, and I was like ‘awesome, okay, we don’t have a band but I’ll make one!’ [laughs].”

“And then Brian Gluck, he’s Amos’ drummer, and I’d seen him play multiple times, but he also played on my first ever single that I recorded with [House of Wonders], which is not on the EP, its kind of its own thing, it might get reworked and put out later, I haven’t decided yet, but that one’s called ‘Breathe’, so he came in and played in ‘Breathe’, and I remember he was great, and we got along really well, and then I watched him play with Amos many more times, and after one of those times I was just like, ‘hey Brian... would you perhaps be interested in practising with me, playing some music with myself and maybe trying to get some gigs?’ And he was like ‘yeah! You wanna start a band?!’ [laughs], I was like ‘Yes I do!’ And he was like ‘oh, sick, okay lets do it’... it was him who actually got Corey Hawkway on board, who is Boy Golden’s bassist...him and Brian are long time friends and they’ve played lots of music together...they all listened to some demos I sent them, and to the recordings from the EP, and then we just started practising...they are fricken so talented! They just learned it all, Corey actually knew all of the parts for all the songs at the first practice! I think he had some notes, but he knew everything, which is so wild!”

These exultations are in no way exaggerations or tactical ego-strokes; a mere 5 practices was all that it took before they were ready to play their inaugural show at The Handsome Daughter on March 4th 2023, opening for Tinge with Jupiter Meltdown, where a jubilatory, attentive crowd bore witness to the unveiling of their immense potential. Even with the self-criticism typical of an artist, Arielle was still experiencing elation when we spoke 5 days after the show.

“[I feel] incredible. Light as air. I just can’t really believe that it happened. I keep watching these videos of it, and I think its in an attempt to understand what it was like to be on the other side, because in my head I was so, just thinking about the music, focusing so hard on trying not to mess up, and I did forget my capo a few times, and I was very stressed, but I think it worked out.”

“I remember my voice breaking quite a bit, but like it all went by so fast, I kinda can’t even conceptualize what it would have been like to watch that show, you know, so I keep watching the videos and just wondering about it, being like what even happened, I don’t even know [laughs]. People are like ‘you looked so comfortable’ and I’m like ‘really?!’ [incredulously laughing] I was so stressed! But it was in a good way, like it was a good amount of stress, like I want to do well.”

“I want the music to have ethereal qualities but also to feel as though it can touch on the world”

Arielle is not one to spend too long reminiscing over past success, and with her trademark enthusiasm is wasting no opportunities to continue performing her material with the intention of sharing her interpretations of ecstatic states with the world.

“I would like people to perceive [my music as] something natural, something that breathes of life and something that makes people happy…earthy, [but also] elements of the ethereal, and transcendent, because that’s where the music comes from. If it can be groovy too, that would be great, I would love for people to dance and enjoy.”

As of the writing of this article, there are two rapidly upcoming opportunities to see Arielle perform: the first being a free show at The Good Will Social Club on Wednesday, April 4th, where she will be performing solo as part of New Music Night with Manitoba Music (doors 6:30 pm, show at 7:00 pm), as well as with the full band on Friday, April 7th at The Handsome Daughter (w/ Mulligrub, opening for Wares, starts 8pm). Beyond that?

“I’m in the works getting my first single out with Bush Lotus, I think its going to be the song “Open”, and then, the rest of the EP will come out in the summer. I’m working on getting a grant to do more production, more recording with Adam [Fuhr], and then it would be really wonderful to just keep playing with this band.”