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Donna Linklater: Billie Hollies’ Voice

May 13th, 2010     by Desirée O     Comments

Every other Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!

So without further delay, let me introduce the awesome Donna Linklater…

Lead vocals and autoharp player for The Billie Hollies, Donna Linklater founded the female folk-noir quartet two and a half years ago when she moved to Toronto after studying opera at Brandon University. The band was most recently involved with the event Torn From The Pages where Donna composed a piece of music based on the novel “Stunt” by Claudia Dey, which will be expanded into a full-length oratorio. Now she tells us why, as a Shameless Woman, she challenges the expected norm and why this is a very exciting time to be a female musician.

What drives you to do what you do?

I think there’s a part of me that very much wants to challenge the expected norm and flip prescribed roles on their heads. I decided to depart from a traditional opera career and write my own music because I was attracted to the self-sufficiency of the indie music scene here in Toronto. It’s exciting to think that I can write what I sing and I also love working with my bandmates in order to create our own performance environment. Every so often I try to assess where I am and what I’m doing, and I try to figure out a way to get beyond that- such as how things can be different or better than they are.

There are also the people in my life who have been a great source of inspiration like my mother (an accomplished pianist and music teacher) who always encouraged me to study and work hard and modelled an impressive work ethic. My husband has played a very important role in my growth by helping me to tap into abilities I didn’t know I had which in turn led me to find my own path instead of feeling trapped by an imaginary set of rules. Lately I’ve been drawing inspiration from my bandmates who are a group of women with such a wonderful variety of talents and skills that I look forward to every single time we get together to rehearse or perform!

How does being a woman empower / challenge you? This is a very exciting time to be a female musician because there are so many wonderful talented women doing exactly what they want and doing a fantastic job of it. There are limitless sources of inspiration. I also greatly value my relationships with the other women in my life and I think women have a very special way of encouraging one another.

What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

First I would say to choose your role models based on who seems to be happiest, not based on who makes the most money or who’s the most famous. Look to the people who support you and encourage you to be yourself for guidance and inspiration, and work as hard as you can to fulfill your own dreams, not to satisfy somebody else’s expectations. Plus it never hurts to try to have fun with whatever you do!

What is one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about? I remember how exciting it was to find out about Hildegard von Bingen - who was one of the most prolific medieval composers. Unfortunately I didn’t learn about very many female composers in university, so it was wonderful to discover her.

What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?

I believe that so much can be accomplished by keeping an open mind- open to change, open to other ideas, and open to new ways of doing things. It can sometimes be quite the challenge for me to be flexible, but the greatest things in my life have happened when I questioned some of my rigidly held convictions.

You can find Donna and The Billie Hollies at Their debut album will be released this fall.

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