Before they can actually earn a living solely through their art, most artists go through an in-between period where, in the course of a single day, they can go from the harsh reality of a mindless job to being a star on stage. When we spoke with singer Marcie on the phone for this interview, she was exactly at that point in her life. She is taking a break from work – captioning TV shows for the hearing-impaired – to tell us about her recent adventures in France where she was opening for veterans Mickey 3D.

For the time being, she’s quite content with the in-between zone. “I’m happy because I have a flexible schedule that allows me to go on tour, so it’s very reassuring,” she says. “I like my job and I like making music; so for now, I’m quite content with it.” Since being a finalist at the 2013 Francouvertes (alongside Les Hay Babies and Dead Obies), Marcie alternates between creative periods and simply enjoying life, a time where she “accumulates the emotions that will end up nourishing my songs, which I tend to write in big batches, rather than piecemeal.”

Following her debut album in 2013, which was produced by Ludo Pin, she recently launched an EP where she explores new textures. Produced with help from Dany Placard and Louis Philippe Gingras, the four-track recording is more raw, and includes a Françoise Hardy cover (the magnificent “Ma Jeunesse Fout l’Camp”) and a stunning song,“Puisque,” where she sings that she’ll either become a pop singer or a nun, a tongue-in-cheek line that’s more of a joke than a threat.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of religious music lately, I guess it had an impact,” says Marcie. “I’m an atheist, but there’s something so pure in the emotions expressed by that music.” Besides the music of John Littleton – a Louisiana resident who popularized what used to be called “negro spirituals” in France – she’s also been deeply into the music of a 1960s Québec duo, Les Messagères de Joie (The Messengers of Joy).

“My friend Marianne found their first album in a yard sale and she just flipped on the album cover, where you see two nuns: one with a huge crucifix pendant, and the other holding a guitar,” says Marcie. “We thought we’d die laughing when we’d listen to it, but that’s not what happened; the writing was simply sublime. Sure, it talks about Jesus, but it goes beyond that… There’s something poetic about it, especially on the song ‘Je sais que tu es beau’ (‘I Know You’re Beautiful’) which moved me deeply.” Marcie was so moved that she contacted the Messagères’ songwriter, Nanette Bilodeau – known as Sister Wilfrid Marie back in the day –  to do a cover of the song. She’s even developed a friendship with the lively octogenarian, and they see each other regularly.

Although she’s not planning on going into religious music full-time, Marcie still hoping the divine inspiration won’t abandon her soon. She already has a few songs ready, and hopes to release a new album next fall, God willing. We’ll do our part and light up votive candles, in the hope\ that she doesn’t end up in a convent.

Nearly everyone who walks into Fiore Botanica remarks on the same thing: the mesmerizing smell. “The first thing they do when they walk into the store is say ‘Oh my God, this smells amazing,’” says Kathleen Quinlan, a certified aromatherapist who runs the natural skincare and homecare company with her business partner, Phaedra Charlton-Huskins, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

But while lingering over the royal blue bottles of handmade creams and potions that adorn the shelves of their well-kept shop, many visitors also start tuning in to what they’re hearing, Quinlan says.

“For the shopping experience of our clients, music is extremely important”, she explains. “Everyone comments on it. It’s rare that someone doesn’t say ‘I loved the music. I loved shopping here.’”

That’s why Fiore Botanica boasts a Licensed to Play (L2P) sticker in their front window, letting patrons and passersby alike know that they are among the more than 30,000 stores, bars and restaurants across the country who support Canadian music creators.

“For the shopping experience of our clients, music is extremely important.”

“It’s something that’s really important for us,” says Quinlan. “And when other retailers have asked me what it is, I proudly explain it to them. Some have said ‘Well, is it really that important?” I break it down for them with, ‘Well, is it important for you to get paid when someone buys something in your store?’”

While Quinlan, who makes all of Fiore Botanica’s merchandise herself on the premises, started creating her products in 1997 after receiving her accreditation as an aromatherapist, it took her until 2009 before she began selling them publicly – and even then it was online (Quinlan was then based in Montréal), rather than in a bricks-and-mortar shop.

“I know the process I had to go through for many years to figure out how to make a product,” says Quinlan. “I know all the hours it took.”

That’s why she is so passionate about supporting music creators, who she sees as exercising their own creativity. “I think of the process that someone goes through when they are creating music or writing a lyric,” Quinlan explains. “I appreciate and need to be paid for what I create, and I think it’s very important that if we’re using music, that we pay for it.”

Quinlan credits her own upbringing, as well as her musical relatives – the members of The Good Brothers are her cousins, as are Dallas and Travis Good of The Sadies –for her love of music and her support for musicians. She grew up in Douro, a small Ontario village not far from Peterborough, where nearly everyone played an instrument. Quinlan herself played fiddle in a family band, along with her siblings. “In our family there were always lots of instruments around,” she recalls. “And if you didn’t have them, you borrowed from your neighbour.”

It’s one of the reasons she’s taken such a liking to Lunenburg, a town with a healthy artistic and musical community. In a turquoise-fronted shop on the main drag, Quinlan and Charlton-Huskins opened for business in 2015, after a two-year stint in Liverpool, on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

And things are busy at Fiore Botanica: as well as recently scoring some hotel amenity contracts, Quinlan is proud of the fact that her products were included in gift bags given to the stars at the 2016 Golden Globe awards (where they also graced the celebrity gift lounge), and at the MTV Movie Awards. The company’s line of baby products was also recently gifted to 21 celebrity mothers, including Alanis Morissette, in Los Angeles. “That was very exciting!” she laughs.

As well as proudly displaying their Licensed to Play sticker, both Quinlan and Charlton-Huskins are doing what they can to support SOCAN members in other ways, too. Fiore Botanica provided products for those artists participating in the second annual Kenekt Song Camp, held at Nova Scotia’s Shobac Cottages in May of 2016. “We were proud to do that,” Quinlan says. “We would continue to do anything like that, that would support the creation of music.”

After all, for Quinlan music is a critical part of her life, and has been vital to Fiore Botanica’s success with customers. “We’re never in the store without the music on,” she says simply. “It’s an intrinsic part of everyone’s experience in our store.”

That’s why she’s so passionate that other business owners also secure their SOCAN licenses. “I hope every retailer who turns on a radio has one,” she says, “because if you’re using music to enhance your business, you should have your SOCAN License to Play sticker.”

The first sounds we hear coming over the line are the shrieks of rambunctious children splashing about in a bathtub, nearly drowning out the somewhat surprised voice of Martha Wainwright. “Oh my goodness. Hold on a second…. Get back in the bath, little children…”

We’ve reached her at home in Montréal in the midst of trying to get her two young sons, ages two and six (“but almost three and seven”) bathed and off to bed. It appears she’s forgotten about our scheduled 7:00 p.m. phone interview, and she’s scrambling to pass instructions to whoever is assisting her: “This one’s teeth are brushed… Um, how long is our interview, sir?” It’s clearly not an opportune time to chat, and so she offers to call back in an hour or so, after the kids are tucked away in bed.

It’s always been a family affair for Martha Wainwright, with all the chaos and connectivity that family brings. Music is the family business. She is, of course, the daughter of the late Canadian folk legend Kate McGarrigle and American singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, who messily divorced the year she was born. After initially singing backup in the shadow of her older brother, Rufus Wainwright, she began to step out into her own spotlight in the late ‘90s with a number of well-received EPs. Her critically and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut in 2005, and subsequent releases, have established her as a talented songwriter and a beguiling performer in her own right.

“It kind of feels like a new time; the beginning of something new.”

Her latest offering, Goodnight City, came out in November of 2016. It’s her sixth album and first solo release since 2012’s Come Home to Mama. Half of the tracks are Wainwright’s own compositions, while the other half were written for her by friends including Beth Orton, Glen Hansard, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, her brother Rufus and writer/poet Michael Ondaatje. It also features contributions from her aunt Anna McGarrigle and cousin Lily Lanken.

The album opens with a trio of songs that are among Wainwright’s most captivating to date, led by the provocative first single “Around The Bend” (“I used to do a lot of blow / Now I only do the show”), followed by “Francis,” about her youngest son, Francis Valentine, and “Traveller,” a moving tribute to a friend who died of cancer at age 40.

After releasing Come Home to Mama and giving birth to son No. 2, Wainwright spent the ensuing couple of years “involved in intense domestic life.” When she was ready to make another record, she wasn’t sure she’d have enough songs, so she hit upon the idea of asking friends and family to contribute songs for her to record. While that was underway, Wainwright found the inspiration to write more of her own songs. “I lack discipline in my songwriting,” she explains, having now called back after putting the kids to bed, “so it’s often something that has to come over me.

“I realized this was going to be a record of two things,” she says, “because I didn’t want to abandon my own songs, but then it also allowed me to take the best of the offered songs and choose the ones that somehow really connected to my life in some way.”

Martha WainwrightThat duality is also reflected in the cover photo she chose for Goodbye City, where we see two separate overlaid images of Wainwright, giving the impression that she’s facing in two opposite directions simultaneously.

“Yeah, looking at the past and the future,” she confirms. “The concept of saying goodbye to something is there, along with the title, but then also, it not being completely over.”

One of the things she’s tried to leave behind is the grief over her mother’s passing from cancer in 2010 at the age of 63. That kind of wound can be slow to heal, if it ever truly does. But healing does happen.

“For the first time, the memory of my mother and her death, I’ve come to accept more,” she says. “I’m not as traumatized by that or as hurt by that any more, and it kind of feels like a new time; the beginning of something new.”

Having turned 40 earlier this year, Wainwright has also been writing a memoir, Stories I Might Regret Telling You, which is close to completion.

“What I’m learning from having written it is that I think a page has been turned – no pun intended,” she says. “And with this new record too, and coming out from the shadows of my parents and my brother, and shaking off some of the insecurities that I have. I feel like that’s been one of the themes of the last 20 years, which I think I’m ready to shed.”

With her two young children now nestled in bed, drifting into dreamsongs of their own, Martha Wainwright is allowing herself a farewell glance to the past while she faces a new tomorrow.

“This record is more hopeful than a lot of my other records,” she says. “I think I’m a more realized artist in a way, maybe since turning 40, or being in this new stage or new chapter. I feel like it’s a better time for me.”