Genevieve Charbonneau knows how to throw a party.
In fact, although I first met her in a contemporary dance class, it wasn’t until I was at one of her parties that I really saw the driving force behind her artistry – a desire to share, to embrace, to build community, and to have fun in the process.
I can’t remember which came first, but whether it was a house concert, an overnight tenting birthday party/music festival or an Ethiopian food feast preceding a jam session I have always felt welcomed into her rural and glorious space.
There is a generosity to Genevieve, in her music and in her way of sharing her home and large extended family, that comes through in her sweet and lovely lyrics.
I think you’ll agree that that beauty shines through in her photos too. I’m so pleased to be able to share some of her thoughts on creativity, generosity and music.
What does it mean to be an artist? And when did you know you were an artist (aka intensely creative person)?
I think an artist is someone who feels and experiences life in a profound way and MUST channel their vision into some sort of tangible form. Or who endeavors to *perfectly* capture a mood, emotion, vision, idea etc.
I was always creative as a child. I don’t know that I had any one moment where I felt aware that I was an “artist”- in fact I dabbled in so many arts that I berated myself for not being “expert” or “super-gifted” at any one thing.
When you consider the words luscious and soulful, what comes to mind? Is there anyone you know who embodies these traits? When do you feel luscious and soulful?
They are good words, especially together. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a lush- or a sensualist- but when you throw soulfulness into it, it gives it integrity. So many arts can be luscious and soulful, but especially music.
Here in Cowichan there are many people who embody these words- I think there must be something about the valley that draws these kinds of people!
I feel luscious and soulful when singing or dancing, or creating an amazing meal.
What do you love most about your body? And why?
Hmm…maybe my legs and feet? I have strong legs and high arches, great for dancing, and they make a beautiful point.
What brings you pleasure? What senses are involved?
I have a weakness for wine!
I work at the tasting room at a local winery and love watching people experience our wines, especially when they take time to really taste it- the smell can be indicative of the favour or can contrast. Different people have different experiences of the same wines- I love how that highlights our uniqueness! Wine with food is different from wine on its own. I love the warmth and conviviality of wine.
But so many things bring me pleasure….music, dancing, visual art and film, FOOD!! Cuddling with my children.
If you had to throw a dinner and dance party how would you do it?
I have thrown a lot of dinner and dance parties!!
The keys are: be well organized (to avoid stress day-of), create atmospheric ambiance (this is very important!!), be GENEROUS – this always comes back!! And let yourself have fun, otherwise, why do it??
Where/how do you find your inspiration?
Little bits of melody or rhythms come to me all the time, the problem is finding the subject to “match” the melody. Once you have the subject (which should always come with a mood), then writing the song can be pretty easy.
Definitely my home life has been a source of songs- my relationships with my spouse and children, homesteading, friends lives, etc. Some of my songs are political. But mostly it’s the human experience- and finding those feelings that are universal and expressing them in a new yet concise way- that inspires me.
What does your ideal day look like?
A long sleep in and cuddles with the kids, followed by tea and a fried egg on toast, a little quiet time to practice guitar, some song-writing time, lunch, americano, a contemporary dance class, some recording time, an amazing dinner with wine, and jamming late!
What advice would you give to your younger self? How old is she when she needs this advice?
I think my 18 year-old self needed to know that she would find her passion eventually.
I always loved doing so many things: I danced extensively as a teen, always drew, went to University for a BFA in theatre, but never felt like I had found my true “calling”- not that I believe there is only one “calling”- but I think I was searching for the form of expression that I not only loved but was very good at.
I found it not until after my first children were born- and it was not something I had any training in.
What is your most treasured possession? Tell a little story about it.
I really had to think about this, but I guess it would be our house (which is not just mine!!)
We spent so many years thinking about it, designing it and building it. It is so beautiful and practical and well-built and unique. It had the perfect blessing at our house-warming party where all our community came together to honor it and us. I can’t imagine ever leaving it. And most of all, I think building the house was a hugely empowering experience that made me realise that anything was possible.
Inspired resources: please share any heart-moving soul-shaking artistry or experiences that have moved you. What made it so powerful?
While I appreciate visual art, sculpture, dance and theatre, music is usually the most moving for me.
At the Islands Folk Festival a couple years ago I was up at my tent when I heard someone singing on the main stage. I immediately trooped down there and saw Carrie Elkin (from Austin TX) perform with her band. She had such a powerful way of singing, and with such lyrics that I was in tears several times before the end of her set. Then I saw her boyfriend Danny Schmidt, and was so moved by his songs that I knew I wanted to try and do that. So inspiring!
I love grand theatrical productions: Ride the Cyclone, Stomp, Les Miserable… probably because the music so perfectly communicates the feelings and themes.
I have had the great privilege of travelling much of the world- and saw some amazing people and places…too many to list, but favorite places include: Guanajuato, Mexico, Marqueses Islands, St.Lucia, Varanasi, India, Kathmandu, Nepal, Rome, Maderia, etc.. I hugely recommend travelling to learn more about other cultures and yourself.
So often I think that experiencing art is dependent on where you are in your own internal landscape when you experience it.
I heard a piece of classical music on the radio once (can’t recall now what it was called) that made me pull over and weep. My heart was open to it. But listened to at another time, under different circumstances, it probably wouldn’t have affected me that way.
Who are your favourite artists? And why?
The two earliest most influential musical artists for me were the Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco.
The Indigo Girls grappled with big questions of love and spirituality and did it in such a raw and beautiful way. Ani was… my hero! Fiercely political, feminist, independent, honest, creative, prolific and deeply intelligent, I saw her live whenever I had the chance.
There are all kinds of other artists who I admire and am inspired by, in all genres- the island is full of them!
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you and your art?
I guess just that I feel so lucky to be surrounded by people who support and encourage my creating- I can really see that it puts me in a position of privilege.
We have little money and we “go without” many luxuries that others might have a hard time with.
But the fact that we eat so well, are surrounded by such good people, have the luxury of our own home and land, and can take time to create and play gives little room to complain!
ps – Find out more about the hospitality Genevieve and her family are known for at this blog post.
ppps – if you know of any amazing artists I can profile in this series, send me an e-mail with their info – I’m always excited to connect with interesting amazing creatives.