Shari Ulrich

Shari Ulrich 2019 w violin v2 Sm

Long before her induction to the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame, Californian-Canadian Shari Ulrich entered the world in San Rafael, California on October 17, 1951.

At the age of 19 she “ran away” to British Columbia up the coast. It was 1969, and the coffeehouse singer-songwriter scene was still going strong. She was just re-acquainting herself with her grade school violin skills when she joined forces with Rick Scott and Joe Mock. The group they formed was Pied Pumkin, in 1973.

In the early days of the Canadian music business, the arrival of major labels’ regional offices had many a performer optimistic about their music possibly getting heard beyond their immediate stomping grounds in our vast country.

Of course, the major labels didn’t regard Canada as a major country, as Americans sold more records to the Japanese and British than they moved north of their border. When there was a multitude of Canadian record labels, some artists could carve out decent careers, but it was a hard slog.  

Others, feeling left out of the party they’d supposedly been invited to when they first signed a record contract, realized they could release their music independently. Perth County Conspiracy, who released two albums on Columbia, ended up self-releasing their music. Of course, those albums are hard to find now, but they weren’t the only Canadian band that figured keeping the money from a few sales wouldn’t be worse than receiving a pittance and feeling controlled by a huge record label.

Out west, there was the afore-mentioned Pied Pumkin. Forming their own “pumkin” related label, Squash Records; the band managed to sell some 30 thousand copies of their first two records. Their first album, ”The Pied Pumkin String Ensemble” came out in 1974. The album was recorded at Simon Fraser University from a truck outside. Ulrich played dulcimer, saxophone, flute, mandolin, and violin.

Pied Pumkin records were financed by charging fans 5 bucks each- before the record was made. Crowd funding before the Internet, or even touch tone telephones. The band played out west, mostly in B.C. and Alberta with some treks to Ontario.

Ulrich left Pied Pumkin to back fellow west coast singer Valdy in The Hometown Band in 1976. Valdy toured more expansively and Ulrich found herself on stages across the country. In Toronto over the years, she has played stages from living rooms to Massey Hall to Maple Leaf Gardens. Ulrich signed with 2 major labels before reverting to controlling her music independently. She appears on “The Pear of Pied Pumkin,” recorded by the “Pear” – the remaining two members of Pied Pumkin, courtesy of A&M Records. This is almost certainly the first Canadian record with a song questioning the wisdom of Canada hosting the Olympics.

The Hometown Band won a Juno in 1978 for Most Promising Group of the Year. Nonetheless, they folded soon after their second album was released, when A&M cancelled their the Ontario leg of their US tour hours before their Juno award win for Most Promising New Group in another up and down moment with a big record label.

Ulrich recorded two solo l.p’s of original songs for A&M, “Long Nights” and “One Step Ahead.” Unfortunately, a deal involving MCA in the U.S. and a purge at therein found her newly recorded third solo album, “Talk Around Town,” lost in the shuffle on the eve of it’s US release. While lacking any American distribution, Ulrich won the Most Promising Female Vocalist Juno Award in 1981.

Ulrich moved to Bowen Island in 1993 with her then-husband David Graff to raise their 3 year old daughter Julia. Ulrich and Graff are no longer married, but, always a lover of nature, she remains on Bowen Island. Reflecting on divorce, she comments in-concert, while introducing “You Know I Would,” that a divorce is indicative of a successful marriage that ran it’s course, rather than as a failed effort.

Always fond of collaboration, Shari joined forces with Bill Henderson and Roy Forbes (UHF) in 1989; with Barney Bentall & Tom Taylor (BTU) in 2008, and in 2010, Ulrich joined the bluegrass band The High Bar Gang with Bentall and Colin Nairne.

In the intervening years, Ulrich has continued to release music independently, and make songwriting her focus and now has some 25 solo and group records to her credit and  2014 CFMA for English Songwriter of the Year. Pied Pumkin has played sporadic reunions since 1999, and in 2016 The Hometown Band reunited and toured with Valdy.

Away from microphones and instruments, Ulrich has taught at Humber, UBC, the VSO School of Music and continues to host the Songwriters Association of Canada SongBird North Series in Vancouver as she has for 23 years. Ulrich is now releasing her ninth solo album, her second back with a record label – Borealis. Her daughter, now a busy sound engineer, producer and music editor in film & television has engineered  and co-produced her last 3 albums and tours with Shari regularly as a multi-instrumentalist. She will be releasing “Back to Shore” on June 18 at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver, but will be coming to Ontario and the Maritmes later in the summer.

  • July 20-21 Perth
  • August 6 Toronto
  • August 7 Halifax

http://www.shariulrich.com

 

Blog post by Erik Twight

Erik Twight is, at present, a Freelance Writer, maintaining a web presence specializing in current affairs, history, photography and music and producing a weekly podcast/radio show arranged thematically and with commentary for fun. Click here to read more.

Don’t forget to check out these Shari Ulrich songs as part of our new Spotify playlist episode  – https://spoti.fi/2wzTB5b

Spotify Ep. 10 - S.A.C. Board, Past & Present.png

1. Everywhere I Go
Album: Everywhere I Go
Performed by: Shari Ulrich
Written by: Shari Ulrich
Source: Discogs

2. One Sky
Album: Everywhere I Go
Performed by: Shari Ulrich
Written by: Shari Ulrich
Source: Discogs

3. Find Our Way
Album: Find Our Way
Performed by: Shari Ulrich
Written by: Shari Ulrich
Source: Discogs

4. Life Goes On
Album: Find Our Way
Performed by: Shari Ulrich
Written by: Shari Ulrich
Source: Discogs

Songwriters Association of Canada posts songwriter related news and events as a resource to members. Publishing these posts does not imply that the S.A.C. endorses the teacher, product, service, or company.

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