A song can be a dangerous thing.
Ask Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Kate Reid. Reid, who is a lesbian, said that while Katy Perry’s song I Kissed A Girl is catchy, it may have unintended effects for the GLBT community by misrepresenting their experiences to mainstream audiences.
“(That song) was counter-productive … (It was about) a straight woman trying to get more attention from men and the media,” said Reid. “A lot of people might not think about the implications of a song … She’s not trying to represent us at all. She’s just representing herself.”
Similar to comedians like Dave Chapelle, Reid blends political awareness with wit. By directly challenging stereotypes, she tries to capture the stories of the people she writes about, including herself. Tracks like I’d Go Straight for Ridley Bent and The Only Dyke at the Open Mic are as funny as they are catchy.
“I think it’s easier to stomach what I’m talking about if I make fun of it,” she said. “I want to address stuff like homophobia — even our own internal homophobia … If people feel like they are part of the story … (that) helps us see how we are similar (as well as unique).”
That said, it’s not all fun for Reid, who also tackles tough subjects — a challenge during live sets that shift in emotions. For example, No More Missing Daughters, about the missing women of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, is still difficult to perform.
“It’s hard for me to separate my emotions — not so much when I’m writing, but when I’m on stage,” she said. “I’m trying to learn techniques like making a set list, and making sure I have comic relief to offset the heavy songs.”
Writing in a self-reflexive manner, Reid draws on the role that music played in her own experience of coming out. Stories told by musicians like Ani Difranco, Tracey Chapman and the Indigo Girls helped her figure out her own situation, and she hopes to do the same for others. Her next album will feature stories from cross-country interviews with children who have lesbian moms — an idea that came after a 13-year-old fan sent Reid a letter about her experience.
“(I wanted to) look at how they feel as kids,” said Reid, whose partner has two kids. “I heard all these cool stories, and wanted to turn them into songs, so I sent out an email and lined up 20 people within 24 hours who said they would love to be a part of it.”
• Kate Reid performs with Evalyn Parry at the Tranzac in Toronto on Sunday.