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Liona Boyd prefers her new Kia Rio to her old Lexus

Liona Boyd, Canada’s First Lady of the Guitar, with her Kia Rio.

Andrew Innerarity/The Globe and Mail

Liona Boyd

  • Profession: Classical guitarist, composer, songwriter and singer
  • Age: 63
  • Hometown: London, England
  • The car: 2012 Kia Rio

Notable achievements

  • Many of her 23 albums went Gold and Platinum
  • Her playing was featured in the 20th Century Fox film, A Walk in the Clouds, which won a Golden Globe Award for best musical score
  • Her best-selling autobiography In My Own Key – My Life in Love and Music included a chapter on her eight-year love affair with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau
  • In 2012, received Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal; awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario; holds five honorary doctorates from the University of Lethbridge, University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University, Brock University and the University of Victoria
  • Won The Vanier Award and is a five-time winner of the Guitar Player Magazine poll for best classical guitarist
  • In 2003, she was diagnosed with musician’s focal dystonia and left the stage for six years before returning to the recording studio in 2009


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  • Walks the runway March 21 in The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s The Heart Truth Fashion Show as part of Toronto Fashion Week
  • Releasing a new album this fall called The Return…to Canada with Love
  • Upcoming appearances include Calgary on April 6-7, an ALS Canada Fundraiser in Ottawa on May 11 and a Gala Fundraiser with Christopher Plummer in Toronto on May 23


She's best known as "The First Lady of the Guitar."

Five-time Juno award-winner Liona Boyd has dazzled audiences at packed concert halls as far away as Tokyo, New Delhi, Edinburgh and Havana.

Amid her hectic concert schedule, the classical guitarist, singer, and songwriter has a new CD coming out this fall. The Return…to Canada with Love pays tribute to her Canadian roots; it includes performances by icons such as Jann Arden, Serena Ryder and Randy Bachman.

Despite Boyd's success, she hasn't let fame go to her head. At home in Toronto, she doesn't own a car and prefers to take public transit; at home in Palm Beach, she drives a modest, small car: a 2012 Kia Rio.

Why did you buy a Kia Rio?

For the last 10 years, I drove a Lexus LS 430, which my former husband had given to me as a birthday present.

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It came with me to Palm Beach. Last year, I decided it was a little big for my garage because my garage is not too wide and I have two bicycles in there. And it was a gas guzzler. So I bought a little black Kia Rio.

I think it's much more ecologically responsible to have a small car because I really don't drive much. I walk everywhere.

I did check out a few other cars before settling on the Kia and decided it was perfect for the tiny amount of driving I do, which has mostly been up to Jupiter to see or stay with my girlfriend Olivia Newton-John. The mileage today reads 828 miles so I haven't even driven a thousand yet.

That Lexus had a few adventures. I moved that car so many times around the continent. … I was sad to see it go because we shared so many adventures. I bashed it a couple of times. I had it repaired. I was always very careful with it.

When I lived in Santa Monica in 2010, I had a routine. Every Sunday morning, I'd get up early and I would wash my car. You should have seen the grime that came off my car! It was always filthy around L.A. It would be black – it just shows what you're breathing.

In Florida, I have my rags and paper towels and nothing comes off! It's absolutely clean. I was shocked! It doesn't get dirty. It's a lower-maintenance car.

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It's a cute little car and I love it. My Kia has a lovely sound system, too. My new album sounds fantastic on it. I listen to it all of the time.

It's cute and small. I decided I don't need this big car. I don't need it for a status symbol. I have a house in Palm Beach instead.

It's not that I don't appreciate the aesthetics of a very beautiful car. Some friends of mine invited me to the Ferrari weekend here and it was nice, but it was noisy and I certainly wouldn't spend that amount of money on a car.

What would you spend it on?

A house. I love to travel. A new guitar, for sure.

I don't want any more jewellery. I don't want material possessions as much. Having an escape from the winter has been really delightful.

Liberace told me to "invest in yourself," not in stocks or material things like cars. Basically, I've invested my money in my music. I funded this complicated and ambitious new album, which took me two years. I paid for everything on my last 12 albums. I've paid for my own music videos. I'm not an artist who relies on government handouts. I put my money into my career.

What does a Rio say about you?

I'm cheap. Small is beautiful. I just think the Kia is very cute.

When did you learn to drive?

I didn't learn to drive a car until I was 34, which was very old to learn to drive.

I never had a need to drive. I had boyfriends, parents, or taxis who would drive me places.

In the Trudeau days, he'd send the Mounties to get me. Many times I'd be met by RCMP. I didn't need a car when I was travelling because promoters would pick me up and look after me.

When I first learned to drive a car, I was living in Vancouver and my girlfriend said 'This is ridiculous! You're 34 and you don't know how to drive a car?' So, she said, 'We're going to driving school.' We went and I couldn't stand the first hour of the driving school! … I wanted to get back to playing my guitar so I asked for my money back and walked out of the driving school. I got a private tutor and, in a week or two, I learned to drive a car.

Then I came back to Toronto and I was given a white Pontiac 6000 STE for one year by GM. It was the only car I'd known so I ended up buying it from them and my mother drove it until last year. I got it in the '80s and ended up giving it to her.

What's your best and worst driving memory?

I've driven thousands and thousands of miles all over the country. We used to drive every single summer all the way from Toronto almost non-stop down to Mexico in the late '60s. We had a Volkswagen bus originally with no air conditioning. We'd camp and sleep in the bus when we were teenagers.

Once I decided I would take a big trip from San Francisco down to L.A., I looked on the map and it's one straight highway so I couldn't get lost. I got lost about four times.

Route 1 is spectacular; it goes through Big Sur, Monterey Bay, with fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean. I was so proud when I managed to pull up to my friend's house in L.A.

That's my only big road trip on my own. With managers and agents, I've driven thousands of miles across Canada. I've driven a lot in Europe – the Amalfi coast is always my favourite. It's pretty hard to beat.

The scariest drive I had was across Alligator Alley. I stopped and some creepy-looking guys came out of a truck towards me at night, around 2 a.m. It was scary. I just sped away. My girlfriend was in another car watching me and she said you escaped with your life – those guys were coming after you!

Your Kia must stand out in Palm Beach among the high-end cars?

In Palm Beach, it's wall-to-wall luxury cars. They like to cruise them around. I guess it's a huge status symbol.

My gift to the world is my music. I'm more passionate about that than any material possession. The guitars come and go – even husbands come and go – one has already gone. But my music is the driving force of my life. I'm not attached to one particular guitar or one particular car.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

Correction: Liona Boyd's new album, The Return…to Canada with Love, does not feature Tom Cochrane. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story.

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More


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