After years of writing music for up and coming artists, Diyet van Lieshout is finally singing her own music.
Van Lieshout used to compose music for Canadian Idol singers and pitch songs to pop princesses like Mandy Moore.
But the classically trained musician was pining to make her own music instead.
Five years ago, Lieshout moved from Vancouver, where she worked for a music publishing house, back to Burwash Landing.
“I had an overwhelming need to go home,” she said.
“If you’ve been raised in the bush it becomes a big part of who you are.”
Living in Burwash eventually became a source of inspiration for van Lieshout, who says she never would have written her most recent album, The Breaking Point, had she not been living there.
The 32-year-old singer has been playing music for the past 15 years.
Her grandmother was an opera singer and van Lieshout discovered at a young age that music was in her blood.
“I was a pretty shy kid and one day my friends and I were playing around and singing some songs and all of a sudden I opened my mouth and this really big voice came out,” she said.
“It totally shocked me, I didn’t realize that was in there.”
But not until van Lieshout moved to Vancouver for high school did she begin to train musically.
She went on to the University of Victoria where she studied classical music and opera. However, she soon realized she “wasn’t disciplined enough” for either style of music, she said.
Her focus turned to more contemporary styles, like R&B, pop and roots – all elements van Lieshout has woven into her latest album.
After university, she was hired by a music publishing company that peddled music to up and coming artists in far-flung places like Japan and Switzerland.
Few of them are out in the mainstream now, but there is one singer, a “really strange Japanese pop personality” that sticks out in van Lieshout’s mind.
“We wrote a pop-punk song (for this singer), something that Avril Lavigne would sing, and it got translated to Japanese,” she said.
The song was supposed to be about bad boys.
“The recording that came out was way worse than the demo that we did – it translated into a song about a butterfly tattoo and I was thinking to myself, ‘Umm … totally different.’”
Working with artists who had no control over what they were singing and how they were presented to the world left van Lieshout uneasy.
“After seeing that, I realized my music was something I was never willing to compromise,” she said.
Van Lieshout spent 10 years working on her first album. A self-described perfectionist, van Lieshout wanted to be sure her album was just right.
When she wasn’t writing, she focused on raising her family and working for the First Nation council of Burwash Landing.
Now that van Lieshout is living in Burwash again, she can’t see herself living anywhere else.
There is no doubt life in Burwash is different than it was when van Lieshout grew up there in the ‘70s, she said.
“I was raised in a traditional lifestyle out on the land and learned the old ways from my grandparents and elders,” she said.
“I had the best childhood.”
Community residents were always supportive. But that can come with drawbacks, she added.
“The sad thing about encouraging people to follow their dreams is that people leave and they don’t often go back home,” she said.
Since she left Burwash, the community shrank to about 70 people from 100. But there’s still a strong and vibrant community, said van Lieshout.
“Some of the younger girls in Burwash want to start a dance and singing group and I’m trying to help them out with that,” she said.
Now van Lieshout is the one doing the encouraging.
Diyet performs this Saturday at the Yukon Arts Centre at 8 p.m. Her album, The Breaking Point, is on sale throughout the Yukon.
Contact Vivian Belik at