In 2012, when I crowd-funded about half of the costs for my album The Living Record, I delighted in fulfilling the perks.

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.

As I write this, there are 11 days left to still get the song story postcards (the pre-order ends April 15th!) and you can do so here.

Then keep an eye on your mailbox come May. Spring and postcards are coming.

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mailbox

I find it hard to think “write a letter” without getting a little Joni singing in my head.

Every autumn for the past four years I’ve been on tour. We (in the biz, you know) talk about fall and spring as the best, sometimes only, times to tour – the roads are safe, people aren’t too hot or too cold to venture out of their homes and/or into a venue, and generally audiences and media aren’t on holiday.

It’s a good time to do it, for those reasons, but also, as far as Eastern Canada goes, for the views, all reds and oranges and yellows, changing as we watch it seems. My tour mates Hilary Grist and Mike Southworth were a dream to travel with. Nothing broke or got lost, we laughed a lot and I loved getting to hear Hil’s songs each night (singing along on a couple, too.)

Utopia
Hil and I, roadside, in small town Ontario.

We officially dubbed our tour “The Battle of the Ballads” as Hils and I each have numerous ballads, but unofficially it was called the “Shouting From the Backseat” tour as I, for the first time ever, was not one of the drivers and often offered my thoughts, and snacks, from my domain in the back of the Chevy Malibu.

It felt to me like the last tour for The Living Record. It’s been two years since that came out and I was able to tour it in a way I hadn’t with any previous album – tirelessly – and in a way I’d always wanted to. But now with the next album being recorded in January (yee!) I’m ready to have new conversations, to tell new stories.

I think.

I hope?

I’m at the bend in the album-cycle road where I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen next. I’m not entirely sure which combination of songs the new album will carry (note to self: decide!) or just what we’ll cook up in the studio.

Oh, by the way, I’m THRILLED to be making the album with Steve Dawson. I’ll be heading to the new Henhouse Studio in Nashville and carting John Dymond and Gary Craig down from Toronto to form the band (squee!). So whatever we DO get up to is going to sound great with these lads.

On this tour I played a couple of the new songs – Lovely Like You and Alone in This – prefacing them with an intro that this new record is set to be my country album. We WILL be recording in Nashville after all, and a number of the songs stem from separation, which is highly conducive to the genre of course. I’m still crooning over my piano like I’m spot-lit on a cabaret corner stage somewhere, so these things are relative and we’ll see how country I get.

And that’s the point – we’ll see. I learned a lot putting The Living Record out into the world and I hope this new record will continue to take me out on the road and into your ears and hearts as ever. But until it’s done, I’m going to step back from touring, get myself a sense of the big picture, and plan my next bold move.

Christa Couture Musideum Toronto
Moi at Musideum, Toronto. Photo by Susan Kendal-Urbach.

Maps. Charts. Schedules. Spreadsheets. Now’s the time for plotting and creating.

I’m so grateful I’ve been able to play as many shows as I have these past two years and this last batch seem almost dreamlike these couple weeks later. But to each of the towns, cities, we played in, let me tell you this:

  • Sudbury, you were the first feel of plastic keys and disbelieved you could ever adjust (ah, but you did!).
  • Utopia, you conjured old Friday night dances and sent us home with leftovers.
  • Chatham, you were a wiry, patchy, friendly cat and a need to buy winter gloves.
  • Ingersoll, your incredibly warm faces were a reminder of how good it can get.
  • Barrie, you landed on hard anniversaries but crossed paths with a piano man who you couldn’t help but follow.
  • Owen Sound, you were an old friend and a really good juice bar to battle a cold.
  • Peterborough, you were unexpectedly perfect with your sing-alongs and uke-instrumentals.
  • Kemptville, you were 95% familiar faces, a lucky, lucky stat.
  • Montreal, you were the best croissants and need be nothing more.
  • Ottawa, your heart couldn’t get bigger.
  • Moncton, you were dance classes down the hall and refuge from cold, dark rain.
  • St. John, you were spiral staircases and cloud-like pillows.
  • Fredericton, you almost didn’t make it but I’m so glad we all rallied to pull it off. I like you a lot.
  • Bedford, you were top notch and topped that off with cranberry liqueur (Ironworks Distillery from Lunenberg, Nova Scotia – a delightful discovery.)
  • Halifax, we laughed a little too hard but we were just so tired.
  • Toronto, you were home and I was so glad to come back to you.

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The fishy street lamp art of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, where we wandered happily on a day off.

And now back to it. Back to culling this long list of songs, finishing the ones I can, leaving behind the ones I can’t force, keeping my hands and my voice in shape, sleeping, eating, doodling and noodling.

The working title for the new album is Zookeeper. I must tend to the beasts.

xoc

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Fave new t-shirt.

It’s been a couple years since we recorded The Living Record at The Warehouse in Vancouver, but at the time the marvelous Kate Kroll came an filmed us recording “Sing For Me.” (Kate also directed the video for “Pirate Jenny and The Storm.”)

She has since brilliantly cut this together and I love seeing all our very hard-at-work faces. What a wonderful time it was, making that album.

I have said on occasion that I don’t write songs, I just sing them. Which is to say that when the muse comes, when together we are at our best, that’s what it feels like – like a song I suddenly remembered, and maybe always knew.

I was standing at a bus stop in Berlin, in Charlottenberg, when I first sang the first verse to “Parasite.” I quickly and quietly recorded it into my phone (trying to look like I was just talking)  and when I played it back months later, was reminded of that favourite city of mine as a German ambulance siren rings through the voice memo in the background.

Those months later I was at The Hill House in Michigan during a residency I pursued with the interest of sorting through the songs that would become “The Living Record.”  It was just two verses that had come at the Berlin bus stop and there in the upper penninsula where the rest of the song made itself known.

When I played it for my partner he pointed out the inaccuracy of the word “parasite” and I had my own mini Alanis “ironic” moment in defending my artistic licence. For the months until we recorded it, I kept in the back of my mind the thought of replacing the word, but another never came. Indeed in this song, what plauges me (er, the protaganist) has not convinced the host of its own interests, it is rather a fight against the thoughts that won’t let up, the fight against the impossible question “what if.”

But the word stayed.

What didn’t stay was the original tempo. When composed it was much slower, in mind I imagined the final product would be darker, heavier. When Steve Dawson and I were in pre-production for the album his imagination led elsewhere and I followed – the outcome of which is the much more uptempo version on the album.

I love how it turned out.

Often people have said of that album, “The Living Record,” that for lyrics and themes that are darker, heavier, it is musically remarkably upbeat. Well, yes. I don’t think these ideas need to be hammered too hard, I think that a lot of the experiences chronicled on that album are complex – and the contrast reflects that – and I think stories in songs are worth digging for.

When it came to making the video I was lucky to be part of APTN’s First Tracks program which has, for the past few years, employed Big Soul Productions to produce five music videos per year for Indigenous artists. They brought director Adam Garnet Jones on board and over lunch I got to hear the visual ideas the song inspired in him. It always feels a kind of gift to have another artist create work sparked from your own.

(here’s Adam and I on set in what I liked to call our “mad Cowichan disease” matching-ness):

cowichan

Finding beauty in struggle became the theme and let me tell you, singing that song in double time (due to filming 48fps) while inhaling the bits of feather-down being blown in my face did not feel beautiful at the time. But all in a day’s work.

We filmed the video in November 2012, through the night in the cold, cavernous space belonging to the Toronto School of Circus Arts, beginning with the aerialists’ set up:

christa couture parasite video aerialists

Meanwhile, the lovely and talented Rachelle Whitewind attended to my hair and make up:

christa couture parasite make up by Rachelle Whitewind

In an ochre dress my dear friend Susan Kendal-Urbach MADE for the shoot.  It was handy that my bosom buddy was hired as cosutme designer – I couldn’t have trusted many other people to hold the tulle skirt in place, so as to avoid flashing the crew, when fans whipped up the “falling”:

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(and I got to keep the sweet belt she found at Anthropologie. Score.)

Fans played a major part in all the scenes – most of the time to blow sundry items at my face while I lip-synced. The bubbles were easy. The feathers, as mentioned, went up my nose.

christa couture parasite feathers

And the amazing art crew had to sweep it all up between takes to blow across the frame once more:

paraste christa couture

They were a killer crew.

Adam and editor Jay Brant got to work and in March 2013 it was locked and ready. And then we waited. And waited.

APTN had legal dibs on broadcast – other than when I worked with a label on my first album in 2005 it was the first time I’ve not completely owned the rights to something connected to my work. Indeed I left the label for many reasons – that I like being in control of such things being one of them.

But First Tracks – which I think is an awesome series and has made a handful of wicked videos – is what “Parasite” belonged to and we were at the mercy of their scheduling. Except the scheduling never came and eventually APTN decided not to broadcast any of this particular batch of First Tracks videos.

Which is too bad.

But it meant that finally I could share this with everyone. Like you.

And so, from a bus stop in Berlin, to circus school rafters in Toronto, “Parasite”, the official video:

What can I tell you? It would be in a way repetitive to regale the shows that were GREAT. The ones where we all felt less lonely.

You were there. You KNOW.

But I will add these things about each city/town I played in on the autumn tour, about these Canadian, Dutch, German, and English travels, where we met, where we touched and circled each other, where we wondered, where we danced, where we asked “why?” and “why not?” not of the gigs necessarily, but of that day, that time, of the fact that what we do together is so much more than my songs and you being there.

These are the places I played, and a few of the things I’ll remember:

In Port Alberni, I was told “you’ve lived a tragic life” and disagreed.

On Gabriola Island I fell asleep to the sounds of owls talking.

In Victoria a secret got out. I let it. I’d been holding on to it for awhile.

On Salt Spring Island I was transfixed by autumn leaves on a skylight.

I remember most from Denman Island that “people say all kinds of things, but they act on their feelings,” over comfort food.

In Armstrong four distinct chapters in my life met on one page.

During the show, Carla and I counted that I’ve played in Ymir eight times – the most I’ve played in any town, outside of my hometown.

In Calgary I tiptoed towards possibility, then ran away giggling.

Edmonton gave me three days of tears.

In Sherwood Park a man described the day his life changed while watching a turtle give birth, to assure me that life is long and full of unexpected wonder.

Regina kissed me with prairie autumn.

In Winnipeg I believed him – “you know what to do” – before sunrise on Osborne street.

Montreal sang every Disney song she could think of and I was glad I never finished any post-secondary schooling.

Ottawa let me rest my head on her lap and we planned our next bold move.

Toronto, as always, both soothed and excited and challenged and scared me. Our love story is being told so very slowly.

In Utrecht I was reminded of how I love short term routines in new cities.

Dusseldorf played music from home, connecting dots from far away places.

Offenbach kissed me too, but with wine and whiskey and Louis Armstrong.

In Berlin I turned 35.

Amersfoort reminded me how lucky I am to have mostly great gigs for open ears and hearts, and that noisy bars are few and far between. But noisy bars still happen.

In Hengelo I remembered how much I love the rain on my skin.

I felt lucky in Verden.

In Bremen I was overwhelmed by voices, sound, and the curve of a back that underlined “I love you.”

London flirted and skirted and darted and danced noisily, sweetly, and late into the night.

Beverley poured sunshine on the comfiest bed. It found familiar weight in broken hearts. It was full of kindness.

In Leeds we picked up where we left off, drinking wine while I went on too long and she smoked out the window, laughing and remembering.

In Alcester I was moved by family and friendship, by illness and endurance.

In Kelvedon a drummer did a decent Grant Lawrence impression and cited a long list of Canadian bands worth loving, known to him by the R3 podcast, and I missed Canada.

Onanole has come to be a much needed halfway point and always tells me “you’re tired, you’re safe here, sleep well.”

…and from there I drove home. 12,000+ Canadian kms later, planes and trains and rental cars through Germany, The Netherlands and England, wrong turns, right steps, hours, days, songs, duets, solos, parking tickets, speeding tickets, missed connections, connection, love, sex, touch, tears, remembering, forgetting, presence, absence, having, missing, something smaller and mightier than bridges over land and time, courage, fear, songs, stories, and nine weeks later –

I’m still yours.

and that was THAT tour.

and I’m going to rest now. Until the new year,
xoc

I love you this much (I assure you it’s A Lot):

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Rod Matheson’s project Everyday Music has been creating an incredible archive of music in Vancouver over the past few years, all the while unfolding his own personal story too. And he’s only half way through.

He posts a live, one take video of a new artist/song every day with the goal of 1000 days. We’ve been trying to connect for a long time, and finally we made it happen. I’m thrilled to be day #511!

We had aimed to film at the orange piano that was part of Vancouver’s “Keys to the Streets” program, but discovered upon arrival they had packed it up for fall a few days ahead of schedule. Our search for another piano lead us to The Prophouse in East Van, to that familiar corner in the back.

“Lucky or Lost” – Everyday Music

In Room magazine 36.1, I was interview for the “BackRoom” section, but they didn’t have room to print the full piece. It’s now available online.

Christa Couture: Creating Beauty from Grief (full interview)

Christa Couture survived adolescent cancer and the loss of two sons in infancy. Her indie-folk music faces grief with vulnerability, beauty, and wit. She won a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for her album The Wedding Singer and the UndertakerThe Living Record is her latest release.

Are there writers or musicians whose work helped you overcome grief and loss? Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” felt like the first kindred spirit I’d found after my first son died. Since my second son died it’s become harder to find work that I can continue to relate too—but maybe by making my own I’ll find others.

You create such beauty, sonically and lyrically, from grief. Do you ever feel conflicted about this? Yes, it can be hard to reconcile. After the most recent tragedy in my family I wondered if I could ever return to making music at all—as important as writing and creating is to me, as much as I enjoy it, three years ago I was on a very different path, and it’s one that I desperately ache for now that it’s gone. Making these little beautiful works felt like a distant second to what I wanted, but at the same time, I’m so grateful to these little beautiful works for being there in the distance regardless, for giving me something to pour my energy into, even if it isn’t what I had planned.

Is performing your music difficult? I don’t find it difficult, though it can be emotional. At its best it’s cathartic and freeing to release some of these stories every night by telling them over and over. It helps me continue to process and learn about the experiences I’ve written about. Sometimes the emotions are too close to the surface, or the audience isn’t totally on track with me, and then I feel too vulnerable, but I can play different songs when I need to, depending on how I’m feeling. Mostly I like to pour my heart out though and I’ve already drawn lines on what I’m willing to reveal and not when I chose which songs to record for the album.

What is is like to have three “permanent records” filled with the people in your life who shaped you, especially those you have lost? It is meaningful to me that the songs make their way into the world—I feel sometimes by sharing them, I’m really just asking a big “know what I mean?”, looking for that conversation that can happen through sharing music and hopefully the reply “yes” so that we can all feel a little less lonely. Like anyone, I am comforted by finding common ground with others—grief in particular can be a kind of exile, so when a person lets me know that they connect with my work, it helps break down those feelings of isolation, for both of us.

I admire your ability to be vulnerable when you tell your story through music and interviews. Is there anyone you admire for this? Any writing or music that inspires bravery in you? …

Read the rest at: http://www.roommagazine.com/news/christa-couture-creating-beauty-grief-full-interview

Last night in Hengelo we played two shows, the second of which was short, spontaneous and sweet. After a cosy and lovely afternoon gig at De Nul we found ourselves at Lambooijhuis and I couldn’t resist the piano in the corner. Most of the shows on this tour I’m only playing guitar – logistically bringing a keyboard along just didn’t work and my hands, my body, misses playing keys.

After I played, an older man came up to me with tears saying “you made my day.” I’m always interested and amazed by what lyrics people hear, connect with – “I too have been ‘a witness of catastrophe’” he continued, “and I hope you will someday be a witness of happiness.” What followed was a conversation, a string of stories from his life, and it was touching and funny and beautiful and sweet and sad, and the whole time Rammstein was blaring over the sound system, an asynchronous soundtrack…

Robert Carl Blank knocking socks of at Lambooijhuis.

A little “Pussycat Pussycat” at De Nul, thanks to Slightly-Tilted.

On Saturday in Osnabruck, the first gig of the many I’m doing with Robert Carl Blank as part of a Songs & Whispers circuit, we had a fine time playing for the crowd at Big Buttinsky’s. It was, happily, another place that happened to have a piano, a beautiful old upright.

Another show was happening across the hall, the Erik Truffaz quartet featuring Anna Aaron. We were invited to sneak in to catch the last of it, and shuffled ourselves quietly into the back row. It was transportive. I get to hear a lot of live music, and am moved often by it all, but this was exceptional and I hadn’t felt lifted like that in a while. Above all else it felt lucky to be there…

The day before that I had been sobbing on the train. After a series of unfortunate events I was finally pointed in the right direction, but felt almost entirely beaten by Things Going Wrong. I have been, on this tour, particularly faced with the limits of my disability – something, admittedly, I prefer to deny. And a harsh reality check in that department mixed in with the usual confusion of navigating through a foreign language, plus last minute cancellations and miscommunications, made for a few harrowing moments of despair.

But I texted Lindsay, because I knew she would be awake in Toronto, and she pep-talked-via-SMS me while I tried to take in views of the German countryside through tears. Namely she convinced me to take deep breaths and blaze on, worry later. It got me to Bremen, but my makeup was a mess…

Later that night, after a shot set in nearby Hude, we drove back to town under sheets of lightning and my falling asleep was to the soothing wash of pouring rain on window panes. Have I ever been so shifted, moment to moment, with such frequency?

A week earlier, Lindsay had similarly saved me via text message on another day of Things Going Wrong when I travelled from London to Frankfurt. I don’t know if I’ve loved my cell phone more.

The week in England was full of love. Touring is only ever made possible by the generosity of others – places to stay, food to eat, open hearts and ears to collect the music I’m here to deliver – and my time there was entirely supported by my dears Lynn and Marcus. I’m not sure how I thought I would get myself, and all my crap, around the country on my own, but I didn’t have to face the task as they picked me up and chauffeured me with panache. London and Liverpool, the week’s bookends, moved me especially and I will write at some point of a delightful shift from noun to verb I’ve been inspired to make, thanks to one Liverpudlian in particular…

Clock birds of Liverpool.

Tonight in Bremen I played for the best open hearts and ears one can hope for and the encore and standing O swept me off my feet, *thank you*. The gig was in a church – ah, what acoustics! –and beforehand having a beer “backstage” I asked the organizer if it was okay to take the drink on “stage”, what with it being flanked by religious paraphernalia and me being rather unfamiliar with such settings. He paused and answered “God loves every kind of person,” which was an unexpected way of saying yes and onwards into song I went, avec beer…

I’m two weeks into this tour of five, and have been feeling deeply the highs and lows. The highs, oh they’ve been magical, and the lows have at least been a learning curve, albeit circuitous and steep.

In those curves, Brandi Carlile’s “Bear Creek” has been a kind of saving grace – I’m so in love with that record lately I’m about ready to switch my act to a Brandi cover-band, out of pure devotion.

And so now I will drift off, so sweetly sated by tonight’s show, with a Carlile lullaby humming in mind, all in a moment, all in a sound, all in a day’s work, we’re tumbling down…

WELL. I am thrilled to announce that The Living Record will be released in the UK/EU on April 29th! To launch the album across the pond, I am headed to England, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands to sing for the good people there.

FULL TOUR DATES BELOW and find all the details on the SHOWS page.

ALSO I am overjoyed to unveil the music video for Pirate Jenny and the Storm. Produced and directed by Kate Kroll, it includes a pair of burlesque dancers, a glossy red grand piano, a giant turtle and goldfish (complete with sequins!) and fleet of paper boats for some of the dearest souls I know.

Without further ado, da da da DAAAAA:

Yay! Share, spread it, mark it with a C. You can also watch it on Vimeo.

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UK/EU The Living Record CD Release Tour 2013 Complete Dates

May 7 – London, UK @ The Green Note
May 8 – Bath, UK @ The Bell Inn
May 9 – Exeter, UK @ The Picturehouse
May 9 – Exeter, UK @ Hatts
May 10 – Liverpool, UK @ Acoustic Dustbowl
May 12 – Offenbach, DE @ Hafen 2
May 15 – Berlin, DE @ KussKuss
May 16 – Berlin, DE @ St Gaudy’s
May 17 – Kapelle op den Bos, BE @ Jeugshuis Doetsje
May 18 -Osnabrück, DE @ Big Buttinsky
May 19 – Hengelo, NL @ De Nul
May 20 – Bremen, DE @ Stadtkirche Vegesack
May 21 – Bremen, DE @ Hafen Casino
May 22 – Bremen, DE @ Aladin
May 23 – Groningen, NL @ Kroeg Van Klaas
May 25 – Bremen, DE @ Litfass
May 25 – Osterholz – Scharmbeck, DE @ Maribondo
May 26 – Bremen, DE @ Bürgerbrunch Hemelingen
May 28 – Bremen, DE @ Theatersaal Universität Bremen
May 28 – Bremen, DE @ LOX
May 29 – Hamburg, DE @ Soulkitchenhalle
May 30 – Hamburg, DE @ Mangold
May 31 – Bremen, DE @ Villa Sponte
June 1 – Verden, DE @ Liekedeeler
June 2 – Achim, DE @ Katakomben
June 3 – Oldenburg, DE @ Bei Beppo
June 4 –  Bremen, DE @Kito
June 5 – Celle, DE @ Kunst & Bühne
June 6 –  Nienburg, DE @ Mister Q
June 7 – Brake, DE @ Centraltheater
June 8 – Quelkhorn, DE @ Bergwerk Quelkhorn
June 9 – Bremen, DE @ Club Moments

 

Hey Beautiful British Columbia! I missed most of you in the fall but am finally going to be bringing the new album in person to a few of my favourite places this month.

First my home town with Melanie Brulee next week at The Prophouse in Vancouver, and then Jess Hill and I will bring our songs to Penticton, Coldstream, Kaslo, Kimberley and Nelson!

Find event details on the SHOWS page or Facebook.

See you there!

xoc

BC TOUR DATES SPRING 2013
April 19 – The Prophouse, Vancouver BC
April 25 – The Elite, Penticton BC
April 26 – Friesen’s, Coldstream BC
April 27 – Bluebelle Bistro, Kaslo BC
April 28 – Driftwood House Concert, Kimberley BC
April 29 – House Concert, Nelson BC