Thrice awarded the Juno for Female Artist of the Year back in the 1980s, Montreal’s Luba remains one of Canadian music’s most recognizable women in song, even if out of the spotlight. (Her most recent release is 2000’s indie album From the Bitter to the Sweet.) She spoke to Words + Music about one of her most enduring hits, “Let It Go.”
Tell me where you were in your career when you wrote “Let it Go.”
Pretty well at the beginning. I had started playing clubs a couple of years before that, paying my dues. I had written some songs, like “Everytime I See Your Picture,” which had done really well. The night I wrote “Let it Go” I was actually on my way to Hamilton to record my first album with Dan Lanois, and I called my best friend to say goodbye. I don’t know why but this melody popped into my head as we were talking. Once I got off the phone I picked up my guitar and started strumming. I didn’t have the lyrics yet but I just knew there was something there. So I wrote down the chords really fast because I was packing. Once I got into the studio, I told Dan I had this idea that won’t go away. He really liked it, and he helped take it to another level.
How did Daniel Lanois impact the song’s development?
I’d never really worked with a “real” producer before. I am shy, and all of a sudden being in a room with someone with that great reputation, I was a little intimidated. He had a very experimental vibe, which I liked. When you’re new to something, it’s nice to have options to try different things rather than someone telling you to do it this way or that way.
How consciously were you trying to write an uplifting song? The lyrics are quite anthemic.
I don’t know. I came up with the phrase “let it go,” and it was sort of a female anthem. I had taken some women’s studies courses in university and was reading Simone de Beauvoir. I wasn’t trying to be heavy, but I guess I was feeling a bit like a fish out of water, being a woman in the music industry. Things were not what they are now. So I suppose maybe I felt the need to say these things to myself, but as I worked on the lyrics I realized this was turning into something bigger than just about me.
What was the reaction from the industry when they heard it?
I think the record label had a little problem with it! Here’s a Canadian girl and she comes up with this crazy calypso song! Dan, he was really frustrated; they gave him a hard time, and it went through many changes. But I had a gut feeling and my gut feelings almost always turn out to be right.
Looking back, what does this song mean to you now?
It was the launching point of my career. I hadn’t been writing for that long, and I’m lucky that I had Dan as a producer. Anytime I perform it people go wild. It’s not your typical dance song, and yet it makes you want to move and I think it has a positive message. I love singing it