(These were a gift from the lovely and talented songstress, Rosemary Phelan! I love ‘em.)
(These were a gift from the lovely and talented songstress, Rosemary Phelan! I love ‘em.)
Roses are drying / Violets are pressed / I’m taking you out for pizza / I think you’re overdressed.
Roses are red / Violets are blue / I love you like a library book / that’s three weeks over due.
Roses are red / Violets are shrinking / When I asked you out / What ever was I thinking?
Reddest are thine roses / the violets, a most brilliant hue / do you want to read my poetry? / PLEASE say that you do…
Roses are red / Violets are blue / I have a crush on your friend / but I’ll settle for you.
Roses are red / The flu isn’t fair / If you barf in my bathroom / I’ll hold back your hair.
Roses are grumpy / Violets are a grouch / Quit hogging the bed / Or go sleep on the couch!
Hope you’re having a fine day full of love!
Some snapshots from recent recording sessions for the new album! Photo credits go out to Evalyn Parry, who took all but one of the photos in the first five rows above, as well as some of the other ones throughout the gallery; and Mike Bourgeault, who added the choir shot! Click on any of the thumbnails below to pop open a carousel viewing gallery.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
You’ll meet the band: Brian Kobayakawa (bass), Champagne James Robertson (electric guitar and banjitar ~ which is as it sounds: combination banjo and guitar) and Gary Craig (drums). Special guests Kerri Ough (backup vocals) and Bryden Baird (flugel horn). The lovely Don Kerr helming the console (producer / engineer, as well as handclaps, percussion and some backup vocals) and of course yours truly (singin’). Aren’t we a fabulous crew?
Hoping these photos capture for you the DYI / creative vibe of the studio. You’ll see Don putting the finishing touches on the isolation booth made from velvet curtains and old doors screwed into to the plywood ceiling and stuffed with sound foam around the cracks. The clutter box makes an appearance as do the superstar shades and the oddly named Yackie Ball.
The Echoplex and eight-track player may or may not show up in a final mix of the album, but I add them here for posterity since Don and I spent an afternoon one day noodling with acoustic sounds in an effort to come up with a loop for one of the tunes.
Oh, and David Hasselhoff pops by for a visit as well.
If you’d like to find out more about the project, including how to get involved as a backer of the album (pre-orders and more!), please visit:
JUSTINA SMITH: ARTWORKI met visual artist Justina Smith at Robson Valley Music Festival two summers ago. She was sitting in the outdoor dining area ~ beside her on the table, a book brimming with notes and sketches and other fascinating bits of paper. We hung out together over lunch, and I discovered she’s a very cool cat. Since then we’ve kept in touch, and I’ve been following her work through her website: www.justlittleart.com.
When it came time to decide on artwork for my new album, I knew I wanted to commission an artist to create original paintings for the cover and insert. Justina immediately sprung to mind. I asked her, and she said yes… hurray! We are figuring out the design now, so it will be a month or two before I have a sneak preview to share with you. Meanwhile I thought it would be fun to introduce you to Justina Smith and some of the other folks who are the creative sparks behind the new album, More Than A Hero.
This past week, Justina and I had a virtual sit down over email to talk about her work. Justina Smith lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
K: You often paint animals wearing quirky expressions and / or human clothing. These are some of my favourites in your web gallery, and they first attracted me to your work. Where did the idea for those portraits come from? Is there a concept/meaning you are setting out to express with them?
K: How does a painting start? What sets off the spark of an idea?J: There are fewer things that DON’T spark ideas, but my inspiration comes from all over. Paintings I see in galleries, lyrics from songs, silly things I think of while on a dog walk, conversations with friends, or random people talking to me about my work and saying things like: “hey….have you ever thought of painting…….?” I have a book of ideas (the Great Book of Art I call it. I’m currently working on the 2nd edition) where I sketch things out, keep color swatches and palette samples and I also have an idea wall in my studio. It’s quite literally a wall that is slowly being covered by bits of paper with tiny sketches and notes on them. Most of the paper is bits of scrap from the chit printer at the cafe I work at. I tend to jot down an idea that comes to me while I’m working and then hang the little paper on the wall when I get home, so I can paint it later.
K: What’s the most unusual painting you’ve been commissioned for?
J: The most unusual commission to date? I guess it would have to be a painting I did of a dude’s old Chevy truck and vintage motorcycle. They both had the same off white/teal paint job, and he commissioned me to paint a picture of them on the same canvas. It got me interested in painting pictures with older vehicles in them…..so it’s not so strange now, I guess.
K: How about the coolest location you’ve found yourself painting?
J: I painted at my sister-in-laws wedding this past summer. Just in my watercolor travel sketchbook. But it was very cool capturing the moments of the ceremony as they happened. The finished sketches turned out awesome, and she loved them too.
K: If you could do a portrait session of your biggest hero (living or dead), who would it be?J: My biggest hero? Goodness! Creatively, I guess Emily Carr. I love how she painted how she wanted to paint….despite the lack of enthusiasm for her work in her hometown of Victoria. I admire how she would camp out in the BC coastal wilderness alone with her animals so she could paint and sketch and be immersed in the things she loved most…. the quiet and the trees…. the largeness of the West Coast. I love her writing and her painting. She was a double edged sword, that one!
K: We met two summers ago at Robson Valley Music Festival in Dunster, British Columbia; Doug Koyama pointed us out to each other, saying we looked like twins. Hahaha! It seems from reading your blog that you are often adventuring around from festival to festival with your sketch pad. Does that mean you a music fan? Would you say you feel camaraderie more towards musicians or other painters? How do you see music and painting linked together?
J: I have just started going to music festivals in the last 3 years. So far I have brought my sketchbook to the RVMF and the Edmonton Folk Festival. Like any trip I take my sketchbook on….it helps me capture the moments of the trip in a very tangible way for me. I see things better when I’m focused on drawing them. I always listen to music when I’m working in the studio. I either have my itunes up, or am listening to CBC radio 2 or CKUA. I have quite a few friends that are artists or musicians or both. I love hanging around creative people and environments of all types. Creativity begets MORE creativity….and for me, inspiration for painting comes from seeing and listening. For me, painting and music are firmly linked. For some of my other creative friends….even more so as they paint AND play instruments.
K: Sooooo… what’s your favourite colour? :)
J: My favorite color changes all the time. Right now, my favourite paint color is naples yellow. It’s a color that mimics low sunlight at this time of year. It’s beautiful. My favourite color to wear, is green. My favourite shoe color is red and my favourite dog colors are rust and black. (Rust for my golden retriever, Gershwin…and black for my border collie mix, Luke)
K: Sweet or savoury… which one and why?
J: Sweet AND savoury! Rose lemonade! Lime and rosemary macaroons! Pumpkin ale. Maple & bacon….in anything! Why choose? There are so many tasty options that involve BOTH!
K: Oh yah, you’re totally right! Yum! Okay, one more question…
K: If you had one super hero power, what would it be and why?J: Superhero power…..hmm…..the power to freeze time. Sometimes cool things happen to fast for me to draw them, or inconveniently I’m driving and seeing something cool whizzing by….and it’s happening too fast for me to capture it on paper properly.
K: That would be awesome! :) Thanks so much for sharing your time and thoughts in this interview, Justina. I’m excited about the new paintings!
Check out more of Justina Smith on her website: www.justlittleart.com
This is the first interview in a series introducing you to the amazingly talented people behind my new album, More Than A Hero. Support the making of the new record… CLICK HERE to find out how you can Jump In ~ Be A Backer! xo Karyn
Sometimes the astrologers DO get it right.
I am currently at the Vancouver airport on a three-hour stop over en route to Toronto. Sitting outside the terminal, on this brilliantly sunny day flipping through The Province reading the comics, doing the sudoku puzzle, checking out my horoscope…
Friday we start rehearsals, and Monday I go into the studio to spend the next couple of weeks finishing up the tracking for the new album!!!!! There is a dreamlike quality to entering the recording process. After months of writing and prep work and requisite administrative to-do lists, I ought to pinch myself that in less than a week from now, I will be standing in front of a microphone articulating my emotional reaction to the new creations.
And even though I am severely underslept… a bi-product of my loathe-to-pack that kept me up until 3:30am last night… Yes, I AM feeling alive! And, yes! I’m loving the experience!! I should head back to that newspaper and get caught up on politics, on religion. Or maybe I’ll just read my book, The Piano Man’s Daughter by Timothy Findley, and enjoy the foreign country he has created inside the written word.
Yes, folks. That’s right! The latest addition to my Homemade Music Video Project (number four) is up on my youtube channel.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall earlier this spring I invited fans ‘n friends to send in video footage inspired by my tune, Shooting Star. In fact, you may be one of the people who sent stuff in. Hurray! Over twenty people were involved in creating the shiny, awesome footage you see in the finished video, which I edited together to become the latest addition to the Homemade Music Video Project.
There are horses, dancing, shooting stars, cowhands, cowbells… even a cardboard trombone! Enjoy! I for one felt many moments of teary glee throughout the editing process. Huge thanks goes out to the following shooting stars: Tania A, Laurie, Washboard Hank, Diane, Oscar, Bella, Talya, Joanna, Gautam, Guido T, Conny, David, Leslie, Tania S, Shannon, Andy, Kat, Jay, Ken, Guido O and Sonia!
And now, I present: Shooting Star: Homemade Music Video Project #4
Here are a couple of earlier blog posts about the making of Shooting Star:
You can also read more about the Homemade Music Video Project here.
And why not Subscribe to my Youtube channel while you’re at it!
Q: Haven’t heard from you in a while. What are you up to?
A: Back in BC after an amazing Ontario tour and a few days at the Rooster recording studio working with Don Kerr on the new album.
Now I’m here on day two of the Artswells Music Festival in Wells BC. The town is bustling alive with people, and music spilling out from buildings and people sitting on various patches of grass. I’ve removed myself from main street to chill out for awhile before meeting up to play some percussion and do some singing on Dave Newberry’s set at 8pm at the Tempest Church just up the street. I played at that venue this morning; the acoustics were amazing. It is gonna be fun to sing a little “Rock Bottom” and bang on the tambourine tonight.
Yesterday marked the ending of an amazing four day songwriting workshop, which was also held here in Wells. Dave Bidini and his band (Don, Paul & Kevin) were our trusty and brilliant facilitors/teachers. 18 writers + Dave and co. spent 7 hours a day in a room hanging out with a bunch of freshly written songs… teasing them apart, getting at the meat of the tunes. (Thus the need for the chill out this afternoon.) I am *deeply* inspired to challenge myself to craft better songs whenever/wherever I can. During the songwriting course I finished a new tune called “More Than A Hero”. Rock ‘n Roll! And definite album material. I have already had the opportunity to try it out live twice in front of Artswells audiences, and the song seems to be well received.
“If Harrison Ford had been on board
On the day you threw your keys out the window.
And if Johnny Cash had hid your stash
Would you have needed to make a crash landing.
Or would you still be flying?
I think it’s gonna take… more than a hero
I think it’s gonna take… more than a hero
I think it’s gonna take… more than a hero
I think it’s gonna take… more than a hero
to save you from yourself”
I also started writing a murder ballad (of all things!) this week about the daughter character “Lavinia” in Shakespeare’s play “Titus Andronicus” (Shakespeare’s most maligned play, and a terrible tragedy. Not sure I even dare read it. So I’ve been Cole’s Notes-ing it on the internet.) The tune is spooky, and I love it. I’m thinking I need to finish it because it would be a fine addition to the new record.
Q: Yo Ellis, are you ever going to finish that Shooting Star video any time soon?
A: Yes! Next week I finally have a breather from touring and recording and festivaling. First thing I’m going to do is sit down and edit that sweet little babe. Till then, it’s All things Artswells! See yah. xo k.
My heart leapt a little (okay… a LOT!) when I saw this cymbal playing monkey on the cash register at Taloola’s Cafe in Windsor Ontario. With the exception of a tap-dancing miniature pony, could this be any better a fit with Shooting Star?
Brian took this short video before our show last Friday night. For the rest of the tour every time one of us smiled or cracked a giggle, the other would turn and ask “Monkey?”. You can bet that was the reason why… resulting in several shuddering, guffaw meltdowns. (Speaking of meltdown: did I mention we were touring around Ontario in a non-AC Honda Civic during this huge heatwave?! Yes folks, some looooopiness occurred.)
I seriously contemplated going back the next day and offering the cafe $100 if I could please PLEASE keep this monkey! (Taloola folks, if you’re reading this… well, um… just saying!! ;-) )
PS, Monkey was fine in the end. Had a dislocated shoulder that, I was told, happens from time to time.
Yesterday the last DVD arrived with footage on it for the Shooting Star video. Okay, I can tell you right now this is will be AWESOME FUN editing together the stuff that came in. The creativity and sense of wacky is GORGEOUS! Since it is probably going to be a few of weeks before I have a chance to finish the video, let me share with you readers some snap and screen shots from the submissions. A little taste of why I am so excited about this project! :)
Starting with… David F. from Thorold and his crew from Lake St.Peter (Ontario), who were the very first folks to send in footage.
Not only that, but I found this familiar face included in the files David sent me. Washboard Hank heard about my project through David I presume? – here he is… wearing full bells ‘n whistles!
Next came footage from Guido T. & Conny S. This may have been the furthest footage traveled to get here – all the way from Dusseldorf, Germany! (Later, you’ll see a submission from Solingen, Germany too. I’ll have to double check the distance in google maps.) Here is an example of horse power not only under the hood, but behind the wheel too.
A few days later, I received a memory stick full of footage from Toronto. Tania, Diane, Oscar, Shannon, Bella and Ken scripted several colourful scenes… an entire song’s worth… filmed them in a park in their “one-horse-town”. The memory stick included on-the-set photos too. Here are a bunch, starting with some shots of fabulous artwork by Oscar.
Here is the whole gang (minus Tania, who is behind the camera.)
Some close ups of the feature actors:
Then I received this lovely postcard in the (e)mail, It’s from Guido O in Solingen, Germany…
Next, Kat Leonard sent me some fabulous footage of her dancing around the stage one afternoon (By the way, Kat & I were co-participants in the blogging challenge I did this winter!). Here are a couple of screenshots:
Then Tania A. sent me some cool abstract footage of stars being lit up by a spot light and also a short clip of a pinwheel spinning. Here are some still captures of the shining stars:
A few days ago I received the penultimate submission from Laurie in Lilloet. That’s right folks, we’re home on the ranging with a bonafide cowgal and horse. [And yippee-yi-yeee, I used penultimate (meaning: second-to-last) in a sentence!]
Yesterday I received the last submission. A delightful scene in which Jay F. dances around in his hallway. He also included this still photo on the DVD:
UPDATE: July 2012
Luckily for me, I’m a dawdler. I still hadn’t edited the video by the time I started my tour of southern Ontario this summer, so I was able to receive one last submission. After a fine and fun House Concert in London Ontario, I was talking with my host – Joanna – about the video project. She showed me the amazing, sparkly footage of her daughter, Talya, dancing with an aunt at a wedding. I asked if I could include it in the Shooting Star video, and she said yes! :-)
And there you have it! Horses, dancing, shooting stars cows and cowbells. Sheer awesomeness. Thanks again, I am so thrilled with what was sent in! And I can’t WAIT to see how it looks once everything is edited together.
So give me a few weeks here… I am thinking of editing the video while I’m on the train traveling across Canada in early June. [Aside: Once again I am taking part in VIA's OnBoard Musician Program playing music on board in exchange for passage. Pretty sweet deal! When I'm not playing shows, eating or staring out the window at the prairies, I'll let the rhythm of the wheels on the track evoke the gait of a horse. Hopefully inspiring some good creative editing.]
Okay. Give me a few weeks to post then. Till then… Wishin’ you far! :)
Random Thoughts Buzzing Around My Head Right Now
A bit of downtime happening here in my personal blogosphere. Maybe it is a much needed rest after the mara-blog-athon of this winter’s blogging challenge, where I lived and breathed this place. Although I am definitely proud to be crowned winner of the Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge, turns out a girl needed a breather come spring.
Maybe it is the lulling effect of this gorgeous, warm weather we are having this May. Right now I can hear the chirp of birds echoing through the forest behind my house. (I can also hear the buzzing of mosquitoes waking up from their winter slumber. Less chirpy, that sound. *sigh*) But other than the bugs, wow… it has been stellar these past few days.
On the other hand, it could be the result of all the non-blog writing I’ve been doing lately. I seem to be existing in a vortex of deadlines for grant proposals, cold call emails and other administrative blah blahs. Ugh. In fact ~ ladies & gentlemen ~ right now I should be finishing up another proposal that is due this Friday – I am hoping for travel funds to return to Europe this fall. (Fingers-crossed please!) But, alas. I am not writing that. I am writing this.
I know there are plenty of words out there / in my brain, but sometimes sitting in front of my laptop type-type-typing depletes me. Ever have that sensation? It is a weird, hollow feeling, and I simply cannot string two words together. Marshall McLuhen’s Medium is the Message. Maybe staring into a lightbulb (aka my computer screen) for hours is turning my brain to mush. A moth drawn to flame… zaaaap! (How meta… writing about how I’m having trouble writing!) What I really need to do is to stand up, step out into the yard and rub my feet into the freshly mowed grass. Reading a book and/or listening to music helps too.
Speaking of reading, I have been sitting outside on the front deck of my house catching up on my friend’s blog about her coast-to-coast bike trip across Canada. A gift to herself on her 40th birthday, she started out in Ucuelet BC two weeks and a half weeks ago and as of yesterday she had reached in Castlegar BC. Lucky for us, she has been diligently (and hilariously, in an understated sort of way) documenting her travels. I am inspired by the hugeness of her adventures! If you like bicycles and courageous women, you can follow Kate’s journey too by visiting her blog here: katebikes.wordpress.com.
My bike’s still in Toronto, so I will only be hopping on the ol’ hobby horse figuratively today. Instead I will tear off my socks and go for that toe-hugging coolness of the grass that I mentioned earlier. Clear my brain. Get this darn proposal written…
PS, if you yourself need a little dose of chirping birds chirping, here is a lovely 9 1/2 min. video I found on Youtube through a random search. I didn’t upload this, but it sounds close to what I’m actually hearing (a little more rambunctious, perhaps.) I thought I’d share it with you to give an idea of what my day as been like so far and so that you can have a breather too!
There is a herd of about 20 caribou that at certain times of the year live in the woods along a very narrow strip on the Barkerville Highway. This is near Wells in British Columbia.
I am told the caribou feast on lichen – that they are delicate nibblers of the wispy tendrils hanging off the evergreens. Every once in awhile you catch ghosts of them whispering through the trees.
But yesterday… there they were. Four bucksome caribou hanging out in the middle of the road. Licking salt, I presume.
Not playing music or writing songs, not emailing or being social online. Just licking salt.
I WON the blogging challenge! Sweet! And prizes too! Read all about it here: http://musicsuccessinnineweeks.com/blogger-challenge.
(Not sure what I’m talking about? Click on WRITING > MSi9W3 in the navigation bar. It’ll take you to a week-by-week blog about the challenge.)
Ever had one of those days when you just don’t know what to say…?
Busy these past few days sending out emails, booking a tour in Ontario in June/July and sending out early feelers for another European tour at the end of the year. Got me thinking about one of the very first times I went out on the road… the thrill, the glamour of setting out on day one.
Found this 60-second clip from a tour that Ann Vriend and I did in 2005… 2006…? We are on our way to Sudbury!! Um… after the bank, after Long and McQuade… and after fanfare from friends and friendly arm waves from the guy on the roof!
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MAY 15th!
You still got time to show us yer cowboy!!!
Speaking of videos…. you may recall the idea for my Homemade Music Video Project is that I want to make videos for every song I’ve ever recorded / will record! (As many as I can, anyways!!) I’ve finished three, and now I’m thinking about what to do next…
Grab your video cam / camera phone / iPhone or whatever way you have of creating moving pictures… and I want you to film yourself singing along with my tune “Shooting Star”. You can be as simple or as extravagant as you like! Costumes are great! Miniature ponies… well, you know how I feel about those. YES!
Then send your footage to me by May 1st! Once I’ve collected enough material, I will edit it together to make the coolest video ever!!!
You can either send the footage to me via dropbox by sending me an email to email@example.com. Or, you can stick the files on a DVD and mail it to:
4025 Barkerville Highway
Quesnel BC V2J 6T8
(Let me know by email if you’re sending it to me this way so that I know to look for it!)
A Couple of Tips:
Click here for lyrics and a downloadable version of the song (feel free to set the price to 0.00 for a complimentary download.)
The more footage the merrier, so please share this call with your friends. Don’t feel like you have to send in tons of footage… even five seconds would be great! But please try to limit your submission to five minutes (one, maybe two passes of the song). It’s just me editing this stuff, and I want to have enough time to watch and pick from everyone’s submissions.
Oh my goodness. Typing this out, I’m getting more and more excited by the idea. My dear friends, get filming!!!! How cool is this going to be?
PS, Having never tried anything like this before I anticipate there will be some interesting technical glitches along the way. Let’s help each other out as we figure our way through. It’s going to be tremendous.
This week I found myself thinking about nostalgia. Well, not so much thinking about it as sensing it ~ it is a visceral feeling like I am repeatedly stepping into a second-hand shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market ~ and every time the door opens the delicate scent of incense wafts over me. Now I am stretching out on my futon in the attic bedroom of my first apartment, sun streaming in the window. Particles of dust are lighting up like twinkling snow.
With the blogging challenge now officially over, I set myself the task of filming / editing the next video in my Homemade Music Video Project (you can read more about the project here.) For number three in the series, I went back to my 2005 album Hearts Fall and picked Angels In Snow. Emblematic of my mood and the unseasonably warm late winter/early spring all across North America, I chose a song about longing, love and the end of winter – of “early spring thaw cracking”.
Unlike the rest of North America where spring is kicking in full force, forty minutes from where I live – in the sleepy town of Wells British Columbia – there is still plenty of snow. Surely this is where fairy tales are born: in a setting ideal for ice queens ~ winter gardens full of pacing tigers and white roses. The population of this town shrinks to around 100 in the winter months, blooming again to 300 in early summer when the actors come to work in the nearby historical town of Barkerville.
And like Gretyl finds the frozen garden, I reentered the song Angels In Snow… my 2012 face singing along with my 2005 voice. (Hey! Seven is one of those fairy tale numbers, non?) I remember that youthful flutter in my chest – the dizziness of falling – best approximated by falling backwards into a bank of snow. Wearing no coat, no mittens. Making snow angels and feeling the icy cold clutching at bare hands and running down my neck. Watching snow flakes adrift in air and on eyelashes in the brilliant afternoons of late winter.
With Dizzying Certitude, So It Comes
In addition to (or perhaps as a subset of) that fuzzy warm feeling, this week I have also been awash with something akin to shame. Like butterflies, but the manic kind. Internal logic runs along the lines of this:
Me 1: Ah! This will be fun. I’m going to make a video for my song, Angels In Snow…
Me 2: That old thing? Shouldn’t you be spending your time writing something new instead of rehashing old songs?
Me 1: It’s a perfectly good song!
Me 2: Why didn’t you make the video when you released it? You had your chance. That window has shut. It’s catalogue now, baby.
Me 1: Wait a minute… Youtube didn’t even exist back then. Beside, I just discovered how much I love making videos!!
Me 2: Too bad, so sad! If you didn’t write the song this morning, how can you *truly* call yourself an artist?
Me 1: What, there’s a time limit on creativity?
Me 2: Gotta be fresh, baby.
Me 1: You’re a spoil sport!
Me 2: You’re cheating!
Me 1 & Me 2: You are! You are! [point & pout]
(etc, etc and so forth)
And so comes the poignant feeling that I somehow let the opportunity pass me by and that there is no catching up with time. <== That’s where the shame slips in. Tell me, what is this strange impetus to always be making something up-to-the-minute brand new… new… NEW!?! [Cue Tom Wait’s song, “Step Right UP!”. Now there’s a man who can ride the nostalgia wave to a tee.]
It is the ebb-and-flow of these periodic bouts of being deflated. But hang on now… isn't deflation the same as exhalation? Just a part of the breath cycle. So I did it anyways. I made the video.
And here it is…
Watch: Homemade Music Video Project – #3 – Angels In Snow
(Thanks: Kate Sulis, for helping with the filming. And Judy Campbell, for letting me tromp all over her Tomato House.)
I met Andrea Ramolo when I played a show she was co-hosting in Parkdale, Toronto a couple years back (more about that series – Ladies in Waiting – in the interview below.) My first impression of her was that she was a total firestarter! Fun-loving, enthusiastic and at the same time, very focused on her music. She was heading out the next day for another dazzlingly large number of tour dates in support of her debut album, “Thank You for the Ride”.
To describe her music, I snagged this great quote from her website: “Musically, she’s been described as the antidote to too much Joni Mitchell, a tougher Dolly Parton a sexier Janis Joplin, but Andrea Ramolo has a soulful and sultry sound that’s all her own.”
K: You’ve been called a “tireless road warrior”. A quick glance at your past tour dates, and one can see you’ve pretty much been everywhere in Canada! Where did it all start? What initially inspired you to make albums and take your music on the road?
A: I became really serious about music after a pretty intense career as a dancer and actor. I was a later bloomer. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in university and I had just gotten out of a really long relationship so I picked up my dad’s old guitar, more out of therapeutic necessity… and started learning and writing my own songs. Singing and storytelling have always been a big part of my life. So the transition of becoming a songwriter happened pretty organically.
At the time, I worked at the infamous Orbit Room in Toronto owned by Alex Lifeson of Rush and really developed a close kinship with the incredible musical talents that came through there. I learned about life on the road and life off the road, while sharpening my craft and writing more of my own songs. And after another heartbreak it all sort of came together pretty quickly. I needed to record my songs… and I had a plethora of talented musicians at my fingertips, so my first recording experience was fantastic.
I released my first indie solo album in 2008 and wanted other listeners besides my friends and family to hear the tunes. I wanted to play and to travel and get more inspired. And so, I booked my first east coast tour and since that, I’ve pretty much been living out of a van for half of the year and travelling coast to coast and playing for audiences of 5 and audiences of 15,000. It’s been quite a ride.
K: Sounds like it! How many shows *do* you play a year?
A: Well I’ve released two solo albums- one in 2008 and one in 2011 – and within that time frame, I probably played around 150-200 shows a year.
I kept myself really busy. It was almost like a self-imposed boot camp. Living out of a van was not easy. I like comfy beds and showers. Most of us do. But concentrating on nothing but music for 6 months straight, morning, noon, and night and playing almost every night of the week in a different town kicked me in the butt and really helped me evolve as a writer and performer. It also gave me tons of material to write about.
I am just about to release my third album… this time with a project called Scarlett Jane with my good friend Cindy Doire. We’ve been writing and recording and getting a team around us, so I have actually been pretty stationary since the fall, which is very new for me. I have itchy feet and I don’t know what to do with myself half the time. But I’m lucky to live in such an incredible city. There’s a great scene going on in Toronto. Scarlett Jane is going to be hitting the road in May and June, then doing the Home Routes Concert Series in the prairies in the fall before we head off to Mexico and Europe for some shows.
K: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The music? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The schedule?
A: Wow. It’s everything really. The music is the impetuous for it all of course… and it’s what sort of helps mould the lifestyle or the schedule or the touring. I love being on stage with other musicians and sharing in creating something all together that moves people in one way or another. I like collaborating. And I feel more at ease on stage than I do in many social settings. I also love songwriting.
[Songwriting is] painful at times and I find myself lying in the fetal position trying to come up with the best possible way to communicate this or that… musically and lyrically. So it’s challenging and puts you in a very vulnerable place… but it’s so rewarding. I also love all the beautiful strange misfits (like myself) who flock to this sort of lifestyle. The night owls, who’d rather sing you a song than waste time talking about the weather, so to speak. Life makes more sense to me in music and in songs. And I feel like you can really get to know people intimately through their music. It’s so revealing. I guess I’ve always been a revealer… and one who is drawn to those who feel the need to reveal.
K: You and I met at Ladies in Waiting, a cool weekly music series that you, Cindy Doire, Sarah Burton, Faye Blais, and Sara Fitzpatrick created and ran in Toronto. I loved how you organized it: each show featured you and the other ladies trading off hosting duties depending on who was in town and / or away touring. And then you’d bring in special guests to play one off shows, with a focus on showcasing women musicians. That series seemed to act as both a bonding space for that community of women singer-songwriters and a homecoming for you whenever you were off the road.
A: Ladies in Waiting ran at Not My Dog for over a year every Monday night. Monday became the new Friday and as you mentioned, all of us ladies, who are dear friends and supporters of one another, brought our new tunes to showcase. What ended up happening was that we would all end up on stage with one another, singing impromptu harmonies, playing percussion, and just having an amazing time. It was a great playground for trying out new material and jamming with new musicians. And we developed quite a steady following. We’ve had so many female (and some male) guests over that year, I can’t even remember them all. Samantha Martin, Kayla Howran, Jadea Kelly, yourself of course, Trish Robb, Jenny Allen, Mel Brulee, Kristin Sweetland. Man we know so many talented beauties.
K: And speaking of creating / bonding, you mentioned earlier that you and Cindy Doire have started a new band together called Scarlett Jane. How did that project come about? What was the inspiration for the name?
A: Cindy and I have been friends for years. We fell in love with singing with one another the first time we met and over the next while, we’d write songs, guest on each other’s albums, team up for double bills, do short little tours when we had the time. We were finding that we wouldn’t see each other for months and months except when our ferries criss crossed over the Atlantic, or when we’d plan to meet in the prairies for a coffee while we were on the road driving in opposite directions.
We’ve always had many of the same musical influences and the same sort of thing cranks us. So it just made sense… and we’re really excited about the album and thrilled with the outcome. We originally called ourselves Calamity Jane to allude to the dark country/folk noir sort of vibe that the new songs took on. But we discovered that there are a few bands by that name around the globe… so we tossed and turned for months and really liked Jane but not on it’s own. We are roommates so we would lie in bed and send phone messages to each other late at night with band name ideas. It was driving us crazy. Finally… we came up with Scarlett Jane and it stuck.
K: You and Cindy are both well-known for strong abilities and leadership as solo performers. What’s it been like working together as a band? How do you deal with creative decisions? What’s your writing process like together?
A: We really work as a team and discuss any potential decision at length before jumping into something. We push each other as well… which is needed sometimes when you’re your own boss. We actually have a great thing going and communicate very openly with one another. We’re not always going to be on the same page with creative or business decisions… so we share our opinions, argue our points, and then end up coming to a consensus in the end. We have our own process and it works for us. Creatively, we’re of the mind that we write better together than apart.
And songwriting can be a very sensitive endeavour. Like with anything else, we’ll both create and share ideas and lines and melodies, etc… and eventually we put it all together and fine tune it. Our debut album ‘Stranger’ was written on a writing retreat we forced ourselves to go on in Mexico. Quite painful, I know. We had a blast. We finished the album on a retreat in a cabin in the woods in Northern Ontario and in our apartment in downtown Toronto. The songs came together really quickly because both of us had been saving tidbits of inspiration from our time apart. And it was all perfect timing. We both were mourning break ups and it’s really easy to create when you’re feeling so lost and low. It kind of just pours out of you. So it did. Lucky enough we had each other to fall apart with, so it was easier to get back up. The buffet and open bar at the resort in Mexico made it a bit easier as well.
K: Cindy Doire is another fabulously seasoned touring aficionado. You mentioned Scarlett Jane will be hitting the road soon?
A: Yes. We have about 40 dates booked across Canada commencing after our Toronto release show at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday, May 10th. We’ll be touring with a full band out west and then as a duo out east. We’re also doing the Dauphin Country Music Fest and Mariposa among Home Routes Concert Series and a few other great shows this summer.
K: You’re previewing your debut Scarlett Jane record “Stranger” on March 15th at the Dakota in Toronto. What can we look forward to with that show?
A: Unfortunately the album is not packaged yet. But we’re really excited to showcase our new tunes in a great little spot with our new touring band. We’re also shooting a simple single camera live music video that night. The show starts at 10pm and tickets are $7 at the door. We have Ryan Weber of the Weber Brothers playing piano, Justin Ruppel playing drums, and Greg Cockerill (whose band will be closing the night) playing lead guitar. All members were involved to some degree with the album recording.
K: For those of us outside of Toronto, how do we get our hands on the new album?
A: ‘Stranger’ will be available via our new web site www.scarlettjane.com, as well as on iTunes. We’re not certain about who will be physically distributing it at this point, but I’m sure there will be other ways to get your hands on it. And of course, my favourite way to sell albums is right off the stage after a live show. CD’s make a great souvenir. We’re also going to be re-releasing the album on vinyl at some point. All these exciting plans.
K: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Andrea!
Lightening round: If you could bestow a superhero nickname on Cindy, what would it be? What superhero nickname would she give you?
Well… we sort of have these pseudo names. Hers is Bindy Boychuck… I forget where it came from. Mine is Audrey Rogers because I was once introduced and brought onto the stage at a show in Vancouver as that. I’m not quite sure how that came out of Andrea Ramolo, but I guess the initials are correct.
K: And finally… which time change do you prefer: Spring Forward or Fall Back? Why?
A: I’m one for moving forward so spring forward all the way. I feel like I have so much more energy when spring is near. I feel healthier and I really enjoy being outside. Cold weather tends to keep me indoors and gives me a bit of the blues. I crave sunshine and people out on the streets. Today was a gorgeous day and the sidewalks were so colourful.
K: Lovely! Good luck with your show at the Dakota on March 15th and with the launch of your new Scarlett Jane album!
VISIT Scarlett Jane’s brand new website to hear music & find tour dates: www.scarlettjane.com