“Monica Lee is a fine musician and an excellent vocalist. Catchy melodies are everywhere in her music. But where she truly shines is in her lyrics. I’ve heard a lot of songs over the years, (as have all of you) and I find words worth hearing to be quite rare. I hope you all like her songs as much as I do.”
Steven Drake, of “The Odds”
Right from the start, Monica was, and wanted to be, a musician. Both her parents were musical, and were very supportive of her, taking her to the ballet and the symphony. She was deeply inspired by the sight of a magnificent red-haired female bassist, but sadly, the dimensions of the family car dictated that Monica would have to settle for a cello. She quickly moved to the viola, wooed by it’s haunting sound matching her own vocal range. Her current viola, she traded for the instrument she bought with the money she had saved, at the age of 23, to travel to Europe. She also had at, this time, a guitar, a gift from her parents, which she treasures. She went on to play the clarinet and the piano and newest instrumental love is her beloved ukulele, which, conveniently, fits into the viola case.
After completing high school, Monica went to the University of Edmonton to study Political Science as part of a General Arts degree, which she abandoned to go travelling in Mexico. She subsequently moved to Victoria for four years, then, in 1998, came to Vancouver ‘with a freshly-made album in hand’ of her original songs. She very quickly became deeply involved in Vancouver’s music community. Her first band, Monica Lee and the Rockin’ Hobos, was formed at this time, with C.R. Avery and Jolie Holland (who went on to be part of the Be Good Tanyas). Monica was very involved in all kinds of events at, among other venues, the Café du Soleil, then, later on, at the Libra Room; she formed another band, members of which she still plays and performs with.
Performing and recording original music took a back seat when her two children came along. It being so much easier for fathers to continue as working musicians than it is for mothers, she made the great sacrifice and chose the love of her children over the stage. Monica met Chris, her children’s father, at the house of her then guitarist Jesse. They had ‘a long courtship’; Chris turned out to be ‘a wonderful father’. Monica wasn’t sure what would happen with her musical career; by this point the Monica Lee Band had thirty original songs ready to record, and so they decided to go into the studio, where they recorded twenty-two tracks. Eight years later, after a lot of hard work, the album was completed (actually, just this last August) – only ten of the originally recorded songs have made the final cut. They tell a ‘through-story’ of the ebb and flow of life and relationships, the difficulty of early parenting, and the new kind of love that comes to life with children. Monica still has to finalize the details of releasing the album, but she is proud and happy that the work has been done. She is a prolific songwriter, and has already written two more albums’ worth of music.
A life-changing event took place in January of this year, when Monica learnt that she has been significantly deaf all her life. She finally got hearing aids in April, and, as she says, ‘I had to sign off on a record I was hearing for the first time!’ She looks back over her life, and wonders how her lack of hearing might have affected past relationships and friendships. It is astonishing and delightful to suddenly hear so clearly; when she takes out her hearing aids, ‘the world is a dull place’.
- written by Gian Ward
LISTEN to Monica's
new record's title track
Written from a dream, Lee pulls out the pain of old love lingering and the desire to say goodbye and move on.
Come help celebrate Sarah Wheeler's birthday...and the release of Monica Lee’s new single Smokin’.
Lee digs into her Prairie Albertan roots with this country hoedown. Writing about one of her closest friends’ relationship drama, Lee drives home the long known truth; some days are just not the right days to quit smoking! Backed by some of Vancouver’s hardest hitters, this song is the perfect sing along.
An earlier mix of this track was featured in the award winning web series Inconceivable episode 2. Now with all the bells and whistles mixing and mastering done, this track is ready for your playlists! Have a listen!