APTN held a press conference today announcing this year’s lineup for Aboriginal Day Live… which includes me! And the fantastic likes of Kashtin, Inez, Indian City and others.

I’m right chuffed.

If  you’re in Winnipeg, the day long festival and evening concert are FREE. If you’re any where else in Canada, it will be aired live on APTN.

Fun! The band and I will even be playing two new songs off the upcoming album, The Living Record.

Check out the full lineup: aboriginaldaylive.com/artists-winnipeg.

Last week, Ian Sherwood and I embarked on a week tour. “5 Days in May” we called it, though I actually only joined the bill for four, and we wove our way around beautiful British Columbia.

I was reminded of three things I love about touring:

1) Getting to hear other musicians. Ian is a fantastic songwriter and performer and I loved getting to watch and hear him four nights in a row. Here is is being marvelous at the Bluebelle Bistro in Kaslo:

2) Getting to visit beautiful places, via scenic drives (ok not always, but this tour in its well timed brevity didn’t have a grey day or bad view in it, from Vancouver to Kelowna, Silverton, Kaslo, Penticton, Ashcroft and back). Here I am in New Denver:

3) Getting to see family and friends I don’t see often enough. Here two of my beautiful cousins and I, in Kelowna:

The next tour will be in July – see you then musicians/places/friends!

xoc

 

Here we are in the middle of mixing – about two tracks a day it seems and about half way done.

Yesterday we mixed Hopeless Situation – the title of which doesn’t disguise its bittersweet story, but musically other stories are being told. I love the decidedly cheerful glow it’s developed through recording, very different than what I might have imagined when I wrote it a year ago for Brief Encounters 16.

Here is the excerpt where the beginnings of Hopeless Situation had their debut – I look forward to showing you what it’s grown in to!

Christa Couture and Heather Doerksen | Brief Encounters 16 

Oh it can tiresome, as an artist and fan of the arts, that so many opportunities are now based on a voting process. Festivals, events, awards, tours that would have previously been programmed or awarded by an artistic director, jury and/or peers are now often subject to the popularity contest model.

I’m all for showing support, but it’s not hard to see the flaws in a system that isn’t basing its selections on merit anymore. A lot of artists are just too busy touring and making music to always be online, campaigning for the latest pick-me opportunity, which ultimately, often, really only serves as advertising for the event. Some great artists do also happen to be great at rallying the vote. But some shitty artists are even better at it.

I could rant further. But you know.

THEN comes the CBC and Green Couch Productions with Tracks on Tracks, their modern day version of Festival Express, and they’re selecting artists from the West Coast how? By a voting process!

Since this one is for the CBC (<3) and involves trains for goodness sake (also <3) I am putting it forward. Yup, this by-vote opportunity gets my vote. The good thing here is that you can pick three artists, and the long list they’ve compiled, that I am grateful to be on, is a fine list indeed.

So please do vote for me, if you could, and two others that you’d like to see enjoy this musical adventure!

Visit:  http://music.cbc.ca/#/blogs/2012/4/TRACKS-ON-TRACKS-The-Ultimate-Canadian-Rock-n-Rail-Adventure—THE-LONG-LIST.

Who was I even talking to? I don’t remember (goodness my memory can recall such useless specifics and then forget the essentials), but when they asked why it is that I like the recording phase best – of all the “phases” of this work I do – even though it’s the briefest time-wise, I realized this: it’s because it’s the time when I get to work with other musicians.

I perform and work solo most of the time – heck, this here blog post is even written 100% my me alone (ha) – and there’s much about that that I like (erm, control freak? little bit) and that is practical (touring solo vs touring with a band), but there’s also much about it that can be lonely (enough with the brackets already).

“People used to make a records, as in a record of an event, the event of people making music in a room” – an Ani Difranco quote I reference often because it sums up what I like about making a record: people in a room. Musicians in a room – an altogether strange and wonderful category of people.

Part One of this story introduced the talented and generous group who built each one of my songs a home in those first four days at The Warehouse. Part Two has been unfolding in a sporadic way, as schedules and projects are juggled, and near a month passed from those initial days of construction to when Steve and I reconvened at his studio. I almost forgot I was making a record (again with the spotty memory!) but in the past couple weeks, the two of us have continued to build and decorate and decide and I can’t believe it’s just about done.

In fact tomorrow we will record the last final bit of sound – the vocal duet part for Paper Anniversary – and then mixing begins. I’m excited that we’re moving forward – and holy fuck am I excited about how this album sounds – but I also don’t want it to end, this phase of possibility, these days of people making music in a room.

Over the last couple weeks, such fine folk have been stopping by Henhouse Studio as:

JP Carter – to record a seriously killer trumpet part:

My buddy, the lovely and talented Cris Derksen, to sweet cello sounds down:

The beautiful Christie Rose and Maya Siegal, my first official back up singers:

I don’t have  a photo of Steve singing, playing guitar, tambourine, and all the other stuff he gets up to when I’m not around – but he’s a remarkable knack for filling in spaces that need it. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to be working with him?

This whole thing has been one big lucky, (mostly) joyful, mess in my heart. I could seriously gush. Maybe I am gushing. The brilliant part is that outside of my heart it’s not a mess at all – it’s a work of art, crafted and cared for.

Later this week the mixing starts. The mastering is booked for the end of the month. The artwork is underway. The release date is forming in my mind. The CD release tour has been blocked out in my Google calendar (my next big task is booking it all…). What more is there to do?

Oh right, there’s tomorrow. And right now, there’s sleep.

Bisous*
cc

 

“This one time at AMP Camp” jokes aside, I am, these five days later, still buzzing with information, ideas, memories, and moments from AMP Camp 2012. They’re a joyful bunch and too unruly to be described in paragraph form, so I shall instead list them for you here.

Though first of all, for those not in the know, AMP Camp is a 5 day retreat – held this year at the beautiful Falcon Trails Resort – for Aboriginal artists to work on business and creative development. That’s the official blurb. But it plays out more like a lovefest (you know musicians, we can’t help it).

What I learned and loved at AMP Camp 2012, in no paticular order:

  • I know more than I thought;
  • I have a lot to learn;
  • “The key to finishing a song is to remove the goal”;
  • What the eff a Critical Path is and why I need one;
  • I’ve missed snow;
  • I’ve particularly missed the sound of snow crunching under my feet in the quiet of a prairie night;
  • There’s a time for revealing, and a time for restraint;
  • 15 seconds of freezing is worth an hour in the hot tub and not to wait three nights to work up the nerve;
  • The best thing to do when greeted by northern lights is to greet them back with singing, dancing, applause, joyful silence, embracing, laughter, or any combination of the above;
  • Moonlit silhouettes on a frozen lake take my breath away;
  • There’s always another mother like me;
  • That I’m not as awkward and weird as I feel (apparently);
  • There’s room for everyone;
  • Get focussed, be determined;
  • Soundscan is worth the $;
  • Sonicbids is not;
  • My new favourite music is that of Beatrice Love, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Lorenzo, Malcolm Campbell, Binaeshee-Quae, Blair Goudie, Dustin Harder, Kathia Rock, Nick Sherman, Tiffany Moses, Christine Ginter, Bonnie Couchie, Discreet Da Chosen 1, Liv Wade, Sonia Eidse, Moe Clark, Drezus, and Trent Agecoutay – aka my fellow AMP-ers;
  • This business is a community;
  • And I’m lucky to be part of it.

 

Thank you to the Aboriginal Music Program, its partners, and its fearless leader Alan Greyeyes for having me; thank you everyone who shared their expertise and experience, especially Alida Kinnie Starr, MJ Dandeneau, Andres MendozaRaven Kanatakta and Sandy Scofield.

With this new album of mine in the works and aimed for release in the fall, the timing for learning and inspiration couldn’t have been more perfect. And it’s always a good time to meet beautiful people… sigh #CampSoHard

Speaking of this new album of mine, it’s back into the studio tomorrow after three weeks away from it – up first: selecting vocals takes. Woot!

bisous*
cc

For more pics of the AMP Camp good times, check out my album on Facebook: facebook.com.

p.s. Listen to this song from Binaeshee-Quae (that’s her up there on the left). I’d fallen in love with her music, voice, lyrics, when I saw her perform at OCFF in the fall and was thrilled to get to hear more during this week in Manitoba…

…and probably not the last?

For the Songs and Sonics blog, Jeff Boller created J-Bot who randomly generates five interview questions. From what I understand, it’s given some basic information – like that I’m singer-songwriter, not a guitar-slinger – to narrow down the questions it draws from. I confess, I kept hitting resubmit once I read that if you don’t like the questions you can get J-Bot to ask you a different five, but not because I didn’t like them, but because I was curious! Eventually I ended my curiosity and replied. It was fun. Thanks Jeff and J-bot!

Interview: Christa Couture

Folk songwriter • guitarist • vocalist • keyboardist

What’s your writing process like?

It’s like that part in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” about how to fly: “There is… a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Which is to say, at its best, it catches me off guard; it picks me up and swings me around; it just comes. Or not. I try not to overthink it – for me, thinking is the end of writing. I’m a bit artsy fartsy about it in that respect – I just start to sing when I’m moved to do so, and the muse doesn’t always have the greatest timing, but I do my best to accept her when she arrives. I can also sit down, be deliberate and say “I’m going to write a song about this now” as I have the tools to do so – but I’m never connected to those works in the same way as I am to the ones that reveal themselves to me on their terms. And for me, the connection is what makes it worthwhile.

What’s something you refuse to write about?

That seems like a trick question! Wouldn’t telling you be the end of my refusal? That said, there are things I keep private…

Well that’s the first part done then.

We spent four days at The Warehouse studio this past week getting much of what will be my new album recorded. Those four days were a long time coming, nearly a year in the making (more if you count the years that the songwriting spans), and after all of that preparation and anticipation, all of the piecing together of puzzle pieces, the near aligning of stars, those four days went by in an instant. A densely packed moment that left me both filled and drained.

There is more recording to come – next month Steve and I will continue to record more of my vocals and guitar, more of him playing guitar, and whatever other bits we deem necessary, like some accordion here, a little cello there, you know – so the process is far from done. But, this initial stage has been a biggie.

I can tell you now that is the best project I have ever been involved in. It sounds AMAZING.  And I’m not one to use all-caps lightly. The core players – Chris Gestrin, Niko Friesen, Rob Becker and Steve Dawson – are nothing short of fantastic. My songs and I are downright squee-ful to keep such remarkable musical company on this record. And the studio! Well, the Warehouse Studio’s Twitter bio of “the best studio anywhere” is not an exaggeration. Incredible gear, incredible space, top-notch crew…

Much of my view of the studio was of obscured by pop filters:

But you can see a bunch of other photos up in this Facebook album. Here’s one of my favourites – the lot of us attempting an aloof “rockstar attitude pose” photo:

Adorable, non?

It’s pretty special to get to make music with people, I love that us humans do that.

I love this record already so much.

________________________________________

I’ve been feeling speechless (despite my wordiness here), almost stunned, maybe just depleted… a kind of post-recording funk perhaps, aka the coming down phase. As mentioned, it’s not over, but the four long, busy, exciting, fruitful days were heart-rending too and while adreneline and dedication carried me through the weekend, I’ve been crying a lot since. A kind of release, and also the tears that I fought back so often while in the studio in the interest of time and vulnerability.

I managed one good cry in the lounge while others set-up on day two – thank goodness for that small exhale… Niko ate leftovers and listened and, because he’s the philosophizing type, we wandered into a conversation of our big human emotions in the face of our tiny human existence. As these things go…

The saddest song I’ve ever written is on this album, and completing it, coming close to completing it, feels like taking a step that I’m not quite ready for. A kind of admission, or acceptance. Recording that song is making the story true, more true – I’ve had my share of magical thinking in these past few years and recording is cracking those thoughts open.

________________________________________

It would have been wise to book time off directly following those studio days. Instead Monday morning was up and at ’em for some work at RPM, followed by teaching a workshop on grantwriting for Songweavers Studios… which was great (thank you Songweavers!). But I felt that the momentum of the weekend could have used a natural slowing to a halt, that I would have reveled in a fade out. I feel that I jumped tracks when I needed simply to ride it out.

Tuesday I found some balance between obligation and needing space by working on my laptop but refusing to leave my bed. And Tuesday is when I began to cry, thankfully with no time constraints, and no strangers to witness and wonder.

Today, I have finally had a chance to find some solid ground, thanks to a long shower, a soy chai latte, staring out a window into a sunny day, and the task of folding laundry. Phewf.

Here, me, Tuesday afternoon, hiding, thinking, remembering:

xoc

The time is nigh! In three weeks we head into the studio to start recording The Living Record.

I’ve been rolling out details of the recording on Facebook  – so far that Niko Friesen will be joining me again on drums (he played on both Fell Out of Oz and The Wedding Singer and The Undertaker) and Rob Becker will be playing bass, electric and upright for those wondering. Also that after starting with a list of 20 songs, and recording demos of 14, Steve (that would be Steve Dawson who’s producing the album) and I narrowed it down to 12 that we’ll take into the studio.

Phewf.

Steve and I have started hashing out some ideas – here he is at his studio kindly tuning my guitar for me:

(Confession: I find changing the tuning on my guitar like playing Jack in the Box – a tense game of anticipation! It’s not often a string breaks, but the times it does it always manages to startle the bejeezus out of me).

Meanwhile, I’m practicing more often then I usually do (I can be terrible at such things) and because it was a cold winter day, lit a candle to warm my music room up a bit:

Isn’t it amazing how much heat can come off one little flame?

Upon lighting the candle, seated at my piano, intending to practice one of the 3 (of the 12) songs that are piano based, I instead began to sing something new. Always one to jump on distraction and procrastination, I followed that tune to its conclusion and then put it to tape – er iPhone – to share.

So here I am with that passing moment, that candlelit song – Come Here Little Shadow:

Lyrics:

Come here fire
Here candle light
Help me to stave off the cold
I’ve been singing for hours now
Trying for these songs to take hold
The good part I guess is that playing makes sense of these fears

Come here secret
Comer here little shadow
It’s time to pack up and go
I’ve been waiting
They’ll all be waiting
For us to put on a show
Ready, get set, practice makes perfect
And the best part still is that we get to make sense of our fears.

Well we try to.

 

Now back to work…