Annabelle Chvostek is a JUNO-nominated singer/songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist based out of Toronto. American Roots Music, UK once described her as an artist “whose talent is so exceptional that [she is able] to explore and master any musical genre she wishes”. Rooted in the Canadian singer/songwriter tradition, her cross-genre versatility is apparent in her five full-length solo recordings, two EPs and live album, and in projects such as arranging and directing choral performances, composing music for dance and film, and collaborating with some of North America's foremost musicians.
Annabelle's upcoming release explores the sounds of her East European roots in collaboration with Uruguayan musician Fernando Rosa and his community of tango and jazz manouche players in Montevideo. The seeds for this new collaborative work were sown on her album Rise (2012), in which Fernando plays bandoneon (a type of concertina used in Uruguayan tango) on the songs ‘Will Of How’ and ‘G20 Song’. While evoking nostalgia for eras gone by, the sounds of this cross-cultural musicality are very contemporary, both musically and lyrically. 'Cannabin' is a dark, carnivalesque ode to early 20th century German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, and his concept of 'profane illuminations', and 'Come Back', is a classic Uruguayan guitar-driven tango lamenting the anxieties produced by overexposing oneself to social media. What emerges from this East meets West, North meets South, past meets present interconnection is an innovative sound with a distinct musicality that comes together perfectly with Annabelle's unmistakable style.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Annabelle moved to Montreal in the ‘90s to pursue a degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts at Concordia University. During this time, she released a 4-song EP, One AM to Five AM (1997), and her first full-length album, Full Stop (2000), an experimental electro/folk album that attained a #7 position on Canadian college radio charts after a limited release of 150 copies. During this time Annabelle was immersed in Montreal's eclectic arts scene. She performed regularly at Le Boudoir, a queer, feminist 1920s-inspired cabaret series and Studio 303, a dance space where she co-billed with artists such as Martha Wainwright. In 2003 Annabelle put out her second full-length album, Water, described by Herizons Magazine as “a palate flavoured with a fine Montreal cabaret sound, garnished in Québécois je ne sais quois and jazz-inflected, folkedged pop”, and in 2004, the raw, angst-ridden EP Burned My Ass, which got the attention of folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys, who recruited Annabelle after Cara Luft left the band. All four solo recordings were self-produced and self-released under the label MQGV (Massive Quantities of Good Vibes).
In 2004 Annabelle joined The Wailin’ Jennys and wrote four songs on the multiple award-winning album Firecracker, which was on the Billboard Bluegrass charts for 69 weeks, peaking at #2. Annabelle's song ‘Devil's Paintbrush Road’ was rated the #1 Canadian song for 2006 on Folk DJ Airplay Charts. Upon leaving the Jennys in 2007, Annabelle signed on to Borealis Records, and released two albums, Resilience (2008), produced by Roma Baran/Vivian Stoll, with guest appearances by Bruce Cockburn, Mary Gauthier, Bruce Molsky, and Julie Wolf, and Rise (2012), produced by Don Kerr, an unabashedly political album inspired by a wave of grassroots uprisings that had emerged all over the world. “Rise is a milestone for Chvostek and deserves to claim its spot on a number of year-end best-of lists”, Exclaim! Magazine. Rise was nominated for a JUNO Award in the Roots and Traditional Album of the Year category, and both Rise and Resilience were nominated for Contemporary Album of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Annabelle also co-wrote two songs with Bruce Cockburn for his JUNO-winning album A Small Source of Comfort (2011) and performed them as his guest artist at several venues, including Massey Hall.
In 2015, Annabelle went back to her independent roots and self-released Be The Media under MQGV in collaboration with NY producer Jeff Oehler of Beehive Productions. Be The Media takes an unconventional approach featuring Beehive’s signature ‘live-off-the-floor’ feel, recorded with the trio in a tight knit circle in the acoustic ambience of an old century home. Annabelle’s voice here is given free reign to let loose with songs that express raw emotions and a groove that tends more towards rock’n’roll than conventional roots. “Meticulously produced, well written and exceptionally played ‘Be The Media’ is a beautifully crafted album that could go a long way to getting Chvostek a wider mainstream audience, good stuff”, Ben Hughe's Über Röck, UK.
Annabelle was forced to cancel the German leg of her 2015 Be The Media tour due to a series of health crises. She had been dealing with hearing loss and tinnitus in her left ear for almost a decade, triggered by a feedback blast during a soundcheck in England while touring Resilience. In late 2015, her left ear went completely deaf, while the tinnitus still rang as loud as ever. Forced into a slower and quieter pace, Annabelle began exploring new ways to create music while coming to terms with her hearing disability. Supported by Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, she became Echo Women's Choir's artist-in-residence for two years and developed her skills in choral arrangement, composition and conducting under the mentorship of Alan Gasser and Becca Whitla. Annabelle arranged her original compositions and conducted in three Echo Women's Choir concerts at Toronto's Trinity St. Paul’s Church between 2016-18. She also conducted Echo performances at City Hall's 'Unite to Stop Hate' events on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2017, and a pop-up choir for the International 'I Can't Keep Quiet Day', 2017.
Annabelle's new work stems out of a 10-year relationship to Uruguay. Married to a Uruguayan partner, she has been visiting yearly for the past decade and jamming with Fernando Rosa from the very first visit. Annabelle and Fernando started co-producing and arranging new demos for the upcoming album in December 2018 with generous support from Canada Council for the Arts, and are currently in the process of creating production sketches for all the tracks remotely, with both Canadian and Uruguayan musicians.