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INTERVIEW: Kitchener’s Angelica Appelman journeys to her “Happy Place” on debut single

Canadian country newcomer Angelica Appelman has been working on her craft for over ten years. As a child, she headlined living room shows for her family, belting out her favourite songs from her idols Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, and The Chicks. 

Leveraging the virtual songwriting world over the last two years, Angelica has co-written with a number of talented songwriters and artists and is taking her next steps by bringing her hard work and creativity to life.

Setting the stage for an impressive debut, Angelica has begun the year with an incredible introduction to the Canadian country music landscape. “Happy Place” introduces Appelman as a soulful musician who takes care in crafting lyrics that reflect the experiences that inspired them.

“It really connects with who I am as a person because I’ve been brought up to cherish the simple things,” Angelica says. “Family has always been such a huge part of my life.”

The concept for “Happy Place” came out of a reflection on the time Angelica cherishes with the people she holds close to her. Prioritizing family has always been part of who Angelica is as a person, and she realized that her “Happy Place” really wasn’t a place, but the people who she loves and who love her.

As a child, you headlined living room shows for your family, belting out favourites from idols Shania Twain, Faith Hill, among others. How did your love for music come to be? What resonated with you most when it came to country music?

Angelica Appelman (AA): “I think my love for music came to be quite naturally as I was born into a musical family. In fact, we joke about how my singing abilities were given to me because my Mom used to play guitar while she was pregnant with me – so we say that it was the guitar’s vibrations that gave me this voice and ear for music. At a young age, I would sing along to my sisters playing piano and we would put on concerts to all the country classics! I also joined the church choir and started performing in musicals in Grade 2. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a time in my childhood when we weren’t playing music. I was constantly surrounded by it one way or the other, at family events or working on different songs and harmonies, that I really grew an appreciation and passion for it. Music became a constant go-to when I needed a pick me up or if I wanted to express how I was feeling, I would sing or write a song. It’s like it was just a part of my soul.”

“I think what resonates with me most about country music is the storytelling aspect and how much heart and honesty goes into the songs both lyrically and vocally. I am also a big fan of the country twang, and the pure, authentic sounds that come with it and I had always thought that my vocal tone naturally matched that genre. However, the main thing that resonated with me most as a child was just how much fun and how familial the culture of country music is and how that is reflected in the production and stories of the songs.”

As an artist on a mission to “bring back 90’s country,” what elements of 90’s artistry, emotion, stylings, etc., do you wish to embody throughout your musical endeavours?

AA: “90’s country is what I grew up on. From a young age, I was always inspired by superstars like Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, and The Chicks, who were all such powerhouse vocalists with stories that were relatable to listeners. That is what really draws me to this time of music. They wrote songs about everyday people and their everyday struggles but did it with a lot of heart and that resonated with listeners. The songs always made you feel something because there was such strength and detail in the storytelling not only vocally but lyrically. I always try to embody that when I write, ensuring that there is always a clear story with an emotional arc that I and my listeners will connect to.”

“I always just admired the vocal quality and power of these artists. There were these pivotal ‘singy’ moments that enhanced the song and I always appreciated that those moments were created through voice and relied a little less on the production to enhance it. Whenever I’m writing, I am always aware of creating that space melodically to have those ‘singy’ moments as I believe it is integral to my sound. Also, 90’s country really opened the door to those pop elements and I try to bring a lot of those melodic choices to my songs, using those classic 90’s hits as references for my own work. 90’s country was a great time for women to be at the top of the charts and you just don’t see that anymore and I would love that to change or at least for it to be a little more equal. The songs of the ’90s have really lived on. To this day, most of us jump up when we hear “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” or prefer to drink to “Low Places” and that is the goal, to have songs that are timeless.”

At thirteen years old, you began penning song lyrics as an outlet for your feelings. Was there a particular experience and/or happenstance that proved songwriting to be constructive when navigating your adolescence? How important is it for you to continue to express emotion through music?

AA: “What a wonderful question. I think I started turning to music as an outlet for expressing my feelings when I was being bullied for being a “late bloomer” in Grade 8 and 9. I remember I pulled out my journal after someone had made fun of me for being underdeveloped and I just started writing out a bunch of questions in a stanza format that happened to have a rhyme scheme. Then, I just sang those questions aloud to a tune I made up in my head that expressed melodically how I was feeling about being bullied. By the end of the song, I remember those questions turning around onto the bullies and the song naturally took an emotional arc and positive turn. When I finished the song, I felt better and got those negative feelings off my chest so it was very constructive. I have been doing that ever since and it has not only become a therapeutic tool, but a staple for my songwriting.”

“It is very important for me to express emotion through music because that is what listeners connect to, just as I do as a listener. I try to put myself in their shoes, so I approach my writing through a lens of empathy. I want my listeners to go on the journey with me or feel understood when they hear my music. That’s why as difficult as it is to be vulnerable and express these raw emotions or spill the tea, it is important that I do that authentically with honesty and heart because people respect that and frankly, know when it is phoned in. That is just as important in the performance as well as the songwriting.”

Congratulations on the release of your debut single, “Happy Place.” Tell us about the inspiration behind the track. How did you come to choose this track as your first release?

AA: “Thank you so much! It has been an absolute dream! The inspiration behind “Happy Place” comes from the phrase “my happy place” which I was saying all summer long as we were finally able to spend more time with family and loved ones, since we had a bit more of a ‘normal’ summer. In fact, the pivotal moment was when I had taken a photo with myself and my nieces and nephew and captioned it “my happy place”. Immediately I thought to myself, this is a great idea for a song and I wrote it down. I started story mapping the concept, which is that a happy place isn’t a specific location, it is the person or people in your life who bring you comfort and who you feel most at home with. I was also highly influenced by the couples that surround me and the strength of their relationships. One of the couples being my best friends, Hannah Ehman and Isaac Giles who are going to be my co-stars in the upcoming music video! Spoiler alert, haha!”

“I chose this track as my debut release because it really encapsulates who I am as a person, artist, and what my values are. If you were introduced to me, I feel you would be met with this kind of energetic, warm, energy that the song captures. I also thought about the current circumstances we are in with the pandemic and all, and how timely it is to release a song with an uplifting and positive message. It is my hope that I can take people to their happy place and get them in those ‘good vibrations.'”

Produced and co-written by Matt Koebel, alongside Rich Cloke, and TJ Simpson, explain how the group of you were able to see your creative vision through and effectively communicate the values you hold close to your heart.  

AA: “When I brought this title to Matt, Rich, and TJ, they were totally on board and thought it was a cool hook to work with and a great feel-good concept to create from. I had been writing with Matt all summer and had also written a handful of times with Rich and TJ that I felt confident that they knew my sound and who I am as a person and would be able to collaborate and bring my vision to life. Boy, did they ever! It was such a fun write! I came in with a list of all the different places I would consider to be my happy place destinations and they also shared some of theirs. I explained that it was important for the song to be about cherishing the simple things in life as that is how I was brought up. I really wanted to capture those values. Then, melodically, I had said that I wanted to create my own version of “Somebody Like That” by Tenille Arts, which I feel was a great reference to capture that upbeat and positive vibe and I feel that steered us in the right direction.”

What is your greatest hope for listeners of the track, as we all do our best to weather these trying times?

AA: “It is my hope for listeners of this track to be reminded of their happy place, that place or person that brings them peace and gives them hope to keep trucking. I want people to feel those “good vibrations” and to focus on cherishing the simple things in life like the people that they love and who love them. I hope that this song is an instant mood changer that gets you dancing or singing like a goof and puts the pandemic blues on pause, allowing you to shift your focus to the positive, tried, and true, meaningful things in life.”

Partnering up, yet again, with producer Matt Koebel on your debut EP, A Reason or a Season, to be released later this year, what can listeners come to learn about Angelica Appelman as you look to continue to share honest and humble pieces of yourself with the world?

AA: “I would say that Angelica has many layers to her, and I can’t wait for listeners to peel them back with every song I release. This EP, A Reason or a Season, truly showcases the many layers I have, not only as an artist and person but as a songwriter. Every song on the upcoming EP is a diverse experience and performance. You will hear true vulnerability and honesty in the stories of these songs and get to know me better quickly. These songs are my heart served to the world on a silver platter, haha! For the songs on this EP, I really wanted the themes to relate to the title “A Reason or a Season” because the project focuses so much on the purpose of all of the different relationships in our lives that have their season or their reason. I wrote many of these songs during the pandemic or in my 20’s when I was experiencing drastic change within my life as many have. So, my listeners can expect to go through those seasons with me when listening to my EP and perhaps find closure or meaning for the relationships in their lives.”

“Thank you so much Pulse Magazine for sharing my artist journey and story!”

Connect With Angelica:

Matthew Patania

Hi, I’m Matthew, and I am the Founder of Pulse Music Magazine. Having attended my first live show in the Spring of 2015, I realized just how much joy music brings to my life. As my love for music continued to grow, I decided to create a publication that serves as an outlet to share stories told through life's grandest medium.

Written by Matthew Patania

Hi, I’m Matthew, and I am the Founder of Pulse Music Magazine. Having attended my first live show in the Spring of 2015, I realized just how much joy music brings to my life. As my love for music continued to grow, I decided to create a publication that serves as an outlet to share stories told through life's grandest medium.

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