“I thought I was going to die,” says the musician Lido Pimienta, speaking in her living room in Toronto about giving birth to her second child last month. “I hadn’t prepared myself for the pain.” The pain wasn’t the only thing that came as a surprise to the Colombian-Canadian Pimienta in the year that's past since she won the 2017 Polaris Music Prize. As one of the 10 artists nominated for the award, she had assumed she would lose. But she won, taking home the $50,000 prize for her album La Papessa and delivering a fiery acceptance speech in the process. With her Polaris reign almost over – this year’s Polaris gala happens on Monday – Pimienta spoke to The Globe and Mail about last year’s win, her new album and an excruciating but melodious delivery.
My first baby was 10 years ago, at a hospital. This time it was a natural birth. It was very different – very different. No epidural. No drugs. It was crazy.
Most of the labour took place at home. On the way to the clinic, I would hum to myself. Every time I felt a contraction I would hum and create a melody to help me through the pain. My voice was competing with the pain. That really helped.
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I’m about 70-per-cent done with my next album, Miss Colombia. Most of the songs are started. Most of the work has been laid out. The hardest part of an album is actually writing it. I’m going to Colombia to add elements with musicians there. I’m shooting a music video there. I’m also shooting one here, with [Canadian visual artist] Shary Boyle. I’m close. The album will be done by the end of the year.
Winning the Polaris Music Prize for my last album didn’t have any effect on the music of the new album. I was already working on it in 2016. What the Polaris attention did was give us more shows. It gave us an opportunity to perform more and to get out of the country and play different places. It also gave me an opportunity to take a break from making Miss Colombia and to get more funding for it.
I used the Polaris prize money to invest in my business, which is the music. I was able to bring more people on tour, and to invest in merchandise and records. Winning the prize allowed me to make this new album as if I was any other artist, with no kids and no responsibilities. I could be wrong, but with most of my contemporaries, the only preoccupations they have are to get bigger. To me, my preoccupations involve making sure my family in Colombia is eating, making sure my family has water, making sure my family there has health care.
So, winning the prize and the money allowed me to think just about the music. I shared some with my family and with the rest I made a business, Lido Pimienta Inc.
As far as following up La Papessa, I don’t think about the pressure. I know that I’m good. The songs are good. I feel like Miss Colombia will be more successful than the last one. Not because there are expectations, but because it’s better. La Papessa was a learning experience. I was learning to make a record. I had just moved to Toronto.
To me, my story is incredible because I am a person who belongs in some sad statistic. I came from an immigrant family. I should be living in the United States, waiting for my papers to arrive at some point before I die and hope I don’t get deported. That should be my narrative.
But I’m an odd creature. I’m not supposed to be singing the things that I sing. To be singing about owning your sexuality is not what I should be singing about in Colombia. Your songs as a woman should be, "I cannot breathe, because you didn’t call me back." That is something that is beautiful! The love and loyalty of a good woman! No, there’s too much of that. That’s not for me.
Lido Pimienta will present a $50,000 cheque to the winner of this year’s Polaris Music Prize at the Carlu, in Toronto, on Sept. 17.