Islander Annette Gallant plays in all-girl country band in Hong Kong
by Jay Scott Kanes
Few Prince Edward Island musicians venture farther “away” than drummer Annette Gallant, a country-music pioneer of sorts in one of Asia’s leading cities. Annette’s skills on drums spur the Shotgun She-Ras, an all-female country-and-western band based in Hong Kong where most of the music fans clearly prefer rock or Canto-pop.
“Soon we’ll play two shows in Shanghai, which is pretty exciting,” said Annette. She knows of no other PEI musicians active in Hong Kong, although she’s met several from elsewhere in Atlantic Canada.
“Every day, I get a kick out of saying, ‘Wow! I’m playing music, I’m in a band and it’s so much fun,” Annette said. “I just want to go with the flow.”
Leader singer Sholan Tsang from Britain, guitarist Meg Olinger from Iowa and bass-player Claire Tallon, a Brit who grew up in Hong Kong, complete the She-Ras lineup.
“Annette’s fantastic,” said Claire. “She’s one of the best drummers. Steady Neddy! That’s what we call her—because she is.
“On top of her drumming skills, we need Annette’s personality. The rest of us get very nervous and shy. We hate things like having our pictures taken. But Annette’s really good at jollying us along. ‘Get ‘er done for God,’ she always says.”
“Annette’s so positive about everything,” Sholan agreed.
Not an original band member, Annette joined early on when the initial drummer, a Nova Scotian, returned to Canada. “We like drummers from Atlantic Canada because they’re such easy-going, friendly people,” Claire joked.
Although country music is a rarity in Chinese cities, the She-Ras perform songs popularized by the likes of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Alison Krauss, plus their own material. All four band members help to write songs. For example, Annette and Claire collaborated on “Eddy the Fiddler” about a veteran PEI fiddler encountered by Annette at the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival. The band plans to release a debut CD later this year.
Born in Summerside in 1980, Annette grew up in Charlottetown and then lived in Ottawa before crossing the Pacific Ocean in 2004. “Coming from PEI definitely contributed to my interest in music,” she said. “My Mom’s family was really musical. A lot of my relatives sang in choirs. My Mom always played the piano for us to sing along.
“In Grade 4, I played the violin. Then I joined a school band at Stone Park Junior High and took up the trumpet, but that wasn’t cool enough so I switched to percussion. I stayed in a school band until I graduated from Charlottetown Rural. Later, I bought a ukulele. So my musical background’s a bit scattered. I never mastered most of the instruments. But I played music with my friends all the time. Instead of going to bars, we’d take guitars and drums to the beach, sit around and play music. Truthfully, I never really thought that I’d play in another band. But now I can’t imagine not doing it.”
Annette’s a daughter of the late Julia (Cheverie) and of Eric Gallant, the latter a former Kinkora school principal now living in the Souris area. Her brother Adam led the PEI band Officer Girl and later joined Mars Hill. Also a recording-arts specialist, Adam, who lives in Montreal, has helped the She-Ras (by email) on their upcoming CD. Another brother, Scott, is also a musician.
As a day job, Annette teaches English and math at a tutorial centre. “Teaching isn’t necessarily what I want to do for my whole life,” she said. “I almost left Hong Kong last year, but I stayed because of the band. So music comes first, and teaching’s second. I won’t make any other plans for a while.”
Between lessons and songs, Annette pines to visit PEI. “I love going home, and miss it like crazy,” she said. “I haven’t been there in two years. I miss the beaches, the laid-back attitudes and sitting around playing music with my friends.”
Maybe Annette should convince all the Shotgun She-Ras to spend a summer performing on PEI. “That’d be great fun,” Annette said. “Find someone who’ll fund it, and we’ll be there.”
Jay Scott Kanes, currently a resident of Hong Kong, is the author of the recently published book on PEI musicians, Island Toes A’Tapping. The Buzz would like to welcome Jay to the roster as our newest foreign correspondant.