“I love people and their stories…” Q&A with Awna Teixeira

Join Awna Teixeira for a concert at Empty Sea at 8pm on Thursday, September 5thClick here to learn more and to purchase advance tickets.

Portuguese-Canadian multi-instrumentalist Awna Teixeira began her musical career in 2001 performing all over North America and writing songs with various bands before joining Po’Girl, one of Canada’s hardest working international touring acts, in 2005. Over the course of creating five albums and seven years of solid-touring in 15 different countries, on 4 different continents, and playing between 200 and 250 shows a year, Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira have become the core of the highly-esteemed and internationally-recognized band, Po’Girl. Awna, while still working with Po’Girl, is currently embarking on her first solo project.

Awna TexeiraHow many instruments do you play?  Which was your first?

I play around on a lot of instruments. In my house we even have a tuba, trombone and trumpet. Trumpet was the first instrument I picked up really when I was ten. They only had that music class in my inner city school for one year before they cut the funding. So, I didn’t pick up music again until I was 19. I started then with bass guitar. Then guitar. After that it loosely went onto cello, viola, banjo, gutbucket bass, washboard, harmonica, accordion, piano, ukulele and so on. I am self taught and can’t seem to stay very still on any of them. Ha ha. I love them all for what they offer both for feeling and textures.

I write mostly on banjo, guitar and accordion these days. It’s great because if I am feeling uninspired on one I will turn to another.

How did you start playing roots music?

Back in 2001 I used to play with a Gypsy/Roots/punk kind of band called The Derby. We were based out of Victoria BC Canada. That is who I started touring with, kind of cut my teeth with.  We were kind of crazy, and toured all over the country with six people and a baby for months on end…It’s really when I started playing on the streets and getting introduced to roots music. It’s also when I learned to play the washboard and gutbucket bass two instruments that are widely played in Jug Band music. That’s when I really started becoming interested in the history of roots music.  I grew up on classic rock and roll, reggae and old soul, so this world was super new and exciting for me.

I find that all these types of music really tie together and seed from the same melting pots, it’s pretty fascinating where we come from musically!

You describe yourself as Portuguese-Canadian.  How does your Portuguese heritage influence your music?

I am first generation Canadian. My family immigrated from a small Portuguese Island called Madeira when my father was a boy. It’s been a huge influence on my life and my music. I grew up listening to Fado, which is the Portuguese folk music…Roots music….The origin of the name is very hard to trace, but it is a very melancholy type of music filled with longing…I feel like that combined with growing up around a family of immigrants, learning first hand about their hardships has hugely shaped me and my heart. They are very strong passionate people… That type of feeling can very much be heard in many of my compositions.

You recently started to tour and perform as a solo artist after many years with the band Po’ Girl.  What are the major differences that you find in being a solo musician?  What do you like or dislike about it?

Ha! Yes….What a crazy whirlwind it has been. It’s been a hugely transformational time in both my life and music life. I am super grateful for the chance to do it. Being solo is just a whole different ball game. You are in charge of everything, and I think that is taking awhile to get used to. I am so used to working as a team and running everything by other people…It is both freeing and hard at the same time.  I think when you are in the same band for so many years you really become dependent on each other whether you try to or not. In many ways that it great. It can make you think differently than you would just being in your own head. So, it’s been a really big learning process to figure out the world again just on my own two feet. I’m kind of finding myself musically again…I love the chance to really get to do that, though I do miss singing with my family.

The hardest part for me solo is that when things are good, you have no one to share it with. Also when things are hard you are on your own.

What are some of your current musical or non-musical artistic inspirations?

I guess I feel most inspired musically by the people I meet along my travels. There are so many people out there writing and playing music that don’t do it professionally that are amazing. I would never get to hear them or meet them if I wasn’t moving around so much. I love people and their stories as well. There are so many incredible people out there doing things that help others that I find super inspiring.

What is your next project that you are most excited about?

I just finished my first home recording of an EP I will be releasing Oct.9th called Thunderbird. I wrote  and played all the parts and did the artwork as well. That has been a super fun little project. Fun to get to push myself in all sorts of new directions.

I am also excited about the tour I am releasing it on. I will be teaming up with two other excellent Canadian song-writers, Brandy Zdan and Cara Luft for a tour over in Europe and the UK this coming October and November. We will be playing our own short sets and then one longer one all together. We have never worked together before so I am super excited about the musical possibilities. They are both super talented and play multiple instruments and have excellent voices. It will be really fun to branch out in that direction with new folks.

You have been hailed by No Depression as the next ” undisputed Queen of Roots Music.”  What does this mean to you?

Ha ha! Yes, apparently. I haven’t really thought about it. It is insanely flattering, but I am not quite sure of what that means exactly. Has anyone ever actually been given that title?

Join Awna Teixeira for a concert at Empty Sea at 8pm on Thursday, September 5th.  Click here to learn more and to purchase advance tickets.


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