Jazz chanteuse Shannon Butcher likes to jog along to many types of music, but the main point of her running, besides fitness, is finding the time to think about her own music.

Ben Kaplan, National Post · Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010

In black tights and an aqua running shirt, Shannon Butcher strikes an unusual portrait of a jazz chanteuse. The 33-year-old may sing like Edith Piaf or Billie Holiday, but trotting around the waterfront and through the Toronto Music Garden, the singer-composer says her biggest vices are brunch in Bloor West Village and organic food.

“My aunt was a police officer and she’s super fit,” Butcher says on a jog after rehearsal, days before the release of Little Hearts, her second solo jazz album. “In a way, running is like being a performer -- you have to set goals and be comfortable doing what you can, but the most important part is taking that first step.”

Jogging across Bathurst Street on this cloudless morning, as she’s done three times a week for the past six years, the High Park resident says the city’s running paths have been incubators for many of her best musical ideas.

“The times when you feel like you don’t want to go running are exactly the times when you ought to get out there,” she explains, mentioning that she ticks off kilometres to the beat of Madonna, Radiohead and jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown on her iPod. “Sometimes lyrics or arrangements come to me when I’m running and there’s this spark of imagination -- what’s that saying? Free your body, free your mind.”

Butcher has laced up her Saucony sneakers in the last six Sporting Life 10K races and also calls herself a “Lululemon girl.” Bobbing along the path behind Ontario Place, she says it’s just as natural to find a jazz singer at the Running Room as it is to find one at a nightclub, and that it’s perfectly normal for a musician to listen to both Irving Berlin and Duran Duran.

“Good music is my only genre,” says Butcher, whose first record made a jazz hit of No Doubt’s Just a Girl. Her new album features sax and piano arrangements of Smile by Lilly Allen and Bryan Adams’ Run To You. “Some people don’t like Coldplay -- I happen to like them a lot -- but if you see them in concert, they’re always playing new arrangements of their songs. A good song can be done any number of ways.”

Butcher’s spending her summer at jazz festivals across the city, including a homecoming show during next month’s Beaches Jazz Festival at the Rex, where she had a year-long residency last year. Of course, all the late nights, tours and performances are probably going to interfere with her running, but Butcher says it’s when things get craziest that she turns to running the most.

“When you’re running you set your own schedule,” she says. “Less so when there’s a record to promote.”

--Little Hearts is in stores now. For tour dates, see shannonbutcher.com.

bkaplan@nationalpost.com

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