Carbine lets her courses inspire her music. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHEILA CARABINE

Juno-nominated acoustic musician and member of the folk duo Dala, Sheila Carabine recently made an important step in her career with the September 13 release of her debut solo album All In.

The release was not the sole exciting moment for Carabine recently, as the young musician also started her classes at U of T that same week. Combining a music career with a Master’s degree in English may be challenging, but Carabine maintains an enthusiastic attitude about her journey. “It’s an ongoing process that I am hoping to figure out over the course of this year,” she comments, “but I find that it’s good to pursue the two different interests because one enriches the other.”

She pointed out that her current studies, particularly courses in Canadian literature, serve as inspirations for her creative endeavour. “The more I read, the more I want to write myself.” She notes that her new album features a W. B. Yeats poem set to music, which was “directly inspired by a poetry class.” The track “When You are Old” captures the melancholic atmosphere of fleeting love explored in the original Yeats poem.

Thanks to Carabine’s melodic voice and gentle guitar track, the song lends a sense of promise and hope to its listeners. “I’m hoping that the Master’s inspires, maybe, a second album,” Carabine says in anticipation of a fruitful academic year.

When listening to Carabine’s debut album, particularly the song “The Oak and the Maple,” one cannot help noticing her effective use of natural imagery to convey emotional turmoil. The lines “Leaves will fall, birds will fly away… but I know it’s true, I will get over you” prove captivating and strike a bittersweet tone.

Carabine does not single out Toronto’s urban environment or Nova Scotia’s maritime scenery when discussing her insights for the album. “Who knows where inspiration comes from, but when it strikes you, it’s undeniable. I find it so thrilling and exciting.” She describes her anticipated move to downtown Toronto as “[giving] me a spring in my step. But then I do love the country side, the quiet and the stillness, and the slower pace of life.”

Apart from paying tribute to Canada’s English-speaking community, Carabine is also fond of traditional French songs and her experience learning the language. All In features a reinterpretation of the popular tune “A La Claire Fontaine.” The inspiration for this song goes back to Carabine’s undergraduate years, as she explains that one day, “I was in the guidance room at University College and I saw a pamphlet for ‘Explore,’ this program where you get to go to a different campus anywhere in Canada and you study French for five weeks.”

She continues, “While I was there I was learning French and French music and performing during the talent nights on campus… I was connecting with some other Acadian musicians,” one of whom “taught me this particular arrangement of this song.” Carabine notes that while many people would be “familiar with a more upbeat version” of “A La Claire Fontaine”, her debut album features a “more melancholy perspective” on the piece.

Carabine emphasizes that her educational and musical experience in Nova Scotia played a crucial role during her work on All In. Carabine encourages her fellow peers to learn how to diversify their educational experience, noting that “going to concerts or other cultural events give me perspective on how lucky I am to be a student and also inspires me to create.”

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