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Victoria Canal is having a summer like no other. She’s just finished touring with Hozier and is already preparing to come back to the UK and Europe for her first headline tour. After closing with a show at Alexandra Palace a couple of weeks ago, she’s finally got the chance to absorb the feeling of overwhelming support from Hozier’s fans. “They’re just incredibly gay, which is amazing,” she laughs. “I’d get on stage every night and be like, ‘I’m gay too! Hi!’ Then they’d be like, ‘Oh my god!’ and we’d all have a great time.”

Canal’s fourth EP, Well Well, represents her at her most vulnerable and her most brave. With folk-inspired instrumentation behind a delicate voice, her newest single ‘Company’ radiates warmth and sets a high bar for the project. The collection of songs represents a thematic expansion for Canal, delving into the topics of body dysmorphia and queerness she was once hesitant to discuss. 

The 25-year-old was born without her right forearm, due to amniotic band syndrome. However, Canal refuses to be defined by her disability. “It’s very degrading and reduces me to one thing,” she asserts. “My limb difference is the least interesting thing about me.” Indeed, there’s much more to admire about her than any individual label does justice: a classically trained pianist, an adamant genre-defier and a masterfully confessional wordsmith. Responding to the attempts of others to box her in, she’s taking control of her own story.

Before the release of Well Well and her upcoming tour, we chatted virtually with Canal about her musical influences, queer joy and seizing agency over her own story. 

Hey Victoria! How are you? You’ve had a busy couple of months, with Hozier and Jools Holland.

I’m doing great, thanks! I just got home from a rehearsal, so I’m feeling good. It’s been incredibly busy, somewhat anxiety-inducing but overall very positive. Supporting Hozier has been an incredible experience. I’ve never seen such a solid translation with someone else’s crowd becoming engaged with my music and being excited online and in touch with me. I love Hozier’s fans, they’re the best.

Well Well, your fourth EP, is out next week, congrats! How are you feeling about it?

Definitely nervous, definitely excited. It feels like there are a lot of new people listening to my music from the Hozier tour and really embracing what I’m doing now. I’m really unfiltered in many ways on this project, talking about my sexuality, body image, depression, and my relationship with my mum. It’s very revealing and highly nerve-wracking, but very exciting because I really think that people get it. I feel very comforted by the fact that the people following me have been really encouraging and sending me messages saying ‘Keep doing it because I love this and I need this.’ 

You just released ‘Company’, a wholesome love song for the gays. Why did it feel important for you to have specifically a song about queer joy?

I’m pretty wholesome by default, but I don’t write a lot of love songs, per se. ‘Company’ is about that grey area that a lot of us gays experience: ‘We’re best friends, but we also could maybe be life partners, and we could definitely get married, but we’re just hanging out and it’s beautiful – we don’t have to label it, we just love each other’s company and that’s enough.’ There’s something really wholesome to living in that space. I feel really grateful for my friends and I like being mildly in love with them. I hadn’t really heard a song like that specifically.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?

I’ve wanted to since I was a toddler. My grandma was a piano teacher and she led the choir at her church. I saw the effect that music had and I felt the effect from such an early age. I took pretty quickly to the piano and singing, and have just always done it. I’ve always loved it. As soon as I found out that you could write songs and do it for a living, it’s been the only plan ever. It’s 120% of who I am. I don’t think about anything else. I don’t really do anything else.

Who have been your biggest musical influences?

Joni Mitchell is someone that always touched upon these human experiences in a way that I never heard anybody else do, like ‘Both Sides Now’. That’s probably my favourite song ever written – it’s so broad but so specific as well. Early on, I was really inspired by all kinds of music. I loved Queen, how much I was taken on a journey, and how they were unafraid to be highly musical. I was inspired by John Mayer and Jason Mraz, who spoke to an isolated experience with a twinge of hope. I also really loved Bon Iver growing up because he was unafraid to be slow and emotional, without trying to be entertaining. For a long time, musically, I was so afraid that I wasn’t entertaining enough. When I stopped worrying about that, and focused on what felt true to me and what I liked to listen to, things just clicked in my career much more quickly.

You’ve said in the past that you wouldn’t like your music to be defined by a single thing. The new EP is revealing in such an all-encompassing way, like it’s the culmination of all sections of your identity…

It’s a lot about reclaiming the things that people define me as. Owning who I am on my terms, rather than other people putting words in my mouth. For example, people have asked me a lot about my disability in interviews or for headlines. ‘Chris Martin sings with one-handed pianist’, or whatever. It’s very degrading and reduces me to one thing. My limb difference is the least interesting thing about me, as is my queerness. The most interesting thing about me is the culmination of all these things that make me uniquely me. That’s what I’m embracing in the music. I get to talk about my disability, I get to talk about my queerness, I get to talk about my experience in my body. It’s coming from me. That sets the tone. Imagine if you have a little brother and you’re making fun of him and I try to make fun of him, and you’re like, ‘Hey, that’s my brother, I can make fun of him but you can’t.’ That’s the metaphor for the project.

Do you still feel like you’re being limited, or boxed in, by these labels?

People have been so incredibly focused on my limb difference that the queer thing has gone under wraps. It actually took me coming out with a song that’s like, ‘I’m queer! This is queer! This is a queer song!’ for people to take any interest in that side of me, which I would like to talk about more. It’s something that I’m so much more comfortable with than I was a couple of years ago and it’s what connects me to a lot of the people that listen to my music. It’s an important part of who I am, I love being gay. I wouldn’t mind being labelled a queer artist more often than a limb different artist! Fuck it, you know!

How do you feel about your music being put under a certain genre label?

People have tried to put me in a genre that I don’t agree with, like indie pop. I don’t know if that’s what I am. I think that might be the wrong label. In a sense, they’re there to help people understand each other, so I appreciate the effort. I think people are just trying to help me get out there, so I don’t take that for granted. However, I think there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to holistically appreciating each other as people.

Sounds like you’re working on a lot – what can we expect after this EP?

Well, there’s the tour. Definitely more exciting is a longer body of work… for example, an album next year. That’s what we’re working on. The writing process is about three quarters of the way done. It’s getting there.

Your first UK and Europe headline tour is coming up! How are you feeling about it?

I feel great, also because two or three shows are sold out. We’re aiming to maybe sell out all the shows before the tour. Knowing that it’s going to be full rooms is definitely very comforting and exciting.

‘Company’ is out now. Well Well is out Friday 18 August.