Ottawa
3 min

Making music

Lori Jean Hodge and Peggy White traded work for happiness

GAMBLING ON TUNES. Lori Jean Hodge and Peggy White set their sights on music careers. Credit: Shawn Scallen

After years of straddling the fence between security and performing, Lori Jean Hodge and Peggy White finally chose sides – and came down on the side of music.



The two queer singer-songwriters, both veterans of Ottawa’s music scene, recently quit their day jobs to devote themselves full-time to their musical careers.



For both women, the past several months have been a time for rearranging priorities, intensive soul-searching and trying to find a way to make ends meet.



“It’s such a big step to walk away from the financial stability, it’s really scary,” says White. “And then to try to promote yourself, too, that’s really quite hard.”



For White, the decision to turn all her energies and resources towards becoming a successful, self-supporting musician all came down to “the right timing.”



After a “mishap” at work, she quit her job as a travel agent – only a month before her latest album, Fair Is Fair, was to be released. With no job and a new album on her hands to promote, the Perth native took advantage of her situation and began to focus full-time on improving her musical future.



“I decided that this was going to be my last, real concentrated effort to try to do something with my music,” White explains, “and it is amazing how it has worked out. I thought for sure that I wouldn’t be able to support myself, but I have so far.”



White’s gamble has paid off. Fair Is Fair, released early last spring, has received rave reviews, chart positions and frequent radio play – in Canada, the US and Europe.



Building on the album’s success, White – who describes her music as alternative country – spent hours each day at her computer doing research and self-promotion. When she began receiving a number of positive responses from Australia, she booked her first tour there, which was completed last month.



“It was wonderful,” says White. “I booked another tour while I was there, so I am going back again in January.”



White says she is also working on booking tours for Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as polishing the songs for her next album, which should be out sometime early next year.



“Basically, what I want to do for the summer is just to try to expand a little bit from Ottawa, because I haven’t really toured Canada at all,” White says. “And that’s what I’m focusing on, sort of regional work, to try to get my name out there a little bit more – back here at home.”



She adds that she feels quitting her job to focus on her music was well worth the financial risk.



“I really don’t think that if I had been working all of this would have happened,” she says.



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Before Lori Jean Hodge quit her day job nine months ago to concentrate on her own singing and songwriting, she was motivated by a brief discussion with White about her own career decisions.



“I had a conversation with her before I decided to take this sabbatical,” says Hodge. “She really encouraged me and that conversation stayed with me. She’s a partner in crime.”



Hodge, who moved to Ottawa from Manitoba in 1990, says she has spent much of the past nine months challenging herself both as an artist and as an individual.



“I broke a huge pattern, a societal pattern,” she says of quitting her job. “And I made a conscious decision to take it as it comes. It’s the poorest I’ve ever been, but it’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”



In addition to her solo work, which she calls a “very eclectic blend of blues, reggae and traditional folk,” Hodge spent three years performing with the Ottawa-based R&B band Suicide Kings, until the group dissolved in 1997.



Although currently putting the finishing touches on the songs for her first full-length album, Hodge’s single, Prairie Train, is featured on the soundtrack for the Dream Weaver independent film Pokey.



The song, one of the first Hodge wrote after moving to Ottawa, also appears on the 2003 Ottawa Indie Vibe compilation CD distributed during Juno Week in Ottawa last April.



In addition to her songwriting and performing, Hodge has become involved with the Act Out theatre, noting it has allowed her to become more well-rounded artistically.



Most recently, she was cast as Frau Schneider, for Act Out’s upcoming production of Cabaret, which will be performed this summer at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.



“Now my focus is to perform as much as possible,” says Hodge, discussing her musical future. “The time is right and my determination is strong. It has been a difficult period of time in my life, but it has been well worth it.”