Vancouver Sun July 26 - How Norine Braun came to story of Gone To The Spirits by Tom Harrison
Sunday, July 31, 11 a.m. | Pride Festival, Sunset Beach
The parallel wouldn’t go away.
Norine Braun is aboriginal. Gone To The Spirits was aboriginal.
Braun is lesbian. Gone To The Spirits was a transgender.
Braun is a songwriter, a pursuit sometimes regarded as shamanistic. Mysterious.
Gone To The Spirits was a shaman. Her story is a mystery.
The parallel between Braun’s life and Gone To The Spirits was obvious. The story of Gone To The Spirits had to be told in song. Braun, a songwriter, was the person to do it.
So, for her 10th album, Braun went back to her producer, Adam Popowitz, and made Gone To The Spirits. It’s her best album, incorporating rock, blues, latin, ambience and aboriginal song lore. If it rings true, though, it’s because it tells Braun’s story.
Gone To The Spirits was born in the early 19th century near Creston and Cranbrook as One-Standing-Lodge-Pole-Woman, living her life as a warrior, courier and guide. She was large enough to pass herself off as a man, married a woman, renamed him/herself Sitting-In-The-Water-Grizzly, was exposed as a woman, led battles and magical rites and died a mystic. Could be she/he was a hermaphrodite.
Gone To The Spirits shows up in the journals of fur trader, explorer and surveyor David Thompson. Reading those, 20 years ago, is how Braun came to know Gone To The Spirits.
“It certainly was challenging,” Braun allows. “But because her story was with me so long, it just flowed.
“I struggled with the transgender. Was she a lesbian? How was she transgendered? She was accepted as a man.
“She declared herself a prophet. For me, she was spiritual and I’m a spiritual person.
She related to Gone To The Spirit’s story.
“I think completely,” Braun admits. “I came out in the ’90s. I was a lesbian.”
Braun had submitted the album idea to the Canada Council five years ago and was rejected. She rewrote her application, read more of Thompson’s journals and travelled to Creston and Cranbrook to do research. She resubmitted and this time was awarded an arts grant.
“It wasn’t the time,” she says of her first attempt. “But I thought it was a good story. I’m glad I didn’t give up.”
Although Braun is gay and aboriginal, she relies on neither community to support her. She gigs solo, duo, trio or with a band. Her first album was electro-pop, but there also has been rootsy folk. Gone To The Spirits embraces all those elements, helped by Popowitz’s thoughtful arrangements.
“I’ve never written anything with this much depth,” she explains.
“I feel like I’m a songwriter first. I didn’t want to restrict myself to one genre. I dunno; I’m a chameleon, I guess.”