Vancouver Weekly speaks with Ontario musician NEFE
Ontario native Sarah Felker, known onstage as NEFE, hit the Canadian music scene in 2014 when she won the RBC Emerging Artist Music Mentorship Prize. Since then, the 24-year-old from Guelph has released her debut EP Mama (April 2017) and started a cross-country tour.
She sings. She writes. She plays guitar and piano. She’s been likened to Tracy Chapman. She’s got a tattoo of Queen Nefertiti, which is the inspiration for her stage name. And now, she’s touring with Canadian folk legend, Bruce Cockburn.
Vancouver Weekly chatted with the soulful songstress about her career growth and live shows before this week’s stop in Vancouver:
Vancouver Weekly: Your debut EP ‘Mama’ came out in April. What’s happened since its release?
NEFE: I was actually reflecting on that a while ago. It’s been a whirlwind a little bit. This summer I played a lot of festivals and it’s cool to see a lot of people acknowledging the album and liking it. I was really nervous to release my first EP, and it’s cool to think back.
VW: Where has your fan base grown from? Do you rely heavily on social media?
N: I don’t rely too heavily on social media. I think it’s a mix, but I think the live shows really keep people coming back. I think the live show is magic. That’s what I enjoy most about the whole process – being able to create a piece of music and allow people into that bubble is a really special moment.
VW: What is the experience like at one of your shows?
N: I heard Jim Carrey say it in his latest documentary something that I really want to live by… to allow people to free themselves from concern, just forget for half an hour, or however long. On stage, you just feel the music, forget everything else and just be there in the moment. Present.
VW: What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
N: I think it changes over the years… I am writing for my next album and the songs have really grown from the first. So now, it’s to be heard and seen as a person… trying to make people feel less alone and like we are all in this together. We are all on this journey of life and I think music is a great tool to come together.
VW: So, is there a musical mentor that made you feel that way?
N: I think it was my first guitar teacher, Dan. He really opens himself up to music and appreciates music, and he showed me music that just connected with me. And it was a way I could connect with him. So he was really the guy that mentored me and made me appreciate it.
VW: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
N: I go through periods of listening to certain people, and people that inspire me at the moment. Growing up my mom was the typical Canadian mom. She’d listen to Shania Twain or Celine Dion. But then as a I got older, I grew an appreciation for Elvis and John Mayer, guitar-wise. I love Ed Sheeran…I guess I’m still kind of stuck in the past.
VW: You’re writing for your upcoming album. What’s next on the horizon for you?
N: It’s still in the super early stages… I feel like the Mama EP was the first time moving out of my home town, out of my mom’s house and into the stress of the big city [Toronto]. Those were the baby stages, and now I think I’m more in my skin, in my body, so it’s more mature, deep – more of myself, if you will, on this next upcoming [album.]
NEFE opens for Bruce Cockburn’s Bone on Bone tour on Jan. 27 at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts.