625 Words

Susan Aglukark returns with a new album, attitude

The Inuit pop star talks about her album ‘Big Feeling’ and reveals how her wide acclaim took a personal toll, leading to a breakdown.

Supplied publicity photo, EMI Music Canada
Susan Aglukark's fifth studio album, 2003's 'Big Feeling' features the singer-songwriter and her unique mix of melodic pop with Inuk and folk influences Supplied publicity photo, EMI Music Canada

If you've lost track of singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark over the past few years, don't feel too bad. It's been a long time since her album This Child and its hit single "O Siem" made her a household name in Canada back in 1995.

Now 37, Aglukark is promoting Big Feeling -- released four years since her last album, Unsung Heroes.

But who's counting?

Aglukark shrugs off the long gap between records as personal "phases and stages."

"I don't want to get caught up in writing for time or schedule," the 5-foot-2 singer says over a Starbucks coffee near Yonge and Bloor Sts.

"Not that I'm not conscious of it; I have to respect that. But I prefer to do it the way that I do."

Big Feeling, like all of her records, mixes stories from her Inuit culture with lush, memorable pop arrangements. It won a Juno Award this month for Best Aboriginal Recording of the Year.

Born in Churchill, Man., Aglukark grew up in the western Arctic community of Arivat, now part of Nunavut. In 1992, she released a successful independent record and one year later signed a worldwide deal with EMI Music Canada. Her past four releases have sold almost 500,000 copies in Canada alone.

"It's a real personal, evolving, progressing journey between each album -- 'Am I ready to go onto the next album? What's it gonna take from me? What am I going to give to it? And can I do that?'

"It's not a simple experience. Each album, it's huge for me."

It's huge for Aglukark because she is not only a famous singer, but also one of Canada's highest-profile Aboriginals. By default, with every album, demand increases for her to serve as both a role model and a spokesperson for the entire Aboriginal community.

Those pressures almost led her to quitting the music business altogether.

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