The voice from Toronto to Montreal

Singer-songwriter Avery Florence has brought her sound to the city

La Marche à côté, a bar on St-Denis St., was transformed into another universe on April 2 for one of Avery Florence’s shows. Even bypassers couldn’t help themselves from peeking into the window to see where the enchanting voice was coming from.

Since July 2018, 28-year-old singer-songwriter Avery Florence has called Montreal home. As a teenager, she loved the city and found inspiration every time she visited from Toronto. She has finally settled on the island for good after three attempts. It seems third time’s the charm.

“People are more open to connecting with others and it’s easier to build a community here,” Florence said. As a native Torontonian, she feels everyone is more laid back in Montreal. “Everybody is sort of an artist here because they have more time. Without time, being an artist just isn’t possible.”

Florence found her passion for music much later in life; she had no musical training as a child and wasn’t from a musical family, yet she felt a connection to music. She started playing guitar in university and after just a few weeks of lessons, she was already writing songs. “I’m so thankful that I found my passion. It changed my life completely,” Florence said.

Florence has an undeniable gift for music. Her voice resembles that of an angel gone wild, powerful and raw, yet pure and honest. She comes across as a genuine person and this translates into her music. Her shows are very intimate and she isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, allowing the audience to delve into her little world. When she performs songs like “Black Waves” and “Woke Up This Morning,” it’s almost impossible not to get in your feelings.

Whether it’s a moment of sadness and despair, or a moment of wonder and inspiration, Florence said most of her songs are rooted in personal experiences and emotions. In more emotional situations, she’ll pick up an instrument and start playing a few notes or start humming a melody. “I think all of my best songs have come out in one go. I’ll have an instrument with me and then I’ll just let the words come out,” Florence said.

Recently, Florence participated in the most intense musical experience of her life.The CTV Network created The Launch, a new music show where contestants audition for Canadian artists like Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Marie-Mai, and more. Participants only have a few minutes to sell themselves and their music to the judges—needless to say, it’s a lot of pressure.

“It was really high highs and really low lows,” Florence said. She thought it was a scary thing to have something so personal out of her control. Contestants only see the final product on national television, at the same time as millions of other Canadians. “Literally right after I saw my part on TV, I felt a physical relief in my body that I had been holding onto for six months,” she admitted.

As the sun starts to reappear and spring settles in, keep your ear out for a voice that pulls your heart strings. Pay attention to the buskers on the street—Florence could be right under your nose.

Student Life

Taking control of the conversation

The Woman Power helps women around the city embrace their diversity

International Women’s Day is meant to celebrate women all around the globe. It’s a day when we commemorate what women have accomplished and address what has yet to be done. It’s a day when women are celebrated in all their diversity. Hanna Che co-founded a platform called The Woman Power in response to this lack of representation. “I grew up in Montreal-North and when I was younger, I never saw anything on TV that represented me or my reality,” said Che.

The reality is that diversity amongst women isn’t always embraced. In mainstream media, marginalized women, especially women of colour and of the LGBTQ+ community, are often underrepresented. The Woman Power is a platform that gives a voice to anyone identifying as a woman and highlights women of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds through their work. “We wanted to create something positive,” said Che. “We live in an era where it’s easy to be angry at everything and we wanted to change the narrative of the angry black woman.”

The Woman Power started in 2016. At that time, it operated almost exclusively through Instagram and other social media platforms. “Since we existed on social media, we wanted to bring people that followed us online to meet in real life,” said Che, “That’s why we created The Sisterhood.”

The Sisterhood was created two years ago. “It’s a safe space where women get to discuss various subjects and share experiences with each other,” Che said.

Che explained that every month, members of The Woman Power pick a topic for the meeting (such as mental illness, digital identity, etc.) and from there, they formulate questions to lead discussions. The team is there as guidance, not to give advice to the women attending. The meetings are about letting women take control of the conversation and allowing them to share their stories with each other.

“We’re all about positivity,” Che said, “It’s about personal development, learning to love yourself, listening to other people’s stories and coming out a better human being.”

The Sisterhood is not the only way The Woman Power is trying to expand beyond social media. Last November, they launched a bilingual podcast.

On Feb. 22, women gathered for The Sisterhood’s monthly meeting at The Local Lululemon in Mile End where they discuss this month’s theme of digital identity. Photo by Tyra Muria Trono.

For the podcast’s first season, Che explained that they chose to feature female artists from Montreal such as Richenda Grazette, Anick Jasmin, Feza S. Lugoma and more. Each guest discusses their work and talks about the importance of art, culture and women in Montreal. These artists are also contributors to the installation called Les vraies Demoiselles d’Avignon which was presented in the exposition D’Afrique aux Amériques : Picasso en face-à-face, d’hier à aujourd’hui at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Members of The Woman Power are currently working on the next season of their podcast, set to be released this summer. Che said new artists will be invited to discuss the theme of identity, which will be the main focus of the upcoming season.

The Woman Power is always thinking of new projects to delve into. They want to create more content and grow as a platform to spread their message to more people, Che said. Even if Women’s Day only happens on March 8, The Woman Power celebrates women 365 days a year and encourages them to join the worldwide conversation about issues women still face today.

Feature photo courtesy of Tyra Muria Trono

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