Lauren Falls, 2020 Finalist

Canadian bassist Lauren Falls has made a big impact on the Toronto and New York jazz scenes. She has performed at numerous jazz festivals and staple Toronto venues. An accomplished composer, she has released a debut album of original music called The Quiet Fight and is currently working on her second album A Little Louder Now to be released in 2021. Lauren holds a master’s degree in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music as well as a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance from Humber College in Toronto.

Finalist Lauren Falls told us more about her international work and her views on what makes Toronto's music scene so unique.

Original photo courtesy of Reenie Perkovic. Artwork by Amber Williams-King
You’ve spent a lot of time studying and working in New York. What made you decide to return to Canada?

I feel very fortunate to have been able to study at Manhattan School of music which is what made living in New York possible and a lot easier than not having studied there. New York was wonderful for being a training ground of intensity that only that city could provide. But it was very evident then and even more so now that I am very proud to be Canadian. Over the years I would come back to Toronto to play gigs and I always felt it would be the place where I’d come back to. The music scene in Toronto is so diverse and rich and there are so many incredible musicians living here, so I knew there would be endless possibilities to make music and be artistically inspired. And I was right. I’ve been back for a few years now and it didn’t take long to get back into the scene and form my own band here. I know I made the right choice because I’m still really inspired to create and play music. I am forever grateful for the time I spent in New York and know it has contributed to who I am as a person and a musician today.

Can you talk about your experience working internationally? How is jazz unique in Toronto?

Travelling around the world while meeting and playing with musicians is such an enriching experience. I spent some time in Mumbai, India teaching and playing which was an incredible experience. It’s so interesting to see how the thought process behind another cultures’ music can be completely different but in the end we’re all speaking the same language. Another great experience was travelling around Switzerland a few years ago with a blues band and being received with such love and joy. That’s one thing I’ve come to learn: there are music lovers everywhere.

One thing about travelling is it always makes me reflect on how much talent there is right here in Toronto. I think Toronto is definitely one of the cities Canadian musicians gravitate towards and therefore the jazz community is full of really incredible creative musicians. What’s really unique about Toronto is you can find bands playing all types of jazz. In the same night you can experience a swing band at the Reservoir Lounge then go hear bebop at the Rex. You can stop by the Tranzac for some free jazz then end your night with a grooving trio at Repasado. What’s really special is that our Toronto jazz venues are extremely supportive and open to artists experimenting and trying out new material.

You’re a graduate of Humber College’s Jazz Studies program. How did your time there impact your creative practice?

Humber College was where I started to discover my own voice as a musician and composer. The faculty there was incredibly supportive and encouraging and my peers also inspired me. I was very lucky to be able to study with Don Thompson, Mike Downes, Pat Labarbera, kirk Macdonald and so many wonderful educators who opened my eyes to so much new music and encouraged me to start composing. I had dabbled a bit in composition before college but Humber is definitely where I started creating my own original material. And like I said, my peers inspired me. I got the chance to really dive deep into the jazz tradition and also experiment quite a bit in my ensembles. I got to play with some incredible musicians that are still prominent on the jazz scene in Toronto today. There are many wonderful programs across the country which are producing fantastic musicians, however I know that the guidance and instruction I received from Humber was instrumental in my acceptance and scholarship to do a masters at Manhattan School of Music and after that recording my first album.

Tell us about what you’re working on, what’s your next project?

I’m currently working on a new album to be released in 2021. During the last couple months like many others I’ve had a little free time on my hands. It’s allowed me to go inward and make new musical discoveries. I’ve been reflecting on what I want to say and what I want to present to the world as a woman and a musician trying to make sense of where we are as a society. I’ve been putting the finishing touches on some new compositions that will be recorded this fall when I go into the studio with my band. My vision for this album is for it to be accessible to a wide range of listeners. The instrumentation will be bass, piano, drums, guitar, tenor saxophone and I’m hoping to add strings to some of the tracks. My goal for the album is to record all original material, which technically would be categorized as jazz but will also include elements of rock, classical and folk. The bulk of the compositions on this album are inspired by the equal rights movement and come from a place of personal discovery and growth. I’m really excited to get this music out into the world.

How does it feel to be nominated for the Emerging Jazz Artist Award?

I feel incredibly honoured to be nominated. The nomination serves as a reminder that you never know who’s watching and that sometimes you just need to keep pushing forward and good things are waiting for you on the other side. Being a musician and composer can be a solitary exercise at times; the importance of recognition and support cannot be overstated. There are so many talented emerging artists in Toronto and so I know how extremely lucky I am to have been nominated. I’m very grateful and excited because the Emerging Jazz Artist Award is an incredible opportunity to be discovered and heard by members of the community that potentially haven’t had the opportunity to hear me perform my music before. Just being nominated has already helped me take a step forward in my career. I just want to give a huge thank you to the Toronto Arts Foundation for the nomination. It’s because of foundations like yours that artists can continue to grow and flourish. Thank you so very much.