By Jessica Selby
Treasa Levasseur, the humble and determined singer-songwriter from Canada, says she started making music as a baby. Her mother was a singer, and Treasa sang in church when she was younger and local bands later on. When she started driving her own car, she took the Undesirables, a blues-folk band, on tour just so she could experience touring and play accordion.
Influenced by Mavis Staples, Carole King and Annie Lennox, Treasa plays “any instruments she can get her hands on”; piano, accordion, guitar, and mandolin, to name a few. She is flexible with the genres of music she plays as well. She has played everything from hip hop to heavy metal to pop to country to folk, and now blues and R&B. And not only is she a solo act, but she plays with at least three other bands on a regular basis. This is one multi-talented woman.
However, she believes passion is equally, if not more, important than talent in her music. “I feel lucky, basically. I love playing music and sharing songs. Ultimately, I just want to be as honest as possible. I want to relate to people and I want us to relate to each other.” When asked what direction she is trying to take her music, she says. “There’s no ultimate goal, it’s not a straight line, it’s just a wacky maze. I just want to keep enjoying myself and keep learning. See more places, meet more people, have more fun.”
As for seeing more places and meeting more people, she is one step closer after receiving her visa and playing her first United States gig in Roxbury, Illinois on June 26th. “That was definitely a highlight! I really dig how people in the US encourage artists. In Canada people are polite and more reserved.” But not all gigs are highlights; Treasa says the worst performance she’s done “was a corporate breakfast that I did solo at 6:30 in the morning.” Good or bad, she has fun with the setlists at all of her performances, “I can do ‘It’s Your Thing’, Otis Redding, a Willie Dixon tune, Carole King, ‘Do Right Woman’ by Aretha Franklin, or even an old Kentucky fiddle tune, you never know!”
Treasa attempts to think of the biggest challenge of being in the music industry, “Aside from the finances?” She pauses. “Maintaining a realistic attitude. It’s like sometimes there’s a karat of fame. Sometimes in wanting more you’re not appreciating what you have. That’s the toughest part, keeping it real.” She also had some advice for anyone trying to get into the industry, “Nobody owes anybody anything in this business. So work hard, play hard, be a good person.”
More nuggets of wisdom can be taken from Treasa’s second album “Low Fidelity”. Her stories of love and life are some that can relate to anyone. The inspiration comes from the non-commitment on the road as an artist, and the conflict that female artists face in reference to it. “Guys seem to have a different girl in every city” says Treasa. She says that the term “Low Fidelity” is a play on words, “It refers to sound quality, as well as faithfulness to others and to your own self.” The track “Amen”, for example, is a deep song about religious doubt.
“When I was a young girl, you know I loved Jesus the best. So eager to please him, I put him above all the rest. But what I’ve seen since has put my blind faith to the test. And how far I’ve strayed since those days now is anyone’s guess.”
The obvious fervor presented on her debut “Not a Straight Line” is still very much alive in the new album, but “Low Fidelity” is much more structured and focused. “With ‘Not a Straight Line’ I was still experimenting with different genres. It was a shuffle play sort of record, there was a different vibe to every song. ‘Low Fidelity’ was a lot harder to put together” she explains. Another difference between the albums: “Low Fidelity” was only worked on for two years, as opposed to the ten years that was put into her debut.
The biggest change in Treasa’s music is due to her 2006 trip to Memphis, Tennessee, which caused a blues-infusion. “I think one of the reasons I decided to do it is because of my fans and the feedback that I was getting from people who were seeing me play and saying ‘Oh, I really like this, but I really love it when you sing the blues’ or ‘when you sing loud’ or ‘when you sing in this style’. And then that was combined with traveling down to Memphis a few times for a conference – in the folk world – but you know folk and blues do tend to intersect each other. And I started to learn a lot about the music that was happening down in Memphis…and I started getting into the music. Not so much the blues, but the rhythm and blues-that sort of R&B/soul sound,” she says in a Talkin’ Blues podcast. “I was having a hard time trying to explain what ‘Not a Straight Line’ was…because it dabbled in so many genres. And I wanted to get a piece of art together that I could share that I could easily describe the sound of.” She also has a track on “Low Fidelity” describing this switch in styles called “Stuck in Soulsville”.
“Well as I listened to this piece of Memphis history. The sweet sounds of Stax became revealed to me. The key to the rhythm and the secret to the soul is that the sum of the parts are at the heart of the whole. What a gift from above, an opportunity to witness all of the love of that community. And to my dying day I thank my sister Cindy for showing me some sweet southern hospitality when I was stuck in Soulsville USA. Some people say that you make your own luck, I guess to get where it’s at sometimes you’ve got to get stuck”
In the Talkin’ Blues podcast she is asked what we should expect on the next album, “I’m not leaving rhythm and blues at this point. I’ve got a bunch of folk songs and one day I’ll make a little folk record, but the next record will still be rhythmically driven, funk, soul, rhythm and blues feel.”
For anyone going to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Treasa says “I’m really looking forward to coming to Philly! Come and find me! Don’t be shy!”