Always be a unicorn, Austin advises children

"Always be yourself or, if you can, be a unicorn."

Those words of wisdom come from singer/songwriter Helen Austin.

AWARD-WINNING SINGER/songwriter Helen Austin is seen with her 15-year old daughter Daisy Squires. Squires provides vocal harmonies and fiddling on Austin's new children's CD Always be a Unicorn.

“Always be yourself or, if you can, be a unicorn.”

Those words of wisdom come from singer/songwriter Helen Austin. Always be a Unicorn is the title of her new children’s CD.

Ironically, Austin fell in love with a photo of a knitted unicorn and

decided that had to be the cover of her new CD. Finding the image on a Facebook page was one thing, tracking down the photographer was another story. One that involved lengthy Internet searches perusing site after site to eventually find the creator of the stuffed unicorn.

But the woman only had green and pink unicorns and Austin had her heart set on a blue one. So it was off to the thrift store to find a blue sweater to send to Cozy Coleman so she could custom make a unicorn for the CD cover.

“Did I ever mention that I can be obsessive?” Austin asked.

Then, a week before the CD was mastered, Austin had to write a unicorn song so the image and CD title made sense.

Always be a Unicorn will be launched on Oct. 24 with an interview on CBC All Points West with Jo-Ann Roberts. To take advantage of a pre-release sale visit www.helenaustin.com.

The free release concert takes place at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday Oct. 27 at 10:30 a.m. with special guests, Daisy and Charlie Squires, Austin’s 15-year old daughter and 10-year old son, who also sing on the CD. This is the first inside Farmer’s Market of the season which is located at the Native Sons Hall in downtown Courtenay. CDs will be available.

Austin will also be performing at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox on Oct. 26 as part of their Volunteer Appreciation Week. Austin and her husband and daughter moved to the Comox Valley 10 years ago this month.

“We wanted to get out of London and came here for a ski trip each winter,” she explained. “On the flight back to England one year we

said, ‘We could sell our house and buy one here.’ So we did.” Charlie was born soon afterwards.

“In the Comox Valley, you have the choice of being busy or quiet,” she added.

“And it’s audibly quiet, too — London is very noisy. Plus it was a good excuse to give up the comedy club circuit. It pays very well so it was always hard to turn a gig down.”

But Austin didn’t leave her musical inclinations behind. She started the Singers Songwriting Circle, produced several CDs and performed at various Valley venues.

A couple of years ago she began writing songs for television commercials and has been very successful. She was recently named Band of the Month by the Music Scene Investigation website and is heading to Toronto this month to be part of a panel on music placement and licensing at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals.

But what she’s really pleased about is being a Grand Prize Winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition. What’s special about that is that the award is for her song “All the Letters,” which is on her upcoming children’s CD.

Austin works exclusively with pigFACTORY Publishers and they suggested a collection of songs for children. “It has been a lot of fun,” Austin said.

“And Daisy has been performing with me a lot lately — singing harmony and playing fiddle — so it was great to include her and Charlie on the CD.”

“And I’ve been going to Mark Isfeld to talk about songwriting in the Life Skills class,” she continued. “I’ve never really been interested in teaching before so was surprised to find out how much interest there was from the students. It’s been fun to play around with my music in a different way.”

Always be a Unicorn retails for $15 and will be available at Whale’s Tales, the Comox Valley Art Gallery, Seeds in Cumberland and through Austin’s website. As usual, multiple purchases of any of CDs at a concert reduces the price to $10 each.

Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section.

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