CREMONA — An independent country music performer with local ties finds that writing and singing songs provide a perfect opportunity to soothe her soul.
Gizelle de Guzman — whose formative years unfolded in the area, along the way fostering a deeply-rooted fondness for the Western lifestyle — recently released a new song inspired by her longing for home, which she considers to be Cremona.
Although originally born in 1998 in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, de Guzman relocated to Cremona at the age of about 12 in 2010, and does not recall much about her life prior to moving.
“I barely have any memories from the Philippines,” de Guzman said on Friday, April 30 during a candid phone interview.
“I’ve never really thought of home as the Philippines,” she added.
After arriving in Canada, she was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and subsequently spent several months at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“A lot of things that trigger that, are things that happened in the Philippines,” she said, surmising her early childhood memories were as a result largely blocked out of her mind.
“The reason why I really started taking music seriously, is because of the hospital. Music therapy really helped me get through everything. Music’s just a big part of my healthy coping skills.
“I really like writing music because I can get connected with my own emotions and kind of just let it all out. I tend to be closed off when it comes to my own experiences, but writing it and expressing it in art is just a lot easier.”
The whole time she spent co-writing Almost Home with Calgary-based artist Craig McIvor, de Guzman said Cremona and the nearby Rocky Mountains preoccupied her thoughts.
As the old saying goes, home is where the heart is, and her heart found a home in a corner of Canada’s rodeo country, where she made many memories she cherishes.
Having also spent plenty of time in Sundre involved in sports and singing the national anthem at junior rodeos, she graduated from Cremona School in 2016 and participated in the Take Bald to Grad campaign, raising more than $1,700 for Kids Cancer Care of Alberta.
“I graduated bald for my prom,” she said, adding her long locks were also donated to Angel Hair for Kids.
That same year, she embarked on a life-altering, cross-country adventure to pursue a post secondary education out east. Originally enrolled at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., where she was for about two years studying commerce with plans to major in accounting, de Guzman, who also speaks some French and Tagalog, ended up deciding to shift gears and signed up for a music business program through the Nova Scotia Community College. That course ended up rekindling her passion for music and helped set her on the path she’s now walking.
While her affinity for music runs deep, de Guzman remains well grounded and is also focusing her efforts on a career in automotive service and repair after completing a course through Nova Scotia Community College that paved the way for an apprenticeship that she hopes to eventually upgrade until she can earn a coveted trade certification that would enable her to work in any province.
“Once I get my Red Seal, hopefully I can go back home and work there,” she said, referring to Alberta, preferably somewhere in or close to Cremona.
Asked what she most longs for about the place her heart yearns for, de Guzman cited not only the close connection with nature and the clear view of the Rocky Mountains, but also the people she bonded with over the years as well as the rodeo culture.
Being away from home now going on some five years has left her frequently reminiscing about all of the experiences and friendships she forged growing up in the area.
That homesickness inspired her latest release, Almost Home, which is her ninth professional cut — four singles as well as a short kind of album known in the industry as an extended play, featuring four songs.
“I really try to incorporate my experience and other people’s experiences that I know of in my song writing,” she said.
“It really kind of warms my heart up when I hear people tell me they relate to what I write about. That really pushes me, motivates me, to just keep doing what I do.”
Some of her work is the result of a collaborative effort with others.
“I co-write with a lot of artists, in Canada and the US, virtually,” she said.
Although she has written herself and helped co-write more than 200 songs, they’re not officially released final cuts, she added.
Almost Home is available on any streaming platform, and the video that premiered on April 30 is available on her official YouTube account, which along with her social media pages can be found by searching her name online.
The project was sponsored and made possible courtesy of many local businesses and people, as well as grant funding through the Music Nova Scotia Investment Program.
The last time she was able to visit Cremona was prior to the pandemic in 2019, and the video essentially depicts that story.
“I’m really hoping to get back out there once COVID settles down a little,” she said. “I miss home a lot.”