Steveston Folk Guild: Home is where the spotlight shines

When Jana Seale packs up her guitar and heads to Steveston for her March 16 performance at the Chinese Bunkhouse at Britannia Heritage Shipyards, it will be a true homecoming for a global traveller.

Seale, who graduated from Richmond secondary in 1984 and worked as a photographer for the Richmond Times newspaper before it was shut down in the early 1990s  enjoys, returning to favourite old haunts.

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“Before music, which I discovered later in life, it was photography for me and I worked for a year on cruise ships as a photographer,” she said. “I did that for about a year. And later, when I was playing and singing in Calgary, I saw an ad for cruise ships and wondered if I could go back and work as a musician. So, I contacted a couple of agents and worked on cruise ships full time from 2006 to 2014.”

During that time her job took her from Alaska to the Caribbean, and from Australia to the Mediterranean.

“And I visited pretty much everywhere else in between places that I would never have seen otherwise,” she said. “For me it was. It’s a tough job and how much you enjoy it depends on your attitude.

“As a crew member, even as a musician, you work harder than you ever thought you would. So, generally speaking it’s not a fun existence. But I was working five to six hours, mostly in the evenings, which left me time to go into port, if we were docked. But I made the most of it, met some amazing people and still have friends all over the world. It was a very enriching experience.”

After leaving the cruise ship life, Seale has been a land-based regular on the casino circuit. And her upcoming appearance at the bunkhouse as part of the Steveston Folk Guild’s show lineup is her second in the past few years.

“It’s really cool to come back,” said Seale, who now lives in Chilliwack. “I was just in Steveston a few days ago to visit a friend. And it’s still home in a lot of ways. My family spent a lot of years living there. And when I’m there, I really hope to see people I know.

“Plus, the bunkhouse is such a lovely place. They get such great musicians in there, so I am happy they asked me back.”

Music, as a career, almost came as an afterthought for Seale.

After putting her camera down, she played with a variety of bands — blues, country, jazz and rock.

“But being in a band can be hard. I felt some of the time I was not doing what I wanted to do,” Seale said. “So, I finally picked up the guitar and got serious about it. And I gradually got more gigs and from that point music became more of a career.”

She had also heard about the Selkirk College music and technology course in Nelson and went there to study for two years.

And now, even as a seasoned performer, Seale said she enjoys her time in the spotlight and still values the butterflies she gets before every gig.

“I still have stage fright. I’ve just learned to manage it a little better,” she said. “But if I ever lost it, that would not be a good thing. You don’t want to be arrogant in this business. If I am nervous, it’s because I want to do well. That’s a lot better than walking in and thinking, ‘I got this.’”

Asked who has been a musical inspiration for her over the years, Seale said she puts great importance on those people she’s performed alongside.

“It’s been people on a personal basis rather than the famous ones,” she said. “But if you want to go for bigger names, I was influenced by Nancy Griffith, who’s kind of an alternative country performer and an amazing songwriter who tells great stories. And her guitar playing is wonderful.”

She also counts Gordon Lightfoot as someone special, also because of his storytelling.

“I’ve loved him, even before I became a musician,” she said, adding there will be some of his songs on her playlist at the show. “There’s always going to be some Gord on there.”

Seale plays at the Chinese Bunkhouse (5180 Westwater Drive) on March 16. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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