Music is Gabrielle Shonk’s universal language

She sings in both French and English, but Gabrielle Shonk's music speaks for itself.

November 1, 2017

I met Gabrielle Shonk in a cozy green room at the intimate Adelaide Hall. She adorably half sips, half spills from a bottle of violet kombucha, gently wipes her cheek while donning a smile as we launch into a conversation about our shared love for the effervescent fermented beverage. Her self-titled debut, freshly released by Universal Music Canada, features songs in both French and English; an anthology of her personal journey over the past few years.

Each song on the record reflects Shonk’s approach to her music. Listeners don’t need to understand English or French to connect with her music. “I’m more of a musician than a lyricist” Shonk confesses. “I write melodies and music before I get to the lyrics. It’s important for me to translate the feeling and meaning driving a song, even if you don’t have the words.”

For Shonk, making music in two languages has caused consistent tension in her evolution as an artist. “I was worried when a Toronto record label approached us. We thought they wouldn’t like the French songs, but they did!” The label embraced Shonk and released her album as it had originally been mixed, giving her complete autonomy over her work. Shonk’s decision to create a bilingual album wasn’t tactical or political, “I’ve spent my whole life speaking, thinking and writing in both French and English.”

Shonk’s American father and French-Canadian mother cultivated a linguistic and cultural duality within her that is evident in her music. Shonk’s musical style exhibits a graceful flexible nature. Her debut single, “Habits,” “started off with jazzy elements, but was eventually built upon with strings and horn arrangements,” transforming the song into a powerful ballad she says “surpassed her expectations.”

Gabrielle Shonk’s refers to her band as her “chosen family,” and feels lucky to tour across Quebec alongside them with determined hopes of performing her music across Canada and beyond.

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