Editorial Feature - The Star Phoenix

By: Cam Fuller, Arts & Entertainment Writer

Singer-keyboardist Joanna Borromeo launches a busy season of live music at the Bassment on Friday. As a child, the Calgary musician emulated idol Paula Abdul while taking classical piano all the way into university. Her path turned to jazz school, a difficult transition that eventually led to her breakthrough album Kaleidoscope which was nominated for the best R B/Soul Juno award last year. Borromeo, who turned solo after touring with several headliners earlier in her career, is busy recording singles and planning a two-month tour of California to perform and network - a big challenge for the self-described introvert.

In concert here, Borromeo plays with local musicians led by Tim Vaughn. Here are some key words for Joanna Borromeo. Tickets are $20/$25. Show time is 9 p.m. Online: www.saskatoonjazzsociety.com

Influences: What I listened to for fun was pop music in the '80s and '90s. I'm a huge Paula Abdul fan, Janet Jackson fan, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, the list goes on. I wasn't a New Kids on the Block fan, however.

Switching to jazz from classical: It's really intimidating, and super competitive and sometimes people are jerks in school. I didn't improvise, I didn't know how to play a blues progression. I felt really stupid for the first two years in jazz school.

Turning pro: I think secretly I always wanted to do it but I was afraid to listen to my gut.

David Myles: I played and toured with him for a couple of years and played keys and sang backup vocals on his album Turn Time Off.

I learned so much from him. He's such a good human being, too. I learned a lot of life lessons in a positive way just being around him.

Divine Brown. I did a little tour with her in '08 or '09. That was really fun. I felt like a rock star. That was the first time I had been on a tour bus, and I haven't been on a tour bus since.

Going solo: This is the hardest version of being an artist. It's a lot easier to be hired by somebody and they take care of all the management and administration and finance. I enjoyed writing songs, even though they weren't commercial-radio friendly. And wanting to sing and play keys at the same time was also a thing that I enjoyed doing.

Kaleidoscope: Borromeo says that getting a Canada Council grant for the album was a sign to keep going. "I was at a fork in the road - do I actually want to do this? I was going through a bit of funk."

Juno nomination: It was really cool. I was ecstatic. I didn't win but that's totally OK. I'm definitely not quitting. I'm past that stage of personal development. I'm committed now, I'm fully committed.

Genre: If I actually had to say it I would say indie-soul or I'd say maybe a soul-jazz artist. That's how I would market it.

Live show: It'll be funky, it'll be jazzy, heartfelt and sometimes loud. It'll be cool. And hopefully inspiring. That's my main thing is making sure people walk away feeling really good.