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  • Jeff Bierk

Over the phone from Sackville, NB, Simone Schmidt says that she's "feeling good, just relaxing in a room that isn't" hers. The Toronto-based singer is referring to her disposition during some downtime on tour, but the offhand comment functions just as well as a more symbolic statement; an inferred reference to Virginia Woolf's feminist text A Room Of One's Own.

Similarly, the smoky, reverb-soaked folk songs Schmidt sings as Fiver are a subdued blend of quotidian diligence and cultured insight. "Some people use the political issues that they care about to garner attention for their art careers," she says. "Whereas I don't believe that my music has a direct, tangible effect in bettering the world. What it can do, I think, is help the people involved in political struggles feel a little less lonely."

Sonically, her music feels worn-in and approachable. Lyrically, her work is more complex. Her critically acclaimed debut album, 2013's Lost the Plot, succeeds in painting dark and detailed portraits of the down-and-out, with a mood akin to something like Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. Though making nuanced, sophisticated music in the 21st century can often go unrewarded. Referring to a perceived drought in contemporary attention spans, Schmidt asks rhetorically: "Is there a literacy for what you're doing? Are you going to be written out of the culture because you're illegible?"

The jury is still out on that matter. While her superbly crafted songs have earned her plenty of fans and positive reviews throughout North America and the UK, Schmidt continues to exist in the rugged margins of the Canadian music industry. "Integrating into the economy is not something I feel comfortable with," she says. "In a culture that represents such a small portion of the population, there is this feeling of being disfigured by other people's gaze, by their inability to see you for what you are."

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