Playing in Penticton is a homecoming of sorts for Portuguese-Canadian singer/songwriter Awna Teixeira.
“It is really fun to come back,” she said. “The first time I came through was with Po’Girl and we sold out the Dream Café for two nights in a row and it felt really good. It was like a big victory returning to this stomping grounds where I went through a lot of stuff as a teen living in foster homes, group homes and got into trouble with the law. I felt like I was coming full circle.”
She returns on May 25 to perform at The Elite, but this time carrying her own accordion, guitar, banjo, harmonica and ukulele, singing off her solo album Where The Darkness Goes, which she brought to life with the help of web fundraiser Kickstarter. After touring the world with successful indie-roots sensation Po’Girl as the co-leader for an eight-year stretch, they mutually separated to work on their own projects for now.
“It is a challenge as a writer to write for just yourself but it gives me the opportunity to figure out what is more natural for me. You can write a lot of crap, but you have to write that crap so the good stuff can find its way out as well,” she said.
The way she handles a variety of instruments would lead listeners to believe she picked up the guitar earlier than 19. Heavily into music all her life, she was never afforded the opportunity to play instruments, besides a small organ her mom bought her from a garage sale that she played Christmas carols on. Funding from her school band program was cut and it seemed music was always one step ahead of her and she couldn’t catch up. Then at 19 a friend bought her a bass guitar.
“I was a troubled teen and went through a bunch of stuff before I figured out some things, so it took me awhile to get music in my life the way I needed it to be. I distinctly remember deciding when I was 20 or 21 that I was going to play in one capacity or another for the rest of my life which felt like an amazing thing to discover,” said Teixeira.
You can feel the musical diversity in her discography — Portuguese folk music from her family, old-time hillbilly jams on the banjo, folk music when she picks up the guitar, European flair on the accordion and so on.
Her parents were immigrants to Canada and Teixeira said their focus was on working hard to become something here, learning the language and trying to assimilate.
“It wasn’t until I was 27 that I realized how musical my grandfather actually was. I went home with a ukulele of all instruments and he said, ‘Oh, I use to play this,’ and picked it up and starting playing this crazy rhythm and singing in Portuguese. I was like what the heck, how am I only learning about this now?” she said.
While that part of her heritage also came later in life, Teixeira said she doesn’t want it to be lost again for a generation.
It is why she chose songs such as Minha Querida on her latest album, a love song about Sofia, her first accordion. Just like any strong lyricist, each song is a personal reflection, but relatable to everyone. Belting out songs that take listeners from hillbilly music, folk to roots and blues, she has been compared to Dolly Parton and Stevie Nicks.
“I don’t hear it, but we have such a different perspective of our voice than other people do. Those are huge compliments to me. Those women, especially Stevie Nicks, even Dolly Parton, while I am not a huge fan of her musical taste, she is a powerhouse and she has paved the way for a lot of people and she is a hell of a performer and songwriter. That is just a huge compliment and I feel very flattered,” said Teixeira.
Catch Teixeira at The Elite on May 25 with opening act Maiya Robbie, who is known for her solo work as well as with Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and music starts at 8 p.m. Cover is $7.