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The Free Spirit

Jale Ferland — pronounced Jalé — has lived a myriad of different and fantastical lifetimes in her 40-ish years. After living in New York’s Lower East side (including a stint at the famous Hotel 17, previous home to a pre-fame Madonna and current home of diva Amanda Lepore) at the height of “Club Kid” culture, learning how to get done-up from Drag Queens, befriending icons like Lenny Kaye, and fronting a 90s punk band called Guttergirl that played some of NYC’s most popular barroom venues, Jale moved back to Canada with her husband in 2003.

Quick Facts

Jale Ferland

The Free Spirit

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Cherry Garcia Band

Now, Jale sings alongside her husband, or “favourite bandmate” in a Grateful Dead cover band called Cherry Garcia Band.

Jale is all smiles when she talks about her past adventures, but acts as if these kinds of stories are commonplace: it’s clear that while she is fond of her past, Jale is most enthusiastic about what’s next. It’s this future-focused spirit that has propelled her from one adventure to another with a genuinely positive, curious attitude and a lust for life.

I wasn’t born with talent bursting from my seams. Music was always in my soul, but it started as nothing more than a dream. Singing never came easy to me, and especially harmonies. I had to work really hard at it, and I took a lot of vocal lessons. I have been in a lot of different bands across genres — punk, disco, rock — and I still work hard at it and love it just as much as that little girl with big dreams.


What’s interesting is that I never “outgrew” pot. I think...it is because it's always seemed like an aid, or a friend, and never an “escape”.

I moved to New York right after graduating University, looking to make a life the way so many young performers and artists do. I had friends who were Drag Queens and they taught me everything about being a performer, and really, about being a woman. How to dress like a woman, put on makeup, do my hair. They taught me what it meant to put on a show, how to be on stage. Back then I would emcee their fashion shows and I’d get to dress up in these crazy outfits. I’ve always had such amazing friends — that has been a constant in my life. Community is the most important thing.

The dream was to be a lead singer and a songwriter. Being in music at that time was tough. Most of the time I had no money and nowhere to live. When I first got to New York I had nothing lined up and the cabbie that picked me up from the train station dropped me off at Hotel 17, so that was my first taste of it all. I couldn’t stay there forever because it was too expensive. I had sold my car so I got by for a while and when that money was gone, it was a lot of staying on friends’ couches! I remember one time I had a show at the Tunnel and for some reason it was just me, no band. So I get up on stage and do my thing and when I’m done I notice all my stuff had been stolen, all my belongings. Stories like that in New York in the 90s are a dime a dozen, but it made me develop a thick skin!

At that time I think I had a lot of pent up feelings so the stuff that I was writing was punk. I started a band called Guttergirl. And it was fabulous. It helped me get out all the angst I was feeling and we had a great time. We had some success, too. But you know, making it in music is like winning the lottery. It’s rare and it isn’t always the jackpot. I’m so lucky that I’m still making music with beautiful people. I always seem to find my way back to it.

After all the performing I’ve done, I still suffer from stagefright. Before a show I get those butterflies in my stomach. But I really like how weed makes me feel while I’m performing. I’m less aware of all my insecurities and I am able to stay in the moment, and not worry about a wrong note or two. I can see the bigger picture, connect with the band and the audience. It’s about having a good time.

Music and weed have always gone together for me. And I think there is something about music that brings like-minded people together, you know? That’s the same for cannabis. You meet someone at a show and they offer you a toke and you’re fast friends. You have a mutual understanding of what makes up the “good stuff” in life. I think it’s possible to be happy, and to find your place, in a free but grounded way. In every phase of my life, that’s what being high has felt like for me. It’s about relishing in the fun, light, happy moments, and feeling good about where and who I am. It’s about reaching up and out of yourself, opening your eyes to the beauty all around you, and riding the wave.

I like to be around people and to be part of the fun. I’ve never been a drinker — it doesn’t agree with me, it makes me sick. I much prefer the way I feel when I’m high, and it’s a ritual I associate with sharing a laugh or enjoying music, or food, or life’s good moments.

As you may guess from some of these stories about my past, I’ve done my share of partying. And I haven’t touched any of the hard stuff for a long time now. What’s interesting is that I never “outgrew” pot. I think the reason why I didn’t outgrow it is because it’s always seemed like an aid, or a friend, and never an “escape” from my life the way drugs are often used. Cannabis has helped me manage my life, through so many chapters. It has been a huge help to my emotional well-being and my physical health.

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Jale shares her ingredients to perfectly enjoy any summer festival or outdoor concert. Put these tips to use on Saturday night when Cherry Garcia Band plays at the Toronto Island Marina.
1

Make sure to hydrate — and please, don’t wear a onesie. No one wants to have to get completely undressed in a portable toilet.

2

Go early to see the opening acts or wander over to side stages. You’ll discover your new favourite band before they blow up. I’ve fallen in love with bands I’ve never heard before and those special concert moments have stayed with me for decades.

3

Be kind and share with those around you. The peace, love and communal vibe is what I dig most about going to see shows, and this is especially true of the Grateful Dead (and related) shows I’ve been to. I’m always amazed at the kindness and generosity I experience with strangers. If only everyone could act in everyday life like they were stoned, happy, and calm like they were at a hippie festival — the world would be a much better place to be!

4

Learn more about Cherry Garcia Band and their upcoming shows.