Monica Lee
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Monica Lee

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"Monica Lee Trio play Bozzini's"

The Monica Lee Trio will be at Bozzini’s, Feb 18.

Jennifer Feinberg
The Progress
Februray 13, 2007

It’s been a busy year for Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Monica Lee and her band-mates and the trio will be in town Sunday night.

Some People know her as a fixture on the Vancouver cultural scene for years, hosting musical and poetry events, recording back up vocals on Alpha Ya Ya Dialo’s Juno-winning album “The Message”, and performing viola for the Dixie Chicks in a video as part of their 2000 world tour.

Lee has collaborated with oodles of musicians over the years and performs regularly on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive at the Libra Room.

Chilliwack music lovers will get to experience the Monica Lee Trio for one night at Bozzini’s on Sunday Feb 18.

Lee sings vocals, and plays piano, guitar and electric viola, while Jesse Waldman handles Electric Guitar and effects, joined by Marc L’Esperance on drums and backup vocals.

Music and sports fans alike can check out Lee as she belts out both the Canadian and U.S. National anthems at the Chilliwack Bruins game on Sunday. The Bruins take on the Everett Silvertips at 5 p.m. at Prospera Canter.

Her performance at Bozzini’s will begin a half-hour after the game, giving well rounded sports and music fans a chance to attend both events, said organizer Emmanuel Asparakis.

Expect energetic folk songs that weave in melodies nad stories with haunting vocals, tight drumming, and lush piano. Many of the tunes are Lee’s originals.

She scored the soundtrack for her first film, the made for TV documentary “A Safer Sex Trade”, directed and produced by Carolyn Allain of Cheap and Dirty Productions.

The Monica Lee Trio at Bozzini’s, Sunday, Feb 18. Doors 6 p.m. (for food and drinks) show at 8 p.m. $6

- Jennifer Feinberg -The Progress - Chilliwack BC

"Making her art last longer"

FRIDAY, FEBRURARY 16, 2007 Pg. 29
Phone: 604-792-9117 • E-mail: • Fax: 604-729-9300

Monica Lee brings her viola, her piano, her voice and her trio to the Best Western tonight and tomorrow, and Bozzini’s on Sunday.

Making her art last longer

Former chef giving music another go


Whether you want to call Monica Lee’s music Blues, jazz, folk, or maybe bluesy-jazzy-folk is up to you, but one thing for certain is that she plays with passion.
Music oozes from everything she does whether it’s singing, playing piano, guitar or viola, teaching music, or writing songs.

The Monica Lee Trio comes to Chilliwack for three performances this weekend with a little bonus for hockey fans. Lee will be singing the Star – Spangled Banner and O Canada before the Chilliwack Bruins face off against the Everett Silvertips on Sunday.

“That’s really exciting for me, I’ve never done that before,” she said in an interview.

At 8 p.m., Lee and her trio – Jesse Waldman on electric guitar and effects, and Marc L’Espérance on drums and backup vocals – play a show at Bozzini’s. They also have gigs on Friday and Saturday night before that at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn.

While Music has permeated her life since being raised by musician parents, this recent performing and music making has been happening for less than two years. Before that she was enduing a stint in the “working world” as a chef working the film industry. The money was good but the hours were long and her creations didn’t last long once it was lid out on a buffet for cast and crew.

“I wanted my art to last a little more long-term,” Lee said

Once the work stared to take too much of a toll on her, she make the jump back to music full-time. Her band has now been gigging for a solid year, and is ready to record.

Lee’s songs weave together stories and melodies, with haunting vocals, tight drumming, and lush piano. And her shows are energetic and inspiring as the talented musician switches from piano to guitar to a viola played through delays and loops.

A participant in the Vancouver cultural community for over eight years, Monica’s experience includes hosting hundreds of musical and poetry events, organizing several original music showcase series events including Random Acts of Kindness and The Song Slam, recording backup vocals on Alpha Ya Ya Dialo’s Juno Award-winning album The Message, and performing viola in the Dixie Chicks’ on-stage video as part of their 200 world tour. Monica has collaborated with many local musicians over the years and performs regularly on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive at the Libra Room.

Monica’s most recent success is scoring the soundtrack for her first film; a made for CBC/APTN documentary entitled A Safer Sex Trade, directed by Carolyn Allain of Cheap and Dirty Productions.

• Tickets to the Bozzini’s Show are $6 and can be reserved by calling 604-792-0744. Visit her website at for more.

"Feeling Fences"

Local acoutic artist Monica Lee proves she can write with the best of them. Eleven songs, anthmic and strong, one woman, one guitar, and a beautiful voice. Some of the song writing reminds me of Grant Hart of Husker Dü fame. Autobiograhical and sometimes mournful, but with an honesty that had me playing it over and over again. Perhaps I'm at that point in my life where I, too, am coming of age? Maybe it's just that I am overcome by the power of one woman's song. I find myself singing blue eyed love to myself - congratulations Monica Lee.
- Dr. Zaius
July 31 - August 6, 1998
Post New Music West Showcase - Dr. Zaius - Terminal City

"Beat-boxin' and bare walls at Butchershop"

...limber mouth noises did make an interesting embellishment to Monica Lee's agile songcraft last night at the Butchershop.

The intimacy of the room complemented Lee's performance on viola and keyboards that combined wind-swept melodicism and hip hop elements....another Lee composition, a tear-soaked ballad with the lyrics, "You're so bad/ You're the best thing I ever had," is still going though my head five days later.

Printed in the September 25-Oct 1, 2003 issue.

note: the tear soaked ballad refered to is in fact written by Tom Petty - Monica - The Gig Guy - Westender

"Chef/singer ends her hiatus on music"

Monica Lee lives music. Whether she's performing in front of a packed crowd at Commercial Drive's Libra Room or relaxing at JJ Bean, it comes spilling out of her. Over a cup of tea, while telling the story of how a message she left on a friend's answering machine developed into a song, she belts out the chorus of "Judy Lea," the resulting song.

When performing live, she often seems completely wrapped up in her music as she bends over the piano keys and sings, eyes closed. But when she launches into her sing-along song "Down On De Drive," Lee stands up tall, laughing and interacting with the audience.

After a year-long break, Lee is back at the Libra Room. Every Thursday night, the Alberta native and her band-guitarist Jesse Waldman and drummer Marc L'Espérance-play Lee's mixture of jazz, blues and folk...

By Heike Kilian
Friday, July 28, 2006

to read more of the full page article go to: - Heike Kilian - The Vancouver Courier - Weekend Edition

"Lee feels Drive to make CD"

Monica has a house gig at the Libra Room on Commercial.

Each Thursday since Februrary, Lee and her small band of Jesse Waldman (guitar) and Marc L'Espérance (drums) sets up at the restaurant on the Drive and find out a little bit more about who they are.

In that time, Lee has developed a word of mouth reputation for her weekly sets at the Libra Room....

by Tom Harrison
Thursday, June 8, 2006

to read more go to - The Vancouver Province, Concerts - On Music


re: Monica Lee composer for "A Safer Sex Trade" by Director Carolyn Allain

The Lens:

A Safer Sex Trade

Newsworld, 10 p.m.

Robert Pickton's trial began yesterday. The 26 women Pickton is accused of murdering were from Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside. Director Carolyn Allain explores the life of the district's desperate streetwalkers as well as women like Scarlett, an aging madam, and adult-film actress Simone, who works in the more gentrified escort business. While Scarlett and Simone's chosen paths in the sex trade provide them with relatively safe working conditions, the drug-addicted women who sell themselves on the street are at high risk. Jennifer used to be one of them. She has been clean for a couple of years and now walks the streets to hand out tuna sandwiches and juice boxes to the women she calls survival sex workers so they won't have to turn a trick just to be able to eat. As Jennifer knows, these women are first marginalized by their families and then shunned by society. Since no one cares about them, their deaths or disappearances are largely ignored. Until a case like Pickton's comes along. Allain's film looks at how that can be changed.

Friday Jan 19, 2007 - HENRIETTA WALMARK -Globe and Mail

"News from Hollywood North"

re: Monica Lee composer for "A Safer Sex Trade" by Director Carolyn Allain

CBC turns Lens to Safer Sex Trade
The experiences of sex-trade workers vary as widely as the laws that govern their profession.

The glaring difference between walking the stroll on the Downtown Eastside and working in the relative safety provided by an escort agency is succinctly highlighted in A Safer Sex Trade. The hourlong documentary was produced and directed by Carolyn Allain and co ritten by David Ray. Cheap and Dirty Productions Inc. put it together in association with CBC Newsworld, and the world will get to see it on CBC News: The Lens Tuesday (January 23) at 10 p.m. - The Georgia Straight Jan 18, 2007

"CD Review Monica Lee Band - Live at The Libra Room"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
POP: Monica Lee Band
Live At the Libra Room (Kildare)
Cutting a "live" album can be nerve-wracking -- is the mood right, are the performances good, is the equipment working properly? But Lee has been at the Libra Room on Commercial Drive for two years and so is comfortable, her band knows the material well and from what little you can hear of the audience it is, too. This format allows her to put the emphasis on the crowd pleasers. "Michael's Melody" sounds like a gypsy folk song and is playful. Lee's songs take on extra meaning in this context in that she is singing for people and they are responding. B
-- Tom Harrison - Vancouver Province

"Interview with Monica Lee"

by Nathan Peekay - 7:23pm Wednesday, Mar 5, 2008

One evening a few months ago i was heading home on Commercial Drive when out of the blue i was stopped dead, struck dumb and shaken out of my reverie by the driving sounds of a piano, drums and guitar based wank-fest that was literally spilling out on to the pavement in front of The Libra Room. But this wasn’t just any ol’ jam, this was the sound of life! This was the sound of new landscapes being explored and musicians finding that special place where birth happens. It was if time had quit, just in that little square of space in front of the venue. As i stood there letting the cool wave of music wash over me i heard a voice lifting above that wall of sound, a familiar voice that grabbed me by the shirt collar and brought me closer to the window. And who should i see weaving her magic with a crack-tight band but East Van’s very own, Monica Lee, a local song-bird who has a decade of performance in the city to her credit, a couple of CD’s and a trail of good friends following in her wake. She’ll tickle your inner hippie while greasing up your blues cat. She’s Monica Lee.

1) Musically, how long have you been at it and what started you on this righteous path of singing and playing your little heart out?

Well my mother says I came out singing. I used to sit on the back of her bike in the baby seat vocalizing for the whole trip…sometimes for up to 45 min at a time. Both my parents love to sing so it was really encouraged around the house and I always got songs sung to me while I was falling asleep. Maybe that’s why I write so many songs from dreams; I wake up and quickly scribble it down, figure out some chords and back to bed.

I moved to Vancouver in 1998 with my first disk in hand and started to meet and perform with other musicians. I was having a hard time expressing myself to other players, trying to manifest my visions of what I wanted them to play etc…so from 2000-2003 I attended VCC (Vancouver Community College) and it really helped develop my voice, my playing and my composition style. Since then I’ve been gigging and building a band and sharing my voice when ever I can.

2) Monica Lee has a shit tight band! Please fill in the missing pieces, telling me of the members and what makes them so awesome!

Wow, thanks! First of all I started playing with Jesse Waldman about 5 years ago. He is hands down the best guitar player I know, with the ability to be rhythmic and melodic at the same time. His solos are mesmerizing and inspiring. He is truly my personal guitar hero. After Jesse and I had been performing together for a few years we decided to host a night called Random Acts of Kindness, a showcase night at Café deux Soleil. I was also hosting the Song Slam as well. One of those nights Marc L’Expérance came down and offered his services as an engineer/producer to the winner of our Song Slam competition. That was the first meeting. He asked if he could come and sit in with us on a Thursday at the Libra Room where we had just started playing our regular gig. I was weary of the drums, scarred they would overpower the songs, so I insisted he only bring his snare, you know, Violent Femmes style. He did, and it was great. We invited him back but this time he begged to bring his kick drum, and high hat. From that day he developed his small kit adding one more overhead symbol to the mix. Really good set up giving the songs a lot of snare sounds which I love. A bonus to this relationship is he is a phenomenal harmonizer. He quickly learned my songs and has added so much depth by adding his voice. Also a multi- instrumentalist like myself he occasionally gets up and plays my viola too!!!

Jesse and Marc later developed other bands together and have an almost telepathic relationship. As a band we have been performing week after week on the same stage, the best rehearsal space we could ask for. Our songs grow in front of the audience. And since we all love to improvise, we have written a half a dozen songs right there on stage, four of which are on the new album. The audience and the environment being the inspiration…we just go for it, always catching each other not mater what each player decides to contribute.

3) As a lover of music, the live show is SO important in my overall comfort with a performer or band, so I’m pleased to have a taste of that with your latest offering of live material. What compelled you to forego a studio album in favor of the Libra Room sessions? Or in other words, what makes that room lucky enough to be played so often and recorded in?

It just felt natural. Because we play every week at the Libra, and they treat us so well … It’s like our home. And like I said, several of the songs were actually written on stage there. I really wanted to document the experience and try and capture some of that creative magic. Plus people really responded to our live sets, so I was pretty sure they would be interested in taking a bit of the show home with them.

Overall it was a great experience for me as a songwriter and performer to hear the band from the other side. I really learned a lot from listening to all the recordings and on top of it all, I am really happy with our end result. Marc engineered and produced the record and it was amazing to participate in the mixing and mastering of our work.

We still have plans to make our studio recording. We have easily enough material for two more albums already; it’s just a matter of time.

Oh, and we have more of the video footage from the same night as the ipod videos on the CD to release…Yes, more ‘live at the Libra Room’ coming soon in the from of a ‘one shot’ film by Jordan Barnes-Crouse.

4) As a hard working musician in this city, what keeps you driven and interested while in a landscape that heaps praise on the unit-sellers and sell-outs while the little guy/gal sometimes gets swept under the rug?

Oh, I don’t let that stuff influence me. I just play music. That’s all I can do. One thing about musicians, we just need to play. I am most happy when I am on stage sharing my music. I will always do it. If one day, one or more of my songs, or the band got some recognition, that would be great, but it is not the reason I do it. It may sound cheesy but it really is just about sharing emotions and putting common experiences into a context we can all enjoy and hopefully be inspired by.

5) Any interesting road stories/brushes with the crazy, extra-ordinary, and/or famous that you'd like to share?

A few years back I was apart of a project called “Song Bird Oratorio” which performed here and then did a tour to Arizona. The experience was amazing especially getting to perform with two of Canada’s best vocalists, Christine Duncan and D.B. Boyko in this a capella mini opera. Part of the bonus to the trip was getting to drive to the Grand Canyon. We were so bold we went and swung our feet off the edge scarring the folks standing safely behind the barrier. It was so exhilarating. We all bought foot tall cowgirl hats and were a sight to see wandering through town and airports all the way back to Vancouver!

6) What's in store for '08 and beyond?

Well…. I am working on booking the band to do a few tours, first to the islands and then around BC and Alberta. I am also thinking of an Ontario/Quebec tour in the fall. My good friend Katie Ormiston of Pawnshop Diamond and I are co-conspiring to tour Europe together in October as well. If all these dreams pan out, my 2008 will be the best year yet for me as an artist. I have applied to New Music West and North-by-North East so we shall see if they are interested in having us. I will be applying for 2009 summer festivals as well, as it has always been a dream of mine to do a festival tour sharing my songs and introducing my band to the rest of Canada, the States, Europe and beyond... A girl’s got to dream!
- 4thercrd #4


the monica lee band - live at the libra room
Released Feb 21, 2008

CD Review MONICA LEE BAND - Live at The Libra Room - Vancouver Province
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
POP: Monica Lee Band
Live At the Libra Room (Kildare)

Cutting a "live" album can be nerve-wracking -- is the mood right, are the performances good, is the equipment working properly? But Lee has been at the Libra Room on Commercial Drive for two years and so is comfortable, her band knows the material well and from what little you can hear of the audience it is, too. This format allows her to put the emphasis on the crowd pleasers. "Michael's Melody" sounds like a gypsy folk song and is playful. Lee's songs take on extra meaning in this context in that she is singing for people and they are responding. B

-- Tom Harrison

Monica Lee - Season's Greetings
EP - released 2004

“I listened to your disk with my morning coffee. It’s cool and really refreshing. Your phrasing is great and I love the tunes, lost of space but full of wonderful moments in each song. Hope you don’t mind the comparison but lyrically you share some of Joni Mitchell’s talent for imagery and poetry. I’ve only had one listen but I really like what I hear. Thanks for sharing it with me. Cheers.”

-John Mann of “Spirit of the West” April 2007



Monica Lee is a Vancouver-based singer-songwriter with a gypsy-soul voice, a poet’s lyricism, and a natural command of piano, guitar and viola. She has the kind of luminous stage presence that makes audiences of any size feel as if they are cherished guests at an intimate performance in her own living room.

In her inspirational songs of love, pain and redemption, Monica cleverly mixes elements of roots, jazz, blues, country, indie rock and a hint of gypsy. The result: an eclectic fusion that feels both classic and excitingly new. Complemented by highly skilled musicians (percussionist Michael Simpson and guitarist Jesse Waldman), Monica is renowned for delivering truly exhilarating live sets – full of lush piano, rich harmonies, solid rhythms, entrancing strings and soaring guitars, all wrapped around catchy melodies that resonate in listeners’ memories for days.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Calgary-born Monica Lee hails from a musical background that was as unique as it was rich. She is the product of a classically-trained pianist mother and a calypso-singing, ukelele-playing Trinidadian father who delighted in entertaining. Their home was animated by his made-up songs about friends and guests, and pulsed with never-ending beats from his rhythm foot. Inspired by her parents’ passion for music, Monica grew up exploring every instrument she could lay hands on – including clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, trumpet, piano, guitar, cello and viola. As an adult, Monica went on to study jazz voice, viola and piano at the Vancouver Community College. She has matured into a charismatic performer.

These days, Monica Lee is a featured entertainer at one of Vancouver’s hippest live-music venues: the Libra Room on Commercial Drive. For three years running, Monica and her bandmates have cultivated a devoted following – and reliably pack the house every week.

In 2007, the Monica Lee Band responded to audience demand by releasing a CD that reflects the dynamism of those performances. The result is The Monica Lee Band Live at the Libra Room. Distributed by Indie Pool, the CD is available now through our on line store, from Itunes or can be ordered through record stores across Canada.

Monica Lee’s original music has also made its film debut. In 2006, three songs from Monica’s very successful second CD, Season’s Greetings, were selected for use in the CBC/APTN documentary, A Safer Sex Trade. Utterly captivated by their earthy sound, director Carolyn Allain went on to commission Monica to compose an original score for the entire film. The film’s emotional climax – footage of an 2004 march in honour of women who’ve gone missing from Vancouver’s Downtown East Side – is underscored by Monica’s poignant composition Judy Lea. Repeated screenings of this critically acclaimed documentary continue to generate viewer inquiries about the song, and about other music by Monica Lee. Because of its popularity, a new, live version of Judy Lea was chosen by the band to be the opening track on the new CD.