Don’t get the wrong idea about Lucie Idlout.
Sure, the singer-songwriter, who splits her time between Toronto and her hometown of Iqaluit, pens and performs rockers and ballads that address issues within her First Nations community on Swagger, her second album, which dropped on Feb. 10. But don’t expect any throat-singing; Idlout is a rocker for all audiences first and foremost.
“I’m the only Inuk in this town that I hang out with,” she said. “The themes that I write about are universal. I am informed by my culture in terms of who I am as a person … I don’t broadcast it.”
In fact, the rock chanteuse, who opened up for the White Stripes in Iqaluit in 2007 during that band’s foray into the Canadian North, doesn’t broadcast anything she doesn’t think merits saying. Growling guitars accompany laconic, straight-to-cases lyrics, as framed in her track Lovely Irene, a harrowing recount of the domestic abuse suffered by a close friend.
The song had legs. The mayor of Iqaluit renamed the street on which that town’s women’s shelter sits after the acoustic version of the song, Angel Street, which led other cities across the country (Fredricton, N.B., is leading the charge) to consider doing the same.
“Whenever you can contribute to the cause of people’s greater well-being, it’s a good thing,” she says.
Idlout is an accidental, and reluctant, spokesperson for the North. She notes there’s a common misconception among “Southerners” — the idiom those living above the tree line have for the rest of us — that the North is a cold, barren land of toubled communities, bordering on Neolithic. Though less cosmopolitan than Toronto or Montreal, it’s simply not the case, and she feels people need to learn more about the country in which they live.
“I think for anyone to have a notion of what any place is, without having been there, is odd to begin with. I think people generally believe that we’re stuck in the Stone Age and we haven’t adapted or made contribution to the modern world, and that’s not true,” she said.
“There are people who live a modern life and a traditional one as well. It’s a dangerously fun place. Spring’s coming, the season for nudie-skidooing.”
Lucie Idlout plays
Toronto – The Rivoli on Feb. 19