When I first arrive at the home belonging to Colleen Hixenbaugh, where she lives with her famed Canadian boyfriend, singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, she is a little frazzled and stressed out, to say the least. "Hi!" she yells to me from the top of the stairs, "I'm having a bad day, you won't believe what's happening to me". As she explains to me a computer crisis that she is dealing with at that exact moment, I ask her if she wants to postpone our interview for another day. "No, don't be silly. You're here now and I need something to get my mind off of this situation." So that's exactly what Colleen, who is one half of the newly formed indie duo jackandginger, Paul, who is the other half, and I do for the next two and a half hours.
After we settle into the kitchen with some coffee and a variety of treats from Starbucks, Colleen (who is jack) and Paul (who feels more comfortable being ginger), begin having what I can only describe as comfortable conversation and banter that is normally reserved for brothers and sisters. Their unique form of friendship began just over a year ago when Colleen saw Paul perform a show with a previous band, and asked him if he would give her guitar lessons. Paul agreed, but after only a few lessons together Paul insisted that he didn't want to ruin Colleen's guitar playing style, but instead wanted to play in a band with her.
Although similar in musical styles and interests, Colleen, who is 38 and Paul, who is 28, come from completely different backgrounds. Paul, who was born in Manitoba, nowhere near the city, claims he is a country boy at heart. His parents still live their today, on the same farm where he grew up. Paul spent most of his life in Manitoba, only moving to Toronto at the age of 24. Though he only moved one province over, Paul admits that the culture shock between the provinces was almost debilitating at first, and that it took him a while to get used to the nature of indie bands in Toronto. Paul claims that his love and obsession for music grew out of the fact that he grew up in the middle of nowhere and playing music was one of the only things to do for fun. However, Paul has since completely adjusted to living in Toronto and loves every little detail about the city. "I love the fact that I can walk to the 7 Eleven that's just down the road, in the middle of the night. Even though I don't smoke anymore, it's still a cool convenience to have," Paul comments.
Colleen on the other hand, grew up in Dayton, Ohio, as one of four children, and claims that they were all black sheep, her being the only musical one. Her musical history speaks for itself going back to when she began her career in the entertainment industry as a personal assistant to many celebrities in New York City. After that she moved to Canada and became a part of one of Canada's most superb super bands, known as By Divine Right. Past members of this band include Jos» Miguel Contreras, Brendan Canning and Leslie Feist, both leaving later on to become a part of Broken Social Scene, and Brian Borcherdt, amongst others.
Coming off the success of such an influential band, Colleen and Paul now both dedicate their full attention to jackandginger, a project which they both feel very strongly about. "It's been non-stop", claims Colleen. "It's getting to the point where we're so busy that all I have time for is four hour naps." The two, who practically live behind one another, went on their first tour together at the end of June, traveling out to the east coast, a place Colleen knows and loves. Paul, on the other hand, had never even seen the ocean before the tour, another example of the striking differences between the two artists.
Yet although very different, the two have an unmistakable bond that makes jackandginger both functional and chaotic all at the same time. "You know what we should do", explains Colleen, "one of us should be the girl for the month, and do all the work, and the other one can be the boy, and do nothing but relax. Next month I want to be the guy, I want you to do everything." "Yah", replies Paul, "that would be a really neat experiment." However this is easier said then done. "I'm really passionate about jackandginger," Colleen exclaims, "and I know this is what we should be doing, so I want to work hard at it and see it all come together."
Jackandginger has been gaining an incredible amount of publicity and success, with very little effort involved. "We haven't even made an album yet," Colleen announces, with a hint of confidence in her voice. "I mean to be getting all this attention with only one published song, please be kind; it's all so incredible to me." Yet to me it's not all that surprising. After talking to these talented and dedicated musicians, there is no denying that jackandginger has this extraordinary spark, one which continues to grow and grow and cannot be killed.
As Colleen and Paul get ready to go to a rehearsal, and our afternoon comes to an end, Colleen reports that she is in a much better mood then earlier that day. "This was so much fun," she says, both a bit relieved and surprised. "This interview was exactly what I needed to get my mind off of my e-mail crisis." I laugh and tell her that I'm glad I was able to help, and in return I am greeted with a big smile from both Colleen and Paul alike, a smile that is carefree, fun and full of hope, and completely speaks for the nature of jackandginger.
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Writer: Angelica Blenich