Fave 5 with Abigail Lapell

By / Life / September 7th, 2022 / 1

Abigail Lapell’s smooth and haunting vocals, combined with her multi-instrumentalist and songwriting talents, have won her a solid following as an independent recording artist. The recipient of two Canadian Folk Music Awards, Lapell has toured the globe, making appearances at such festivals as Pop Montreal, Mariposa Folk Festival, AmericanaFest, FreshGrass and Folk On The Rocks. Her songs, which she’s designated as “prairie noir,” have received millions of streams on Spotify. 

Born in Toronto, Lapell lived in Montreal as a child before returning to the city of her birth. From there she’s built a career that’s gotten her accolades both home and abroad for her closely observed lyrics and distinctive voice, which some critics have compared to Sandy Denny and Natalie Merchant. Lapell’s latest release, Stolen Time, features musicians from both Montreal and Toronto, as well as a song influenced by her family history. Lapell is descended from refugees who escaped Eastern Europe after the Holocaust for a new life in Canada. When asked what her five biggest inspirations are for her songwriting, she lists the following (noting that these are in no particular order):

Natural Imagery

I have a lot of natural imagery in my songs: trees and mountains and forests and natural landscapes, and I spend a lot of time obviously driving on the road. 

Seeing Other Musicians/Songwriters

After a weekend like this [playing at a festival] I just want to go home and write songs for two months. So definitely I take a lot of inspiration from other musicians.


This is kind of funny to say, but motion – like if I am walking, I will often be writing a little something, or driving or biking. There’s something about moving that always sort of gets me in a certain rhythm and a lot of songs emerge that way.


It’s very vague, but I would say feelings. I am a very expressive songwriter. I’ll be in a particular mood and want to capture that. Not necessarily a story or a narrative, but having a certain kind of a vibe or a feeling – that’s really something that I am often kind of going after, and melodies, maybe less so than narratives and storytelling.


I think I take inspiration from – I mean, again this is very broad – but from traditions. I grew up in a religious family so there was always a lot of music in different languages. Although I am not religious, I find that spirituality, for lack of a better term, or the idea of traditions and folklore and ritual are just really powerful symbolism. And the rhyming, the sing-song rhymes.

My family is Orthodox Jewish, so I grew up singing songs in Hebrew and Yiddish. I also, at the same time, went to a French immersion school, so I was learning a lot of songs in French, so all of those different really rich traditions – and I feel like there is definitely Biblical imagery in my songs, if only these little glimpses. It’s not a really overt theme necessarily; it’s always kind of in there somewhere. And singing together with people too is such a big part of that tradition.


Paula E. Kirman lives in Edmonton where she writes, edits, takes pictures, makes films, and occasionally sings a song or two. When she is not near a computer, camera, or guitar, she walks, reads, and scribbles in a number of unlabelled and partially-used notebooks. Her website is wordspicturesmusic.com

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