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Grimes' ethereal sound captivates online audience

Photo by John Londono

She looks like a punk rock pixie, her self-taught sound is like Enya on acid, and at the rate she's gathering fans online, she may just be the next big thing in Canadian music.

Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes, is a Montral transplant from Vancouver who became an indie music darling after releasing two albums last year, Geidi Primes and Halfaxaboth recorded on her laptop with the Garageband computer program. A former art student who found an outlet for her creativity in music, she has no formal musical training, but managed to teach herself beats, vocals, keyboard and other instruments in order to record her ethereal, melancholic songs. After putting her music onto cassettes, she mailed them to the top music bloggers around the world, and has been one of Canada's most-watched indie artists ever since, with rave reviews in The Guardian.

"The show in Vancouver was amazing," said Boucher after her recent sold-out concert with Lykke Li in Vancouver. "It was weird because I looked out into the crowd and saw people I haven't seen in eight years ... It was cool to play in my hometown and see that people were actually into it."

Boucher, who is famous for her shyness and intense stage fright, said she managed to perform well during her hometown show, but that live shows were always a struggle. "I'm pretty naturally reclusive, so this is like, the worst possible job I could have, in theory," she joked. "But I feel like I've really been forced out of my shell playing live, and it is getting easier."

While many musicians brag about the years they spent training since early childhood, Boucher believes her lack of formal training has turned out to be a blessing and doesn't intend on going to music school anytime soon. 

"I feel like knowing too much about something destroys some of the magic for me, or I can get into a groove, which is a bad thing," she said. 

Boucher also talked about her relationship with her mother Sandy Garossino, who was the highly public face for Vancouver Not Vegas, a citizen coalition that mobilized against the expansion of the Edgewater casino near B.C. Place. She said her mother has turned into one of the staunchest supporters of her work.

"Well, I think she was a little freaked out at first because I've basically dropped out of university to do this, but she's very supportive now," she said. "We're both really intense people, so we fight a lot. But I feel if I can convince her to believe in me then I must be doing something right, because you really need a good argument to make her believe in something. She was a lawyer, after all."

As a musician who jump-started her career through publicity on music blogs, Boucher said more and more people are discovering her sound without the help of radio play or coverage on mainstream T.V.

"The internet is opening a lot of alternative channels and ways to access media, and people are getting better at navigating it," she said. "Also, popular music is getting pretty weird these days. The masses are definitely opening up to alternative music."

For a chance to win Grimes' album, Halfaxa, write in the comments section what you think of her video for Vanessa:

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