Measha Brueggergosman: ‘Music heals, and unity and hope are a superpower’
You were born in New Brunswick. Have you always lived in either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick? Has that part of the world always called to you?
I had my first move away when I finished at the University of Toronto and I lived in Germany for four years doing my master’s and predoctoral studies. When we came back, we did live in Toronto for a minute, then moved to Ottawa, and then I finally made it home as soon as — let me hear the parents out there — I had my first baby. I was not doing that far from my parents. By that point, my parents had moved to Nova Scotia because my dad became a pastor. I followed them. So that’s what brought us to Nova Scotia.
How did the idea for these virtual concerts come about?
Like so many of my artist colleague, I was mobilized in this time. There are two ways to go about the crisis we were faced with. One was to curl up in the fetal position and wait for it to all pass, which I was really tempted to do, but then I thought long and hard about the amount of people who would be suffering, who would be staring at their screens, who would be isolated. I was really motivated by the fact that if anybody was feeling half as confused as I was, they were going to need something to look at. I considered what I had in my hands. I’m a versatile artist who really loves to work with people who know more than I do. That’s how we birthed the Measha Series. How many styles am I willing to sing? How many sounds do I know? I looked around and saw the musicians and collaborators … and it came down to realizing how much I had in my backyard.
These theatres are empty, and people are sitting at home. Part of the program of this season for me has been creating uncancellable events. No matter what, rain or shine, whether the apocalypse comes or not, we will be live-streaming for you, and providing an alternative to what they’re screaming at you. That’s the whole point. Music heals, and unity and hope are a superpower.
When you’re moving in and out of different genres, what are the challenges for you as a vocalist?
I try not to think about it too much, but it is a great question because I want to serve whatever music is in front of me. Am I terrified yet? Do I think it could go horribly wrong? Yes. But I also surround myself with people who are much better than I am, so that they, in turn, carry me. I don’t mean to make it sound like false modesty, but some of the time, I need to just close my eyes and listen to what’s around me. I’ve spent the greater part of 37 years figuring out what this voice is about, and it has blessed me tremendously. It has opened doors for me that no man could shut and closed doors that no man could open. It has been my dearest friend and the thing that has challenged me the most throughout my life. One thing I know how to do is bend it to my will. Whatever is called for, whatever the sound is, whatever the style is, I really do try to homogenize my way into the situation. Anybody who hears me knows that I’m there for them. At a certain point, you just realize that you have to transcend and use whatever you can to do it.
Do you think at another time in your career, you might not have felt as comfortable moving in these directions? Is it because of all that time spent with your voice that allows you that freedom?
Oh my goodness, I wish I’d said it like that! Necessity is the mother of invention. At this point, we have to just do what we like. The world isn’t on fire, but it’s still smouldering. You have to pursue your dreams. My dream has always been to collaborate with a bunch of people who knew stuff I didn’t know. I just thought, let’s film it, let’s put it on the airwaves so that people can be a part of it. Again, we need alternative programming to the rhetoric and the insanity. We need to build ourselves up again.
It does seem that if you’ve been sitting on anything as an artist or a person, now is the time.
Now is the time. You’ll never have a longer runway. The airwaves are yours. I really feel like I’ve never had more freedom.
This interview has been edited and condensed.