She’s been compared to Etta James and Janis Joplin. An overstatement? Hard to say.
But at the Barn Stage at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival Sunday afternoon, there was no mistaking the power and raw emotion that characterizes Colleen Rennison’s singing. It was at no time more evident than when, as the last note of the song Rise Up faded, the audience – and, it seemed, Rennison herself – was suspended momentarily in silent, awed reverence. Then the crowd erupted in wild applause and appreciation.
The dynamic lead singer/songwriter of Vancouver band No Sinner, at 24, is relaxed and natural onstage, an attribute she credits, in part, to time spent acting.
“I feel more natural on stage often than when I’m in a group of people,” she says. “I’m a little bit intense face-to-face. I can be a little bit jarring for people.”
While her singing can awe her audience, it can be equally emotional for her.
On the Blues stage Saturday, she said, she felt like crying during one song that doesn’t usually affect her.
“Music will just pick you up and do whatever it wants with you. I try to be aware, and mean what I’m saying – and I’m not always saying the same thing when I’m singing the same song.”
Born and raised in Vancouver, Rennison’s musical preferences always gravitated to women with big voices.
“I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg,” she says of her own ‘big’ voice.
She loved listening to Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin in her youth, describing Carey’s voice as “one of the most incredible working instruments.” She admires performers like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, adding that so much of the music she loves is based on the blues.
Rennison’s accomplished band is made up of slick guitarist Eric Campbell, bassist Parker Bosley – or alternately Matt Camirand – and drummer Ian Browne.
Songwriting – which she shares currently with Browne and Campbell – is influenced by a wide range of sounds.
“Right now we’re kind of listening to a lot of heavy music from the seventies. Pre-metal. It changes all the time. Anything from Sly and the Family Stone to Black Sabbath, whatever makes us tick. The band is so versatile, we touch on so many kinds of music.”
The name, No Sinner, turns out to be Rennison, backwards.
Given the sultry nature of many of her blues/rock/soul songs, she concedes, “It’s funny that it’s my last name backwards. It’s a theme in my life, a theme in my music. The struggle between living life to the fullest and maintaining some kind of righteousness…”