For anyone who feels like the last few weeks have stretched on for what feels like a lifetime, Laila Biali can likely sympathize.
The musician was about to board a plane to go host the jazz showcase at this year’s Juno Awards in Saskatoon, Sask., when she got a call from CBC Music, who was set to air the show on March 15, telling her do otherwise.
“They said, ‘Don’t get on that plane,’” Biali tells the North Shore New. “Other than the NBA, that was one of the first major public events that was going to be indefinitely postponed or cancelled altogether.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already reshaped society in a multitude of ways. As the crisis has unfolded, businesses have weighed the logistics of staying open or closing outright, service and health-care workers have been rightly anointed as the heroes they are, and many artists have been compelled to switch things up with social distancing imparting a chasm between performers and fans.
Biali is among the fold of artists trying something new.
While a slew of upcoming tour dates have rightfully, though still disappointedly, been suspended, she’s made the decision to release her upcoming album on Friday.
“I thought, given the title of the album and the stories of the songs, which are largely about overcoming, in some ways it felt like – without wanting to be opportunistic in any way – it was really as good as a timing as ever,” she says.
Out of Dust is out now on Chronograph Records. The new album sees the North Vancouver-raised jazz artist celebrating life amidst chaos and tragedy.
Although the last few years have seen their share of highlights for Biali – a return to the jazz scene, a worldwide tour, as well as Juno win in 2019 for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, to name a few – she’s also experienced plenty of private turmoil as well.
She lost a close friends to cancer, mourned the suicide of a family member, and was diagnosed with a duo of autoimmune disorders. It was a period of change.
“I’m fundamentally wired as an optimist,” she says. “The struggles have been very real, and there have been some very dark times. And the songs on the album were a means for me to connect with and almost begin that healing process where you have to really face what you’re dealing with head on and then decide how am I going to contextualize this?”
In the sake of doing something new, Biali has decided to forgo a traditional, in-person album release party for a virtual one.
She plans to share the stories behind the songs, host a live Q&A session, as well as do video interviews with the musicians and artists who helped make the album a reality throughout the day Friday. Those interested in taking in the online launch can follow the event on Facebook for live updates (facebook.com/events/2834969383227985).
On her upcoming tour’s postponement, Biali says she’s disappointed she won’t be back on the North Shore for a visit this May.
“My hope is that these songs will still reach people,” she says. “My hope is that when people engage with the material they too will experience something cathartic and uplifting.”