Billed by her promoters as the "First Lady of the Guitar," Liona Boyd has fully lived up to that accolade and more. Since the early 1980s, she has been one of the most popular classical guitarists, male or female. She also performs music in other genres, placing several of her recordings in the crossover and pop realms.
Born in London, Boyd spent the latter half of her childhood in Toronto. She began studying guitar at age 13 with Eli Kassner in Toronto and later with Narciso Yepes, Andrés Segovia, and with her early idol, Julian Bream. Boyd performed several classical works at a Gordon Lightfoot concert to an enthusiastic reception and subsequently joined his troupe for a highly successful tour. Much concert activity in Canada and numerous appearances on Canadian television followed. From early in her career, Boyd was interested in popular as well as classical genres. Owing to the efforts of country guitarist Chet Atkins, who was impressed by her skills at a Nashville concert, she appeared on the American television program Today. Boyd appeared with Atkins and two other classical guitarists on the country/classical crossover album The First Nashville Guitar Quartet. She continued giving concerts in non-classical venues, as well as performing traditional recitals in the world's most-respected concert halls.
Throughout the latter 20th century and into the 2000s, Boyd's career continued to thrive. By 2002, she had recorded about 20 albums for some of the largest labels, including RCA, Sony, and Polygram. Even her personal life had attracted attention, not least because of her eight-year romance with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, which ended in 1983. She commented candidly on that relationship in her 1998 autobiography, In My Own Key, which presents interesting accounts of her concert and personal life. Boyd relocated to Beverly Hills in 1992 when she married John Simon, a successful California real estate developer. Her recordings include Whispers of Love (2000) and Camino Latino (2002), the former containing some of Boyd's own compositions and the latter divulging a mixture of Latin styles and employing several jazz musicians. Two new recordings were released in 2009: Liona Sings Songs of Love, which featured 17 duets with Croatian guitarist Srdjan Givoje; and Seven Journeys: Music for the Soul and Imagination, a collaboration with guitarist/producer Peter Bond.
Released on her own Moston Records label since 1995, Boyd's recordings have increasingly fallen into crossover, pop, easy listening, and new age genres. The penultimate category included the 2015 release Relaxing Guitar for Insomnia, Dreaming & Romance. She has continued to record classical repertory as well, such as on the 1999 album Baroque Favorites. Her change in style and move to vocal music was precipitated partly by a diagnosis of the muscle ailment focal dystonia. Boyd's 2017 album, No Remedy for Love, accompanied a book of the same title, her second memoir.