On her sophomore release, Staring at the Ceiling, lesbian musician Fiona Noakes is finding her voice through solid hard-rock anthems.
Following up her 2011 debut, Out of the Shadows, the tracks on Staring at the Ceiling feature contemplative and introspective lyrics, a songwriting style the Ottawa singer says helps her stay sane.
“Growing up [gay] you feel like there is something wrong with you or you try to hide who you are because you feel like there is something defective. My lyrics are like therapy for me,” she says. “That’s how I find my sanity. It helps me organize myself and my thoughts.”
Noakes is a classically trained pianist, but even though her familiarity with the ivories has helped “train her ear” for music, she admits she rarely writes songs on the piano anymore.
“Guitar and piano are completely different. The weird thing is I think I was so classically trained in piano that I can’t break the mould of playing classically,” she says.
After the departure of a long-time collaborator, Noakes now leads a trio of straight musicians, including Cliff Chamberlin, who was once Noakes’s guitar instructor.
Chamberlin says he can hear Noakes’s growth as a guitarist on the latest record.
“I always feel like I’m a hired gun, but we’re such a close-knit family now,” he says with a laugh. “We all hang out, and we are all friends. It feels natural. When you are onstage, you have a lot more fun with friends as opposed to people who are just hired.”
Chamberlin says it’s “amazing” to see the gay and lesbian community come out to support Noakes.
“You get a whole different group of people coming out. To me, I really feel like they are more in touch with the arts scene,” he says.
After opening for gay performers Hunter Valentine and Sarah Smith, Noakes now has her sights set on playing the Capital Pride main stage in 2014.
To sample tracks from Staring at the Ceiling, visit Noakes’s official site.