Evangeline Gentle starts all their live shows with the same short a cappella song.

“There’s nothing more vulnerable than getting onstage in front of bunch of people and just singing with no band,” says the Scottish-born, Peterborough-based, indie-folk singer-songwriter. “But even when life tries to harden you, staying soft is what actually brings us closer. I feel like that with the audience.”

The concept of embracing vulnerability as an act of self-empowerment is a potent theme on Gentle’s self-titled debut. Released in September 2019, the album showcases confessional songwriting, in which they candidly sing about self-medicating with alcohol, insecurity in relationships, and coping with depression.

They spent three years working on the album with producer Jim Bryson, who asked Gentle if they wanted to record demos together after one of Gentle’s gigs. “In the first year of writing, I was struggling with mental health issues. You can really hear that in some of the songs,” they say. For example, on “Even If,” Gentle wistfully sings, “I smoke enough to kill me, and I drink enough to drown.”

“In the first year of writing, I was struggling with mental health issues”

Growing up, Carole King and the Dixie Chicks inspired Gentle to write their first songs and learn how to play guitar, and would later influence their folk-driven sound. “I listened to a lot of female singer-songwriters and wanted to emulate that,” Gentle says. “But over the years, I’ve begun to explore other genres.”

This exploration is evident on “Ordinary People,” where banjo and acoustic guitar weave around shimmering synth lines. For their next album, Gentle plans to experiment with new genres, like pairing pop arrangements with politically-charged lyrics.

 Gentle sees music not only as a way to communicate important messages to a broad audience, but also as an anchor for inter-connectedness. It’s something they realized while seeing Canadian musician Rae Spoon perform in high school.

“I would look around me and see all of these other queer people and think that this feels so cool. This is a place of community for me,” says Gentle. “It made me realize the impact an artist can have on an audience, and that my own music could possibly do that for other people, too.”