January 2018 | Profile by Jane Ledwell
Nikkie Gallant had been out of school for ten years when she went back in 2008. Her last award-winning singer-songwriter album came out in 2005. Three years later she started with business school, with the idea to support her music better. Ten years, a couple of diplomas, a degree, some library courses, some cultural resource management courses, and so on, she laughs, “Now, I can’t stop,” but chastises herself, “I need to start easing up on the school.”
The year Nikkie has lined up leaves little time for coursework. This summer, she was named site director of Eptek Art and Culture Centre in Summerside, and this winter, she’s returning to the recording studio for an arts grant-supported EP of new songs.
In the past year, Nikkie gave herself the challenge to write thirty songs, and she has finished at least twenty. “That’s a lot for me,” she says. And, she adds, “I’m really trying to be experimental, and not direct it.” She may start writing one song on guitar, but another by piano, and another with a build-up of vocals as a backing track.
“Half [the new songs] are wacky and weird and not at all what I usually do, and the other half are strengthened by the experimentation,” she says.
Nikkie had slowed down on performing over the past years, and not only because of school. “Because I was not doing a lot of writing,” she says, “I had to perform songs I wrote ten years ago, and they didn’t feel as relevant to me… But I really miss sharing—that connection when a song that really means a lot to you means a lot to another person too.”
She has remained involved in other people’s music, especially artists who record at The Nest in Summerside, the studio co-owned by her husband. “I like supporting other people’s music with my voice.” She adds, confidentially, “I almost like doing harmonies more than I like doing lead.”
Nikkie says, “There’s something about doing harmonies that brings you back to being little and your first musical experiences, listening to music and singing along.” But with so many of her own new songs, she says, “I want to perform more. I want to do things that are part of me that are screaming to be done again. I am excited to have my muse back.”
Known for writing sad songs and social justice themes, Nikkie admits, “I’m already not the person you choose for your kitchen party.” She says her songs are more reflective than anthemic, and recording is the best medium for some songs—“People can sit with [the song] when they want to.”
Following her curiosity in coursework has also helped establish another kind of career in the arts, at Eptek Centre, which she describes as “a very inspiring environment. Besides its heritage aspects, [the Centre] supports local artists and gives them a ‘stage,’ letting them find their audience.”
Nikkie worked as the administrative and curatorial assistant for three years, half of a two-member year-round staff team. That job included tasks as varied as “mounting exhibits, taking sales in the gift shop, and making a lot of tea.” To that variety, as site director she adds new responsibilities: “program planning, getting ready for exhibits, writing funding applications.”
Is there anything exciting she can tell us about 2018 at Eptek Centre? She asks herself out loud, “Hmm. Can I tell you about this?” before remembering, “I’m in charge of deciding that now!” The secret is out: Eptek Centre will mount a show of Island comic book arts in the summer. Nikkie can’t wait. “The talent we have here in that medium is phenomenal.” She says she expects the show “will have a wider appeal than even I think.”
But before summer will be the new recording: “It’s happening. It’s a real thing. Thirteen years later.” With so much going on for 2018, Nikkie still seems to have to remind herself: “I have to slow down on school. I might just take one course.”