Day 27 and only 3 shows left in the tour! Getting the exact same rental car in Toronto as we did in Vancouver made for an easy transition off the plane and back on the road, and the weekend spin from Toronto to Montreal and Ottawa was almost entirely soundtracked by Regina Spektor and Kate Bush in that Camry (I’m having my semi-regular love affair with Hounds of Love). I just about had to move to Montreal when I could not for the life of me take the right exit out of the city, but other than that, smooth travels, friends, prevail. Hard to believe this tour is almost done.
Day 20 and the Western Canadian tour dates came to a close as we drove towards the sunset in Vancouver. Today, we fly back to Toronto and the tour resumes Thursday at Burdock! So far, we sold out of my first three albums (sorry fine folks of the last three shows!), left behind my dermaclean and Gaby’s aeropress, lost one sock, and gained one traffic violation. Other than the ticket, we think that’s pretty great, tour wise, and speaking of sold out: the last few shows were, and it just fills my heart to the brim.
What a damn beautiful tour this has been. Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, we’re coming for you!
Day twelve and we’re enjoying a day off in Onanole, Manitoba, where the latest snow fall (!) is quickly melting in the sun sun sun. I’m about to get a massage at Elkhorn (bliss!) and work some of the long drives out of my shoulders…
I’m in love with this tour, I gotta say. Every single show has been fantastic, and after taking so much time off from the road I couldn’t ask for a warmer return.
Gaby and I continue to Announce The Keys (and it remains a necessity…), the rental car is covered in mud on the outside (thanks to the GPS being hell-bent on back dirt roads during rain storms) and encrusted with granola in the backseat on the inside (oops), we’ve only lost one toothbrush and one sock, and we’ve gained the purchase of the original Broadway recording of RENT. Sing-alongs abound.
Happy album release day to us!
Long Time Leaving is the best thing I could make for you at this point in my life and I’m so proud of what Steve Dawson, Gary Craig, John Dymond, and I cooked up! Along with the talents of Shannon Swords (who engineered) and David Travers-Smith (who mastered) for your ears and Jen Squires, Catherine Mellinger, and Joi Arcand for your eyes.
Go get it. Sing along. Spread the word. Let me know what you think.
AND THANK YOU!
Day one on the west coast and we’re off to a good start! I almost lost the car keys leaving them on a friend’s stairs and Gaby almost lost them by leaving them at the coffee grinder in the Save-On in Nanaimo… thus we’ve developed a habit of near constantly announcing where the keys are to each other (routine will come quickly…) Backstage at the Duncan Showroom the zipper on my green “Long Time Leaving” shorts split open and trying to take them off was a challenge I’m glad only Gaby was there to witness… but then the “moon” at the back of the room at the showroom shone on our skin that was still warm from the sun, and Chris Ho opened the night with busy bees and flightless war, and all was, undeniably, well.
Most of them, anyway.
The t-shirts I did not plan well, and custom making them left almost no room for error, which put a lot of stress on my partner at the time who was the one doing the actual screen printing work… I remember us both near tears in exasperation, surrounded by t-shirts hanging off every part of our house: the bookshelves, the shower curtain rod…
Since then, I’ve only hired-out for screening printing. Phewf.
For my new album Long Time Leaving‘s pre-order, I’ve ditched t-shirts, personalized songs, wee pieces of art, and kept just my favourite extras to give you: a lyric poster, and the song story postcards. As for the latter:
I like to tell stories (this you know).
And I love sending mail. Postcards in particular for me conjure travel and wandering and thinking and remembering and reminding; quick hellos and short stories.
I first wrote song stories for my EPs Loved and Lost in 2011. It gave me a chance to give what I do on stage — offer back story, insight into my song’s origins — in a new format. It meant those stories could have farther reaches in their new mode of transportation.
For The Living Record, I wrote song stories for ten of the album’s pieces, and I felt like I was letting you in on a secret; one I wanted to tell.
Most of the postcards were written while on the road: in a couple spare hours before a show, in a park or coffee shop near the venue, or on a day off. Dropping a big stack of postcards into a mailbox in one fell swoop is a satisfying feeling. I have to admit: I never quite trust Canada Post. Maybe trust isn’t the word, it’s more that I don’t believe the system works and am always so impressed by it. I write your name with some numbers on a piece of paper, drop it in a box, and days later it shows up at your house?! Magic!
Anyway, when I decided not to do a crowdfunding campaign for this new album, I knew I still wanted to make some of the “perks” available and I picked my favourite. Here’s to spending time with pen and paper, to the squeak of the mailbox drawer opening and closing, to the journey of a postcard from my hands to yours.
Then keep an eye on your mailbox come May. Spring and postcards are coming.
I find it hard to think “write a letter” without getting a little Joni singing in my head.
What a sad week. The impact of violence, on cities, on people, on women. Yesterday I had to close the computer to stop taking in both the strong (thank you, to those voices, I am listening) and the cruel, in the wake of the Ghomeshi verdict.
For the record, I am a survivor and I believe survivors.
What Miriam Novak has written on this kind of belief is brilliant. I would quote the whole thing, but you can read it here. I appreciate that it prompts us to ask questions of ourselves, not just of others.
In the midst of the helplessness and worry and ache of this week, the contrast of delight and oddity of promo for Long Time Leaving has started. I’ve done the first few interviews, songs are getting their first few spins, and the first reviews are coming in.
I’ve been asked a few times about resilience, and I’ve wondered if people think I’ve a secret, or a trick to it. The trick comes on day two when I can see that I’ve made it 24 hours. And it comes every day after that. One week. One year. Eight years. The trick has been to see the steps I’ve taken so far as the impetus to take one more.
I thought I made an upbeat album that was rooted more in the joy of music than the space for sorrow (considering the space my last few albums held), but it’s been reflected back to me so quickly this week, from the first ears who are hearing it, that the story and space continues. It’s upbeat, but not exactly lighter, as one journalist put it to me. And I see it: sorrow doesn’t change her name, but she does make friends.
My heart was wide open yesterday, for the above and other elsewhere reasons, and I cried an ocean. I am a puffy-eyed Friday morning question and no answers except: put on the kettle, and keep asking.
Christa Couture launches her long awaited new album “Long Time Leaving” from coast to coast! Join Christa for the following intimate, solo performances.
Further details under shows, or join the Facebook event.
04/02 – Barrie, ON @ House Concert
04/07 – Duncan BC @ Duncan Showroom with Chris Ho
04/08 – Victoria BC @ Solstice Cafe with Cluny Macpherson
04/09 – Vancouver BC @ CBC Studio 700 with Sandy Scofield
04/10 – Ymir BC @ The Schoolhouse
04/11 – Calgary AB The Ironwood with I Am The Mountain
04/14 – Winnipeg, MB @ Times Change(d), with Kris Ulrich
04/15 – Stony Mountain MB @ House Concert
04/16 – Onanole MB @ House Concert
04/20 – Saskatoon, SK @ The Bassment with A Voice for Vultures
04/23 – Edmonton AB @ The Blue Chair with Tzedeka
04/24 – Sherwood Park, AB @ R ‘Ouse
04/28 – Toronto, ON @ The Burdock with Corinna Rose
04/29 – Montreal. QC @ Le Cagibi with Marie Claire Durand
05/01 – Ottawa, ON @ Live on Elgin with Goodnight Boy
05/05 – Cole Harbour, NS @ Rose & Kettle
05/06 – St. John, NB @ Homeport Home Stages
05/07 – Fredericton, NB @ Grimross Brewing Co, Presented by Roots & Soul with Caitlin & Calum
Great things can happen in laundry rooms, and I don’t mean just the clean clothes. Today my laundry/storage room was the site of a mini-news conference in which I revealed the album cover for Long Time Leaving:
Album cover REVEAL! Live, from my laundry room: I’m thrilled to tell you Long Time Leaving will be released April 15th on Black Hen Music.The cover: photography by Jen Squires – Photographer, collage by Catherine Mellinger. Layout and handwriting by Joi Arcand.Boom!
Posted by Christa Couture on Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Isn’t the cover beautiful? It is the cumulative work of three wonderful artists, and, because it matters to me, those three artists are also three women: Jen Squires (photographer), Catherine Mellinger (collage artist – that image wasn’t photoshopped people, it was actually cut and paste and I am the happy owner of the original pieces!), and Joi Arcand (layout and handwriting, though it’s worth noting she’s also a photographer and all-around visual artist).
With this announcement, I’m also thrilled to share that the album will be released April 15th on Black Hen Music.
Black Hen Music has a mighty fine roster of artists. And Alice and Steve Dawson, who run that joint, are mighty fine people. Steve produced this and my last album, as you know, and it’s lovey and lucky to get to keep working with them both.
Next week I’ll be launching a pre-order of the album with a number of limited edition goodies and posting the cross-Canada tour dates. IT’S ALL HAPPENING.
Here we go,
Last month was the 10 year anniversary of the release of my first full-length album, Fell Out of Oz. Wowza.
The album came out a year and three months after I had an abortion. In many ways, the album happened because I had an abortion. A half-hour after my injection of methotrexate, I pulled my car to the side of the road, sobbing and overwhelmed by the reality of terminating my pregnancy. I called my friend Aynsley at work.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“Around the corner.”
We met at a nearby park and I talked about the future fantasy that had only appeared the week before that I was now letting go of, the very real and important reasons for doing so (health and safety), and the question I suddenly didn’t know the answer to: if I’m actively choosing not to have a child (this was when I still thought a pregnancy automatically meant a full-term birth, a live birth, or even a healthy baby) what am I choosing to be or do instead?
“Didn’t you want to make an album?”
It was September 2004 and at that point I’d been back in Canada about a year since I spent one year in London, England. Oh, London, where I had my first gig ever, where newness and stubbornness and discovery and difficultly inspired my first good songs and where I wrote many. I’d played a few gigs in Vancouver since I returned to Canada, I was still writing, though less often, and I wasn’t thinking very deliberately about a path as a musician.
“I did. I do.”
What can I give versus what can I give up?
The answer to the former I’m afraid is “not much.”
And as for the latter it’s just a matter of not now.
So, the best thing I can do for you is write this down.
“Who was that guy who produced the Be Good Tanyas album?” Aynsley asked and then suggested I track him, Futcher, down. I think I spent three hours on what would have been a three line email to him; I was so nervous to ask if he would work with me. In what I eventually learned was true taciturn Futcher style, he replied:
thanks for the kind words.
And we began. I applied for my first FACTOR and Canada Council for the Arts grants and, not surprisingly for a beginner, didn’t get them (I did, in collecting letters of support for the applications, obtain a prized possession: an utterly charming and encouraging letter from Bill Richardson). Remarkably, a friend stepped in and lent me the $20,000 I would need to make the album. As I write that now it seems even more incredible than it did at the time. Nicky, THANK YOU.
It was just five months after that pivotal September day that Futcher, the band we pulled together (guitarist/atmospheric master Murray Atkinson, who had been my first and only guitar teacher whom I found via an ad in the back pages of the Georgia Straight, and who helped produced my EP Starter; drummer Niko Friesen, who Futcher had met as the boyfriend of a women he recorded some background vocals with; and bassist Michael-Owen Liston who I had seen and met one night at the Backstage Lounge when he was playing with Mark Berube), and I piled into the now-gone Smiling Buddha Enjoyment Complex studio and recorded the 13 songs that make up Fell Out of Oz. The title track was actually a late comer as we had planned to record only 12.
The 12 were selected from 18 demos I sent to Futcher who then picked his favourites based on his first impressions. He always trusted his gut reaction to a first listen, though he’d later love to tell the story of how he poopooed Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” when he heard it in studio being recorded, thus tainting his confidence in the strength of his first impulse. But a couple of days into our studio time, he came in saying he’d listened to the demos again and had a new liking for “Fell Out of Oz,” adding that “it also gives you a way better album title.” He disliked the working title Other Side Down and he was right to. Ultimately, the album became a reflection on coming-of-age with “Fell Out of Oz” a near thesis statement.
We recorded live off the floor, largely due to the fact that I was incapable of recording to a click track (and, to be honest, that hasn’t improved much over the years). That it was off the floor means you can occasionally hear my chair squeak in our unedited, simultaneous performances, and Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail might have nailed it when he described the album, that rawness, as “intimate enough that whiffs of Couture’s organic soap are caught.”
Though that scent could have more likely been due to Michael-Owen drying his laundry one day while we recorded:
Nota bene: the album artwork lists 11 tracks, not 13. But there are 13. Upon completion of recording, Futch and I had (though later rescinded when it was too late to change our minds) doubts about the strength of “Other Side Down.” So we added it as a hidden track at the end of “Habitual” to downplay it. And then, with too much cleverness for our own good, Futch and I hid another track, “What Peace Is,” at the beginning of the album. That is to say, on a CD player (we were so forward thinking), if you let a bit of the first song play and then pressed and held the rewind button you would find that the time started to dip backwards into negative minutes all the way to -02:30. To tip-off anyone paying enough/extra attention to the existence of this Easter egg, I included the lyrics as track 00 in the liner notes. I don’t know if anyone ever found it. You can get it here though.
We spent a leisurely 9 days in a row recording that album – days that ended up being more time than we needed – and added the extras of harmonies, percussion, banjo, accordion, and cello after capturing the core four of us together. It was such a lovely experience, and I have loved the making of each of my other albums since, very much, but there was something special with those people, that February. Maybe because it was my first, and you don’t forget your first, but more than that…very dear friendships came from the strangers gathered there, long term working relationships, too, and in that gathering I felt so much that we were all in it.
Ten months after those studio days, the album was released on Maximum Music with a kick-off at The Railway Club: appropriate considering the bar’s inclusion in the song “Jennifer Grey.” In a music industry/act of good faith fail, the label, Maximum, and I hadn’t yet signed an agreement. In fact, they handed paperwork to me that night at the venue and I spilled beer on it, later bringing that stained copy to my lawyer to review. The album was already in stores, at listening posts (remember those?); the label had already been promoting it, reviews were coming in, and…no signed deal in place.
As we negotiated the terms, I had my first tour to promote the album. My experience with the label during those months unfolded negatively. I couldn’t get reporting from them, the financial terms (according to my lawyer then, though these years later I too could call it at a glance) were crap, communication was poor, and they lost their distribution with Universal. “Walk away,” was my lawyer’s advice and I struggled with it as the label had invested time and money, and despite the frustrations, I felt responsible to them. I made a decision and I don’t know how they saw the end when it came: I sent a “cease and desist” letter and we didn’t speak again.
The album was mine. All mine. A few hundred copies of it were sitting in a Universal warehouse somewhere and I couldn’t get them. I got a new run of the CDs manufactured and updated the artwork to my own label: One Foot Tapping Records. I’d release my next two albums independently in the same way.
Shortly after the album came out, I got pregnant again. Unplanned, again. I let the momentum the album was building slow on the side of the road as I stopped to consider a path of parenting for the second time. I was struck by the fact that I made the album in response to ending my first pregnancy, and there, with the album in my hands, felt I’d barely had time to follow through before having to make a decision about the subject again. I wasn’t ready, but I chose to carry that little one, my son Emmett, and wondered how music would stay in my life.
It turned out that it was Emmett who didn’t stay in my life and my second and third albums, since, have been full of loss.
In revisiting Fell Out of Oz on its ten year anniversary, I’m noticing that it held a lot of loss, too. It’s the album that holds stories not just of the abortion, but of having had cancer, of the childhood friends who didn’t survive the disease, of losing my leg, of living with disability. It holds the stories of my first heartaches of my twenties and while those hardly hurt now compared to what I’ve experienced since, I listen to “I Will” and “Habitual” and I stand by them still. The album grieves a loss of innocence, but seeing my young(er) self in these songs now I also notice a lot of hope. In remembering the recording, the joy and the promise I felt, the label mess, the shifting gears and making big choices, it’s good to remember that hope, to hold up what I felt ten years ago to what I feel now, and to look at my baby-face cover art photo and think: “You don’t know what’s coming, but you’re right to hold on.”