Seeking inspiration, one day at a time

Category: music 175

Through an ongoing series of daily videos, Fredericton musician Marie-Ange Zoghaib has rekindled her inspiration for writing music at a time when in-person performance opportunities are limited. 

Matt Carter

Over the past twelve months we have been flooded with stories of loss and disappointment brought on by the ongoing health crisis. Cancelations and postponements have become a regular occurrence as venues, festivals and the many recreational/entertainment resources we include within our communities struggle to find meaningful ways to connect with audiences and keep the lights on while we collectively shift back and forth between stop, go and “keep your fingers crossed.”

When we talk about businesses being affected by COVID restrictions, our attention often turns to the brick and mortar format. Bars, shops and restaurants have had it tough, no question. But so have artists, yet we hear far fewer stories dealing with how the pandemic fallout has affected their work and perhaps more importantly, their mental health. 

Recently, Marie-Ange Zoghaib, a Fredericton-based musician and member of the pop/rock trio Not Now, Madame decided to confront her own anxieties surrounding the wide-reaching disappointment of the past year. In an effort to remain creative and inspired, and to take her mind off all this COVID-related stress, Zoghaib has found a way to stay inspired and to share her inspiration with her friends and her audience.  

For the past two weeks Zoghaib has been challenging herself to create something new everyday, posting short song ideas and melodies performed on a hand-me-down organ she acquired through a classified ad. 

Zoghaib introduced her series by stating, “I’ve been so caught up in the politics of music that I feel I’ve completely lost the plot. I’m quite tired of trying to be liked by everyone so I’m just going to focus on what got me started in this. I’m going back to basics, and that’s writing. I’m going to try my best to sit down at my organ every morning and see what comes out. Posting it here keeps me accountable and motivated, so I’ll keep doing that.” 


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A post shared by Not Now, Madame! (@notnowmadame_band)

You started this series off by admitting you could got too caught up in the politics of music and felt like you lost the plot. Can you expand on that a bit?  

Like any other independent artist, I have to wear a lot of hats. I’m the social media manager, the promoter, the event planner, the PR manager, the accountant, and so many other roles for the band besides just being a musician. I’ve always considered myself a good juggler, but it started to wear on me, especially when COVID hit. I was spending so much time worrying if people liked me or my music, that I stopped writing altogether for a while because of it. My focus became about the perception of the band and not about the music we were making together. Because of that, I felt like everything I made needed to be absolutely perfect, and that pressure and anxiety made it impossible to create anything.

Feeling fulfilled as a musician for me comes from two things – being able to create something and being able to share it. Half of that had disappeared, and I fell into this weird limbo. Eventually, the stress of everything started to slowly shut my creative valve, and I stopped making anything. Every attempt was met with frustration and criticism from myself. 

With all of that, the band is still alive, and I have to promote it, because my anxious mind constantly worries that I’ll be forgotten in an instant. I was so overwhelmed with this pressure I put on myself to constantly promote the band, lest I slip into the void, which I was convinced meant failure. All that to say, 2020 was not my most creative year, and I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing that sentiment.   

The honesty you’re sharing is really admirable. You’re making yourself completely vulnerable and sharing your own indecision. What’s it like to be punishing yourself in this way? Does it relate to anything else you’ve done creatively? 

It was really frightening at first. I’m sure we all have people that would rather not see us succeed and the thought of making myself vulnerable in front of those people was not something I was looking forward to doing. I had become so idle and afraid, and it had gotten to the point where I just couldn’t let those voices control what I did or didn’t do anymore. I was letting fear stop me from doing the things I loved, and I was becoming quite depressed because of it. 

I decided anytime I felt fear, I would run towards it. Whether it was coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will like my music, and that I may not even like it in a year, or whether it was the fear that I wasn’t putting in enough effort to warrant the ego I had. Perhaps I didn’t see myself celebrating the wins of my peers as much as I should, or maybe I was straying from playing my instrument because I didn’t think I was talented enough to keep up. These are hard questions that all artists will need to face, and it was time for me to run toward these fears, or they would just swallow me whole until I stopped creating altogether.  

Will any of these ideas find their place in future tracks from Not Now Madame, or are they destined to find a home somewhere else?

My plan is to bring a fair bit of these songs to the band and see what kind of special touches Glen [Love] and Cam [Corey] will add to them. When I write something on my own and bring it to the band, it will often sound quite different once we all arrange it together and each put a piece of ourselves into it. We’re already planning for our next album, and you should expect to see a few of these daily songs expanded on it.

Tell us about these organs. It looks like you have a few. How do their tones play into your creative process at all? 

The main organ I play on is an old electric Hammond organ. Last summer I responded to a Kijiji ad for a free organ, and that’s how I wound up with this beauty. It came from this lovely, retired fellow that was downsizing and looking for a good home for his organ. It was still in incredible shape, and it came with so many books of sheet music. It almost felt like fate. I hope he knows how important this organ has been for me and how attached I’ve grown to it. It’s rekindled my love for writing, and I could not be more thankful.

As for my other instruments, I am a bit of a hoarder. If it’s got keys and makes a loud honking noise, I’m usually all over it. I’ve got an old Frontalini organ that’s great for simple tunes because it’s got these buttons for the chords, kind of like a button accordion, which I also picked up from a pawn shop a while ago. It doesn’t work that well, but it makes these cool honks that I just love. It’s always out of tune, but still manages to be somewhat charming. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere…

I’ve been taking a lot of inspiration for my key rig from Page McConnell, the keyboard player for Phish. After learning all about his key set up, I felt this barrier come down, and so many sound possibilities opened up. I was restricting myself to one keyboard when in reality I was free to use whatever instruments I wanted on stage. It’s kind of funny looking back at these nonsensical restrictions I put on myself and now seeing the freedom of life beyond those rules.

Follow the series —>  INSTAGRAM | TIKTOK


Marie-Ange Zoghaib shares her journey from fledgling opera singer to leading an emerging pop/rock trio. 

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