If you are a fan of Bif Naked and you pick up her new acoustic album and fall in love with it, you can give yourself a pat on the back. According to the multiple award-winning artist, the decision to make an acoustic album was directly inspired by her fans.
“We (she and guitarist JD Ekstrom) had been doing acoustic concerts, at the request of some fans and some promoters for about three years,” says Bif. “And what happened was, it just became something that was an obvious move for us, we kept getting so many requests for our acoustic show basically on disc.”
Her sixth full length disc, which comes out December 4, is called Bif Naked Forever: Acoustic Hits and Other Delights. The “other delights” referred to – including the first single, “So Happy I could Die” – are actually songs that did not quite fit the acoustic theme, but which were written at about the same time as she was working on the rest of the record.
“I started doing some of the writing while we were recording some of the acoustic songs, and some of the songs, they don’t feel as acoustic I guess,” she says. “I didn’t know how else to describe [them] other than they were delightful, and I was able to do some new songs, as well as do the singles that I’ve always had. So it just seemed like a more fitting title, more accurate.”
Currently on tour supporting the album, Bif just wrapped up in the Maritimes and is currently playing dates in Ontario. Cheerful and chatty, she says about the acoustic sets,
“I just love it. The proximity is so gracious really, and allows both the fan and the artist to have a real mutual connection and I just think it becomes more special.”
A multi-talented, multi-platinum record selling artist, it is not surprising that she has gone in a new direction musically. In her twenty years in the music business, the “Spaceman” singer has worked with and toured with artists ranging from Snoop Dogg to Sarah McLachlan. She has also delved into the movie business as an actress on a number of Canadian and American productions, as well as having her music featured on several shows including Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven.
But much of her music is inspired by her life, and when a few years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she recorded 2009′s album The Promise while undergoing chemotherapy – an album she dedicated to her fans.
The experience was life-changing in many ways, and Bif, who is known for championing a vast number of worthy causes, has an even greater reason to draw attention to this. A big advocate of supporting people fighting cancer, she volunteers on a weekly basis doing patient visits while at home in Vancouver, and when on tour like now, she still makes a point to create awareness by promoting things like October’s Run for the Cure.
“We just tend to do a lot of handbills, and of course utilizing our social media websites,” she says. “It’s also the LACE campaign right now, which is trying to promote Pap Awareness week, and encourage women to get tested for cervical cancer with pap testing. Now, November is very popular with the Movember movement and prostate health awareness and men’s health awareness. I’ve really started to take a real fancy to that, partly because I love men, partly because I love moustaches, and you know, partly because my father has prostate cancer, so it’s natural for me to want to help promote them as well.”
She also advocates greatly for animal rescue societies, specifically for senior dog rescues, and the Red Cross’ anti-bullying RespectED initiative, among others. She’s not shy to urge people to also make the extra little effort to help in their own communities.
“You don’t want to give to the guy that begged on the corner? Fine, go online, find a charity that helps them and then donate to that. Donate to your foodbank, every grocery store has a bin, just buy an extra can of chickpeas, or peanut butter, anything. Just put it in your basket, on your way out, put it in the bin. Doesn’t matter what store, doesn’t matter, just do it anyway.”
When asked how she finds time to support multiple causes while creating music and touring, she responds that it’s all a matter of prioritizing her time.
“For me obviously when I travel I can’t, you know, go down to St Michaels [Hospital]. I would love to go down to St Michaels when I’m off the phone with you and go volunteer, but you know I can’t, I have to go rehearse, and I’m still working today. What can I do? We can talk about it, or I can go online and donate $2 to their foundation. ” She adds that, for those who are unsure of how they can support causes they believe in, smaller gestures do matter.
“You know, it’s the little things you can still do, and I find that social media is the best way if you don’t feel you have the money or the time to contribute to an organization, promoting them is the very least we can do,” she says. “If you can’t volunteer, you can’t give money, use your Facebook page, promote things, because somebody that sees it might be able to volunteer. I just think it’s the least we can do, really and truly.”
These aren’t empty words – even the most cursory glance at her Twitter or Facebook page reveals a slew of tweets and messages promoting support for Red Cross initiatives, prostate cancer research, animal adoption organizations, links to health-awareness information, and recently, links to places where people can offer help to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“I’m inspired to be passionate about it, because it just seems to me it just makes so much sense, you know?” she says. “This is part of our lives, I think we should try our best obviously to help our communities and this is how I try my best to do that.”
Her use of social media isn’t restricted to supporting causes, though. She has a scientist’s wonder at the way human communication has evolved in terms of social media today.
“I think it’s incredibly interesting, anthropologically, in our time, that we can connect with these people. I can tweet Hugh Dillon, for example, from Flashpoint. Does he want a tweet from me? No – “ she interrupts herself to laugh, “ – but I have the access to do it now, so I can do it and say, I really like you on your show! Or I can tweet Pamela Anderson and find out that she’s promoting animal awareness, and I can retweet Pamela Anderson’s personal tweet, from her little fingertips, it’s incredible.”
She is also fascinated by the way it allows young bands coming up to gain access to a greater fanbase than was ever possible before, simply by the democratic nature of the internet.
“They can put a song on the internet and you or I can go discover it and spread the word for them, without them having to do anything. The access is amazing.”
Poet, advocate, singer-songwriter, artist – there are many facets to Bif Naked, but soon she will be able to add ‘memoirist’ to that list, as she reveals she is currently working on an autobiography due out in 2013. With her wealth of experience in life and in the music industry, one wonders what advice she might give to young artists following in her footsteps?
“Don’t quit. Really. That’s a simple bottom line.”
Things will set you back, she says, over and over again, but the key is to hang in there.
“You know, it’s a lifetime. You can’t do it for money, you can’t do it for a Mercedes car, you can’t do it for love, you can’t do it for fame, glory, whatever you think is going to happen in your life. You have to do it because you just simply love to do it. Really and truly. And if you love to do something, you’re not going to quit, you’re not going to give it up, and that’s the bottom line. Don’t quit.”
Great advice, indeed.
Bif Naked is on Twitter as @bifnaked, so you can follow her for news, views, vegan food tips, and general daily cheer!