Juno award-winning singer and multi-instrumentalist Shari Ulrich has shared the stage, played and toured with plenty of musicians and artists.
An accomplished solo artist in her own right, Ulrich is best known for her work in both The Pied Pumkin String Ensemble and with Valdy and The Hometown Band.
She earned a Juno for Most Promising Female Vocalist and received Juno nominations twice in the Best Female Vocalist category. She’s currently in different bands with Bill Henderson from ’80s rock band Chilliwack, and Barney Bentall from the Legendary Hearts, and she’s even written music for Sesame Street.
But Ulrich said she’s most comfortable and happy when touring and making music with her 21-year-old daughter Julia Graff.
“She’s toured with me since she was 12,” said Ulrich, who just returned from a six-week tour of Ontario and Quebec in a trio with Graff and her McGill University classmate Ted Littlemore.
“Every combination of people is different (when touring),” she said. “Everyone has their own personalities and eccentricities you have to get used to, but since Julia has been doing it since she was 12, it’s very ingrained in our relationship. We take it for granted, because she’s been a part of my music for more than half of her life.”
Ulrich said there was something special about making music with her daughter.
“She brings so much to the music,” she said. “It’s the family blend… the blend of vocals is heavenly. Within the first few bars of playing with Julia and Ted, I feel so happy. It’s very gratifying. Plus, she’s very easy to get along with.”
Graff — whose father is singer-songwriter and visual artist David Graff — also took over the duties of sound tech on the tour.
“Julia just graduated from McGill and was just selected as one of seven students chosen for the Masters program in sound recording,” Ulrich said. “So, she’s doing that on the tour now.”
Ulrich plays violin, mandolin, guitar, piano and dulcimer, while Graff — not to be outdone — plays violin, piano, mandolin, guitar and accordion. Littlemore rounds the trio out with his skills on piano and accordion.
That’s a lot of instruments to lug around on tour, so Ulrich found a novel and more relaxing approach to touring.
“We travelled by train,” she said. “I got to cross the country (from Vancouver to Montreal) twice — there and back. Via Rail has this program where you can travel for free if you are booked as entertainment on the train.”
All Ulrich and the trio had to do was perform twice a day.
“It was pretty relaxing,” she said. “It was an awkward place to play — a tight space on a moving train — but it was a great way to start the tour. I sleep very well on trains. Plus, touring requires a lot of gear and all our instruments. Flying is pretty prohibitive cost-wise these days with the amount of gear we have to bring along. It was a long trip, though.”
It will be a shorter ride from her Bowen Island home to the Brackendale Art Gallery (BAG) on Saturday (June 23) for a special show with the trio at 8 p.m.
“I always love coming to Brackendale,” she said.
After the B.C. tour with her trio, Ulrich switches to her Pied Pumkin bandmates and returns to the Squamish later in the summer.
Tickets for Saturday’s show cost $20.