Lee Whalen
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Lee Whalen

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The best kept secret in music

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Bio

"The funny thing about distance and time
It does nothing to sober this heart
So many years rolled into last minutes
We never know the day before we depart"
-Cozy Picture

Lee Whalen was born to a Scottish mother and Irish father in Ocean Falls, a remote pulp and paper town on the northern coast of British Columbia, accessible only by water, air, or birth. Lee spent her formative years in this region, where there is more precipitation than anywhere else in the country.

"If it wasn't raining, it was trying. There would be a constant rhythm of rain falling for days on end, creating a dreamy, melancholy soundtrack. I developed a habit of making up little ditties about the weather to make myself feel better. The popularity of the musicals of that era I think also predisposed me to the feeling that life was just a lot more ‘grand’, when accompanied by a song."

Her father Len, a painter and cartoonist whose work portrayed West Coast life, introduced Lee to both art and music early in life. "My father was a painter - but music was his second love. He played the Ukulele and sang all those great pre-World War Two songs popular in his youth. He recruited me at an early age to sing the duets with him. By the time I was 6, I was able to pull off a pretty good harmony part."

At age 20, Lee left her West Coast roots behind and hitchhiked across Canada. A friend had invited her to come to Toronto and “be in the band”. Those were the magic words. And so, drawing on her love of harmony, Lee embarked on a career as a back up vocalist, eventually collaborating with several high profile Canadian recording artists.

-Opening for Stevie Ray Vaughn at Massey Hall, Toronto (as back up vocalist for John McLeod, on True North records at the time)
-Opening for Sarah McLachlan at Bathurst St. Theater, Toronto (as back up vocalist for "Big Faith")
-Singing at The Royal Alexandra Theater with Daniel Lanois, along with Lorraine Segato and Rebecca Jenkins, on "Earth Day".
-Playing Toronto's Forum as back up vocalist for The Sheri Keen Band.
-Singing back up vocals for Jane Siberry, along with Rebecca Jenkins, at the Forum in celebration of the 1st Annual Kumbya Festival.

In time, Lee made the transition from the back of the stage to centre stage, from back up vocalist to songwriter and singer. She and a group of gals formed the band "Notre Dame" and the group performed in and around Toronto - at one time, opening for Natalie Merchant - until they disbanded in the early 90s.

After “Notre Dame”, Lee continued as a solo artist:

- Opening for Jane Siberry at The Queens Bedroom as well as performing in two of Jane's Video's: "Temple" and "Sail Across the Water"
- Singing original and cover material at The Glenn Gould Studio, as part of a series called "Quiet There's A Lady On Stage", which later aired across Canada on CBC's "Hot Ticket". This series was hosted by Rebecca Jenkins and David Ramsden, and included Mary Margaret O'Hara, Holy Cole, Carol Pope, Kate Fenner, Laura Hubert, Lorainne Segato, Molly Johnson, Lori Yates and others.
- Playing original songs in front of a live audience for the taping of CBC's "Swing on A Star" Hosted by Murray McLaughlin (accompanied by Cam McKinnes, Kit Johnston and Danny Greenspoon)

With Lee's evocative voice, and with the rich narratives and vivid imagery of her writing, her voice and songs found their way into film and television:

- "When this Time Comes" was featured in Debra Day's film "Expecting", starring Valerie Buhagiar.
- "Measure Me" was featured in Buchili & Rogers film, "Wild Cherry, Foxy Lady" - the recipient of the Toronto Women in Film and Television and Kodak Vision Award and the Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival Screenplay Competition.
- Lee also sang "The Water is Wide", featured on the CBC series "Black Harbor" - starring Rebecca Jenkins.

More recently Lee performed, along with Mia Sheard, as back up Vocalist for Lori Cullen at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto.
Lee's vocals are featured along with Mia Sheard and Kathryn Rose on Frank Patricks soon to be released "Worlds in Transition".
You can also hear Lee's harmonies on the first track of David Mathesons Debuet album titled "David Matheson".

Lee Whalen is an artist of soulful depth and unique vision. Her songs chronicle the familiar journey of love and loss, offering a very personal and poetic insight into life as she explores her own experiences. Hope and the struggle for redemption are key themes and reflect her colourful and sometimes painful journey as a woman and artist.

A mature and valuable songwriter, Lee is in the midst of completing her debut C.D.