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Love comes, goes on Tanika Charles' Soul Run

What: Tanika Charles When: Tuesday, 9 p.m. (doors at 8) Where: Copper Owl, 1900 Douglas St. Tickets: $12 at eventbrite.ca and Lyle’s Place, 770 Yates St.
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Toronto-based Tanika Charles takes her uplifting blend of classic soul and funk on tour in support of her second album.

What: Tanika Charles
When: Tuesday, 9 p.m. (doors at 8)
Where: Copper Owl, 1900 Douglas St.
Tickets: $12 at eventbrite.ca and Lyle’s Place, 770 Yates St.
 

In the years following What! What? What!?, her 2010 EP, soul singer Tanika Charles wanted to quit playing music several times. Charles had written only a portion of her story to that point, however. And that would simply not do.

Soul Run finishes the job, laying bare her truest statement as an artist. “I had to adjust,” Charles said of the tough topics on Soul Run, which arrived last week.

“There was always writing, in my head or on little pieces of paper. It took a long time for the music to come out, but I feel like the timing was right.”

Writing about love both lost and found makes for an emotional journey. Charles, who was raised in Edmonton, spent time in Vancouver and now lives in Toronto, said the songs on Soul Run are part of a story arc that dates back to 2007. The singer, who was engaged at the time, left her fiancé — and their unhealthy relationship — in the dark of night, in a truck that only made it a short distance. She eventually made her way to B.C., where she lived for several years. “I left there, too,” she said with a laugh, “because of a boy. Again.”

Charles returned to Alberta for a brief period, before moving permanently to Toronto, where she performed under the pseudonym Ms. Chawlz. The details of her Alberta exit she prefers to keep largely private. The material on Soul Run is all anyone needs to know about her past, Charles said.

“I’m a little bit shy talking about it. When I’m singing about it, it’s like I make it a little bit of a joke. But it is heavy. I veer away from really explaining what went down, but I’m a survivor.”

The process of writing Soul Run was a healing one, although at various points Charles was unsure what form her songs would take. At times, she wasn’t even sure they would come to light. “We had been working on this album for so long and it had been so frustrating, I started to wonder if this was the path I was supposed to be on,” she said.

Her tour to support Soul Run began May 11 in Hamilton, the day after the album’s release. Charles and her band will appear Tuesday at the Copper Owl in Victoria before the tour comes to a close Wednesday in Vancouver.

She enjoys bringing her music to the masses, having never done a tour of this magnitude. For Charles, the best part of playing her music live is meeting her audience afterward. Those emotional exchanges with fans tell her she did the right thing by not only leaving her Edmonton relationship, but writing about it.

She’s a living, breathing example of how life can change in an instant.

“I know that I write about love and heartbreak and heartache all the time, because I’m engulfed in that all the time — being engaged, and leaving that person, and then meeting other people in between, and then finally meeting somebody that’s good for me.”

Charles has not forgotten the person she once was. But through her music — an uplifting blend of classic soul and funk — she has learned that lives are made of chapters. And the one she is writing at the moment is a page-turner.

“I was really not very healthy, mentally or spiritually. I had no idea who I was. I had completely lost myself. Soul Run is an evolution. It’s rediscovering who I am, and it’s learning that I don’t need to be dependent on anybody. It’s about loving myself, and being OK with that.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com