Alumni profiles: Virginie B

Virginie B is a singer-songwriter originally from Sherbrooke who graduated from Bishop’s with a B.A. in psychology in 2018. We took a moment with her to reflect on her time at Bishop’s and see where she is now. 

Although she is now an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, growing up, a career in music seemed unreachable. Virginie only started considering it as a vocation during her last years of university. She explains that, although she had been writing songs for as long as she could remember, she never saw a life in the arts being valued until then. “In my surroundings, as a young girl, I didn’t have accessible and successful musician models to rely on. It felt out of reach, like other people just got there by accident. So, I never dared study music in institutions, I went from studying science to being an applied psychology major,” she says.  

With time, being exposed to musicians and live music in venues changed this perception in her mind. “The more I hung out at musical venues the more I felt a yearning to be on stage and it took an invitation for me to try it out, isn’t it crazy? … Some amazing artists I saw live inspired me to jump on stage though; Annie Sama (formerly APigeon) and La Patère Rose (Fanny Bloom), I saw them both at La Petite Boîte Noire. These little places are important in bringing music and musicians closer to the crowd.” During her student years, Virginie B thus started performing and played at the Lion for BU Arts Fest 2018. “[It] was my first show before an English-speaking crowd,” explains the French-born speaker. She then adds that, unsurprisingly, the students of Bishop’s make a wild crowd at concerts. “It was noisy and loud, but when we started playing and cracking a few jokes, it was one of the funniest and most cheerful crowds I’ve played for.”  

Although she was, at that point, playing at venues, and had released one album, she only decided to take the leap of faith and commit to music near the end of her studies. “I was talking with my psychology program Chairperson about my last shows and gigs, reveling in our musical tastes and favorite bands, and she asked me a simple question: ‘did you consider waiting before choosing a master’s degree? and trying music for a while?’ I couldn’t believe my ears; it was all I needed to hear and more! It opened a little door that blew wide open at the end of my studies and encouraged me to move to Montreal and be where I am now.” 

Virginie’s first album, People with Problems, came out while she was studying at Bishop’s. She adds that, while she is usually a very disorganized person, studying Psychology while being an indie musician felt just right for her. “I would cram a rehearsal between class and study, would reach out to festivals online between taking notes in class — should I say that? — and would constantly be thinking about the next steps to playing soon.”  Filling her time with music, she also joined the school choir during her last year here at Bishop’s. “[I] wished I would’ve joined sooner. I met amazing people, models, and found support when I doubted I could do anything with my music.” 

Her songs in People with Problems were described as “folky” while an article described her new music as “pop-jazz-soul,” but Virginie prefers to avoid constrictive genre labels. “I think we have to change our views regarding genres, because I do believe that the format of the album allows us to go deeper and to experience a lot of music styles,” she argues. Her particular sound goes into various directions and blends together the sounds of her childhood and early musician days. “When I was young, the only music I would hear at home was jazz and world beats. I became obsessed with singing over Norah Jones or Trio Esperança, without really knowing the lyrics. I think I got into pop music in the era of streaming. Limewire as my best friend, I started discovering artists like Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, Likke li, Björk and Québec artists like Malajube, and Harmonium. The sound got to me and as I started out teaching myself the guitar, I guess “Folk” tunes came easily at first,” she explains. She moved away from folk as time passed, creating instead the music that she really dreamed to produce. “I’d have to say it was a journey of blending my very first roots with music ‘Jazz’ and the music that made me wish to be a musician one day: Pop, R&B, Art Pop.” 

When asked about recent milestones, Virginie shares that moving to Montreal after her degree to focus on her music was the best decision she could have made, while becoming the full producer of her music and career helped her immensely. “Buying back my share of investment in my music was one of the best things that happened to me. I got to take a real hold of the artistic direction I wanted, make no concessions on my own art. It is a lot of work and commitment to get your name out there as a musician. Whether it is as a producer, musician, or writer, it takes time and openness to others as you have to meet new people to get to new places.” She was also recently able to let go of her plan B as she started earning money from her songs playing on the radio. She can now proudly consider herself a full-time, self-employed, musician and producer. 

Virginie recently released a single called “The Love,” which promises an upcoming album. “I am very proud of the album I am working on at the moment. I worked with amazing people and talented musicians, it blends English and French which is very important to me, it delves into the depths of human experience, perceptions, and emotions. I love these songs and can’t wait to release my second single.” She adds that the album is a “seamless marriage of electronic and pop, RnB grooves, and DreamJazz hazes.” She plans to release the second single from the upcoming album at the end of July. “It is a featuring with a fantastic rap artist named Calamine. The track is inspired by the sex-positive movement that opens the discourse around assertive sexuality and sexual expression. Are you ready to slow-dance with yourself?”  

If any Bishop’s musician is looking to follow her steps, Virginie has a few words of wisdom. “Choose yourself over expectations. Choose what feels right, and you will find the time and energy to do what makes you happy. It’s all about motivation you know … Surround yourself with encouragement, not competition. Open yourself to others and do not fear bad performances, or results (it will happen more than once.) You do not need to know everything before engaging in something, experience will come along the way.” 

The only experience she warns of, however, is to film a video clip in one of Bishop’s beautiful buildings. “I mobilized the whole Lennoxville fire department for a false fire alarm, in St-Mark’s Chapel while filming a [music video] … Did you know you can’t use a smoke machine in there? Neither did I!” 

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