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Belle Plaine stumbles into Regina after travels as a waitress

Paul Bogdan
A&C Writer

Belle Plaine
The Artesian
Jan. 27

Bigger is better.

Or that’s the implication the Carillon received from Belle Plaine in discussing her upcoming album release show at the Artesian on Jan. 27.

“We’ve got a full band for that show, and that’s a rare thing for me to have on stage,” Belle Plaine said. “It’ll be a nice, full show for everyone to see how the songs were realized more like they were on the album.”

Belle Plaine (née Melanie Hankewich) said Notes from a Waitress differs in sound from Hello from Belle Plaine, with the new record encompassing more of pretty much everything – instruments, musicians, and influences.

“The sound of this album is a bit different than the last EP that I did [Hello from Belle Plaine],” Hankewich said. “That was more of a folky singer-songwriter that featured myself and [bassist] Elizabeth Currie. We recorded everything live off the floor, and this album was a lot more intentional. We hired some old friends of ours from Grant MacEwan College to help us record it, and we got a producer out. We made a collection of songs that goes back to a 1950s jazz feel … [I]t’s a little bit poppy, but it mostly focuses on a mesh between jazz and folk music.”

While this might be a stylistic change, Hankewich insisted it wasn’t forced or intentional, she’s simply writing what comes naturally to her.

“The songs that we chose to record were in a swing feel, and they made a nice collection when they were all put together,” she said. “I don’t think there was ever a real intentional choice to it … It’s whatever comes out. Sometimes, it’s pop. Sometimes, it’s swing, and sometimes it’s country. I try not to get too wrapped up in choosing a genre; I get bored quickly.”

Her experience from her previous EP also allowed her to do more with Notes from a Waitress.

“The folk album was my first release, and I wanted it to be a very manageable project for myself to finish,” Hankewich said. “The approach that I took was to just have the duo in the studio … so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming. You always dream bigger for your next one.”

Hankewich’s newest release in her self-proclaimed “bubble-gum swing” style is based around a series of travels that led the singer to Australia and back.

“[Notes from a Waitress] is based around a travel log when I was making my way out to Australia and back,” she said. “The title encompasses that time in my life when I was traveling and going from place to place making a living as a waitress.”

Notes from a Waitress would “definitely not” have come out the same had Hankewich not partaken on such a journey.

“There are all of these little points in my travels that inspired songs,” she said. “I’m sure I would have written about something else, but the traveling definitely influenced the type of songwriting I did.”

Upon returning from Australia, Hankewich stopped in Regina, but she never intended to make the Queen City her new home.

“I never planned to stay in Regina, but it’s been a few years now that I’ve been here; I think that I’ve settled here,” she said.

Hankewich said the decision to settle here in Regina was heavily influenced by the arts community in our city. While working at the Globe Theatre, Hankewich witnessed actors devoting all of their time to their craft, “And I thought, ‘What if I did that?’” Hankewich said.

Her decision to do music as a full-time career has only further cemented her into the arts community in Regina.

“In making that decision and starting to play music in Regina, I got to know the community here; the more I played, the more people I met,” Hankewich said. “Everyone here is really welcoming, and I fell into the crowd with the Lazy MKs and the Lonesome Weekends.

“That really cemented me into the scene, and I started recording with them and on my own. Before you know it, you’ve got a whole supportive community around you.

“That’s difficult to leave once you find it.”

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