Not long after singer Theresa Sokyrka moved to Montreal, she realized she wasn’t in Kansas — or rather English Canada — anymore.
“I’m living with a separatist,” said the folk-pop-jazz singer with a congested giggle. “It makes for interesting conversations.”
While the Canadian Idol runner-up and former Red Deer College student had a bit of a head cold earlier this week, she vowed it wouldn’t get in the way of her performance at The Matchbox in Red Deer on Wednesday.
“I’m a pro — I’ve gone on with worse,” said Sokyrka, who moved to Montreal a few months ago, after deciding that Toronto the Busy, where friends had to be dragged to concerts, wasn’t where she wanted to live anymore.
Montreal, with its cheaper rents and laid-back, artsy lifestyle, is where several of Sokyrka’s pals had relocated. It’s through the girlfriend of one of these friends that Sokyrka got a line on somebody who needed a roommate.
“I didn’t know him at all . . . I didn’t know he was a separatist,” she said, with a chuckle.
Despite ongoing debates Sokyrka has with this flat-mate — which she admitted are rather pointless, since they will never change his opinion on the question of Quebec sovereignty — she said, “We actually get along pretty good.”
She loves Montreal, saying Quebec audiences are very attentive and friends who live in the city actually come to see her perform.
All the support she’s receiving makes Sokyrka want to record a few songs in French, to reach new listeners who don’t associate her with being a second-place finisher on Canadian Idol in 2004. The TV program isn’t even on the pop-culture map in Quebec, which has its own French-language singing series.
“Nobody knows me there, yet they keep coming to my shows. It’s so great” said Sokyrka, who was still saddened to hear Canadian Idol was put on indefinite hold because of the economy.
“It definitely helps younger kids who are just starting out and I had so much fun on it. I hope it’s not over for good.”
The show certainly placed Sokyrka in the public consciousness of the rest of Canada. The singer earned a Juno Award nomination for her 2005 gold-selling album of jazz standards called These Old Charms, and followed up with a 2006 recording of original indie-pop songs, called Something is Expected, which only sold half as well, and a Christmas album.
Sokyrka is gearing up to record original material again, as soon as she can get a grant lined up. Her songwriting is now influenced by her new cultural surroundings, and by becoming an aunt to her sister’s baby boy — who, by the way, gave her the cold.
While Sokyrka said she “adores” her nephew, she has no parental stirrings herself. Even romantic relationships seem like an entanglement to the singer, who ended things with a guy before leaving Toronto.
The 28-year-old maintained, “I’m happier concentrating on my career.”
Before she pulls into The Matchbox on Wednesday, Sokyrka plans to stop at Red Deer College, where she still has lifelong friends, including a former roommate and fellow students who are now faculty members.
Unlike k.d. lang, who has famously bashed Red Deer College, Sokyrka has nothing but praise for the institution.
“I’m not sure my teachers would say I was the best student — sometimes I would cut class to jam (with other musicians) in a room across the hall,” she laughingly recalled.
But Sokyrka credits Red Deer College for teaching her the foundations of, not just music but how to survive as a female in a male-dominated industry. “Maybe it’s been a little bit different in the last five years, but it’s still a man’s business.”
Theresa Sokyrka performs at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at The Matchbox in Red Deer. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students/seniors) from The Matchbox box office, 403-341-6500.