PHOTO : ASHWIN ANIL ing to have in my bubble right now ,” she says . “ Because otherwise , it ’ s really difficult . And it exists everywhere . I think people are not necessarily intentional about their judgment , but I think a lot of people don ’ t understand unless they have experienced with chronic illness themselves or through a loved one that it ’ s very difficult to maintain your social connections and your professional connections during flareups that can last days or months , when you have such a limited energy stock .”
When Lamontagne was 18 , she was accepted into the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto , to help with pain management . While she was there , she played guitar and sang every day for a group of kids on her floor .
“ It was that moment where I realized those are the people who I ’ m speaking for ; it ’ s not just to bring awareness that I ’ m so open about my medical conditions and my struggles , but it ’ s a lot for those kids who don ’ t have someone to look up to ,” she says . “ And if I can do my best to be that , then I will . But for someone else , I know that it might be too difficult to talk about their medical condition , so I never hold any judgment or expectations .”
Lamontagne has a supportive family around her and a network of people who want to see her succeed , and she says this helps with the impostor syndrome she can face too , adding that probably every artist has some degree of impostor syndrome . Lamontagne doesn ’ t shy away from discussing any of her own struggles , but putting a comedic spin on serious subjects in her performances wasn ’ t always a conscious decision . It started with a malfunctioning keyboard and a need to fill some dead space with chatter at one performance , and when someone shouted form the back that Lamontagne should take up comedy , it became a part of her image , even though at the time , she didn ’ t really think she was being funny .
“ I have noticed that it just shows to my audience how resilient people with chronic illness have to be to survive in this world ; not that that ’ s like my intentional meaning of having banter around those moments , but if I allow myself to just sit in my sorrow , I will never get anything done and I ’ ll never leave my house .” Lamontagne explains . “ So , I try to find those moments of joy for myself , even if it ’ s fleeting , like a TV show episode . Joy right now , especially in this world , it ’ s so difficult to come across , so if I can do something to also prevent my audience from feeling how sad I was in that moment , I think that ’ s also been important to me .”
At every show she plays , Lamontagne has people come up to her afterwards and talk to her about how her music and words have helped them with a myriad of different situations , feelings , and struggles . These are some of the most special moments for her , and can remind her why she continues to create and perform her songs .
“ It just hits so much harder when they tell me about their cancer journeys or undiagnosed medical conditions , because a lot of them are very difficult to figure out ,” Lamontagne says . “ I ’ ve even had parents who come up to me to ask me about how they can help their children navigate their own health issues . It ’ s just the best feeling to know that , at the end of the day , I am making an impact .”
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor of Canadian Musician . He can be reached at mhopkins @ nwcworld . com .
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