Originally published in Stylus Magazine, Volume 28, Issue 2
On the first day of this calendar year that felt remotely like springtime, I met with the folk singing duo, Haitia. Comprised of the beautiful and talented voices of Dana Waldie and Avery Penner, Haitia blends the harmonious charm of traditional folk music with a timeless depth of lyrics. With both singers coming from homes of music teachers, Dana and Avery each found ways to express their musical prowess from young ages. Learning instruments from the harp to the piano, these two performers have had an ear and passion for music for as long as either can recall.
Before forming Haitia, the namesake of which pays homage to Dana’s Haitian background, both have experience performing on stage and in front of crowds, albeit in entirely different styles. At 17 years old, Dana found herself on stage singing for the first time in front of a crowd in a church. From there, she went on to form the original rendition of Haitia, a project that later fell through and created a vacancy that led to what the band currently is. Avery, on the other hand, has spent a majority of her performing time on the stage of musical theatre. Coming together from entirely different realms of musical experience, Haitia combines the strengths of each singer to create a soothing aura of tranquillity.
As the band currently stands, all their songs have been written by Dana as the project was originally her own. In the future, the tandem plans to work cohesively to write songs and together develop a clear identity for their group. Avery has written songs in the past, however the two choose to perform the songs written by Dana. As the two perform together more, the band becomes less of Dana’s own music project and becomes a band shared by friends. When explaining the songwriting process, Dana and Avery vehemently agreed the calm nature of folk music can at times make song writing an intimidating task. Without the volume instruments lend in many other genres the two agreed the lyrics of their songs are more exposed than in other genres. “It’s a little more vulnerable,” Dana explained to me, “when it’s your songs and you and your guitar.”
When asked which artists they each look up to most, the singers described themselves to be inspired by both local artists as well as some unforgettable duos on the large scale. Among local inspirations, Dana and Avery counted Begonia and Royal Canoe, referring to the latter as simply “amazing.” Among comparatively mainstream acts, the two confess the Staves, First Aid Kit, and Simon and Garfunkel to be among their greatest inspirations. “Their harmonies were so simple but still so beautiful” Dana told me, referring to Simon and Garfunkel. “They’re a group my dad played all the time as a kid.”
Coming off a busy month of performing live, which followed an equally hectic few months of performing, Avery and Dana plan to take their first moment to breathe since they became band mates. “When Avery came in,” Dana said with a small laugh, “it was already go-go-go.”
The two agree they have yet to fully have an opportunity to sit down together and work on a song as a duo. To this point, Haitia has been booked to play so many shows the two have yet to find the time to relax together and enjoy any other aspects of their friendship. Dana told me how the group hasn’t “had the chance to go slow” like most bands do at the start of a project. Since forming a group together, Dana and Avery have been in constant work mode a mentality each of them looks forward to taking a break from this spring.
The near future is set to be slower than the last five months have been for Haitia. Their immediate goals, after their brief break from performing live, include establishing a fanbase in order to have a market to cater an EP to. There is currently no set date for the release however the two are optimistic that once they see a strong enough base of fans for their songs they’ll be more encouraged to take on such a project.
While talks of recording and releasing remain in the infancy stage, Dana and Avery plan to spend the spring sitting down to write songs and hone their performances to be as sharp as possible by the time summer rolls around. The powerful duo plan to begin applying for festivals such as Winnipeg Folk Festival and Real Love as soon as the time arrives to do so.
This spring will be spent preparing Haitia for their next series of concerts. Check music festival listings this summer for Haitia and allow their music to soulfully move you the way oftentimes only folk music can.