Strong Roots (Profiles in Roots Music): Belle Plaine

by Krlmagi

I talk to Belle Plaine about her love of singing, her creative process and the inspirational community of artists around her.

Ever since she was a child, Belle Plaine has been interested in music. She says, “My first memory is singing 'Islands In The Stream' lovingly to my dog’s face. My parents nurtured my inclination with voice lessons. I followed that up by studying music and recording in college.”

However, she didn’t start writing music until she was in her 20’s. She explains, “I had friends that were writing, and I thought, ‘I can do that.’ From there it slowly grew through the support of the people around me until I realized that I should take a crack at doing music for a living.”

Belle Plaine (left) with Bryce Lewis (centre) and Blake Berglund (right)
Belle Plaine (left) with Bryce Lewis (centre) and Blake Berglund (right)
Brent Tyler

Plaine feels that she is still in the process of growing and developing as a songwriter.  She says, “The goal is to just get a little better with each composition, be more innovative with lyrics and make sure I’m saying something that has integrity. I’m working towards creating music that has a long life.”


She adds, “I’m always inspired by the advancement of my peers. I’m lucky to have a community of artists in my life who are willing to be open about writing and who have taught me a lot through their careers. They can be writers at any stage of the game. I believe you can learn from anyone in that regard.”


Some of the artists she cites as being inspirations from afar include Tom Waits, Neko Case, Gillian Welch, Leslie Feist and Sturgill Simpson.


The process of songwriting varies from song to song for Plaine. She points out, “If I know what the story of the song is, then it’s easier to wrangle. I just follow the flow. If I’m writing from a more emotional place, then it’s far more difficult because I’m in conflict between being vulnerable and still open enough to have a connection with my listeners. You have to find a middle ground in the experience to do that.”


Arranging songs takes a similar course for her. She says, “Sometimes it’s so clear to me what the song needs and my job is communicating that to the band in my fumbled, often metaphorical language. Sometimes I just take it to them and let them guide the process with their musical mastery. “


Hankewich is truly an independent artist. She says, “I’m self-managed, self-booked, self-everything. It has its advantages as I’m beholden to no one, but the biggest struggle is administration versus creative time. You really have to carve out a schedule to do the latter. There are also the bouts of crazy self-doubt that I have to warrior my way through.”

Being surrounded by a community of other entrepreneurial artists has been helpful for Plaine. She explains, “It seems like they all know what that looks like from inside the cockpit – no matter what the art form is. Honestly, sometimes the hardest part is keeping the faith. People tell me all the time, ‘I could never do what you do.’  I know what they mean, and that it’s a compliment but I occasionally wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.”


The level of support that Plaine has received from the broader community around her is something for which she is deeply grateful. She says, “What I really think I am is an interdependent artist. I see all the support around me: the house concerts, the upstart concert series, the festivals that are held together by a team of volunteers. People want music in their life, and they support it with their time and money.”


She continues, “My ability to make a living in the arts has been connected to my versatility to fit in different situations: house parties, weddings, conventions. I stay committed to who I am as an artist in all contexts. I’m lucky that my music is embraced in this way – not all styles are so adaptable.  It comes down to building community, and being grateful. One small show can literally involve hundreds of people to pull off successfully. I get slack jawed in awe when I think of what it takes, and all the people who offer support: food,accommodation,technical expertise and advice. It’s staggering and endless.”


In the future, Plaine wants to explore many different creative pathways. She elaborates, “I want to continue working with visual artists in partnerships. Building community. I want a career that meanders with the pull of collaboration and creates an interesting path. I know that makes me hard to categorize, but those are the kind of artists I like – the ones that keep you thinking and listening.”


The motivation to keep making music is simple and direct for Plaine. She says, “I love singing. There is nothing that fills me, and frees me quite like it. I believe there are always stories to tell, and I want to be in that game.”

For more information on Belle Plaine, please visit her website here.

This profile is based on an interview conducted with Melanie Hankewich via email.

Updated: 07/26/2016, Krlmagi
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