It was a 2013 tour in Germany that inspired the first one-line-for-each-place reflection once I got home, and I like trying to extract, or encapsulate, what stands out about each place — especially because once a tour is complete, there can be such a blurring of faces, backdrops, and events. There are also so many vivid and brilliant moments; some of them are still reverberating, shining, giggling, swaying, sighing in my thoughts and bones.

I like to pause and see what comes to mind — not unlike #ddnd on Twitter (“dear day not diary” and a daily highlight composition) — neither too soon after the tour, nor too long. Today is the day, friends, and I’m thinking of the dots and hearts we connected in song from the west to east coasts.

Duncan, your low hanging moon was not where I left it but how I remembered it, and your sun’s warmth was the first of its kind this year; you began.

Victoria, you represented 1996 and 2013 in beautiful women’s big smiles and a folded piece of newsprint with a picture of me.

Vancouver, you filled a room and my heart with every way and time that I know you, and I noticed your touch every single time in slow motion; you were hard to leave.

Ymir, your certain kind of magic was the solution to the long drive’s equation; you hung my poster — and I smiled wide for it — amid flour and sugar.

Calgary, turns out you’re younger than you look and you sound older than you are; your deft repair turned on lights below and ignited backstage giggles.

Lloydminster, your virtual and physical knowledge differed and we championed a comedian’s first, ending it all on a piano bench with white wine and a chorus of “Proud Mary.”

Winnipeg, you sidled up to the curb in a way to besmirch your near-perfect paralell parking reputation and were touched by the presence of Birds Hill to Berlin and back.

Stony Mountain, the first double, you sold girl guide cookies, belly sweat in your new dress, and talked about “the girls” while we exaggerated stories of potential.

Onanole, we drove into your April snow storm and, unplugged, planned musicals and heard of house fires.

Saskatoon, you won over the Statler and Waldorf of the joint and swooned in the arms of a baby grand, melting in her steel and wood.

Calgary, we returned, you beckoned from the hot tub after singing along.

Edmonton, we tried to nap in the “room for crying” and navigated puzzle pieces from the past, remembering the waiting of 7 years ago most.

Sherwood Park, you panned for gold in the Saskatchewan River and spun pure magic near changing walls.

Toronto, as my new home you showed home well:  replies from here, there, and everywhere I’ve reached my hand out to; you held and lifted.

Montreal, you were the best you’ve ever been, near full, smiling, and seeing at long last via Aurora and 73rd Ave.

Ottawa, your rainy Sunday slowed us all down, not to mention those stairs, but you’re always my favourite hiding place and I was glad to close my eyes and rest my head on your shoulder.

Cole Harbour, you were funny and lovely, setting up a new world with a three day life span.

Saint John, your sunset was just one of the warm faces in the crowd, and after the music your eyes-filled with tears as you told me of your lost one; I noticed what I missed about those stories, this time.

Fredericton, the background noise would come and go but we, a small but dedicated few, travelled its peaks and troughs together, glowing for each other; plus gin.

xoc

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!

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

CrossCanadaLTL

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:

heya
thanks for the kind words.
sounds good

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.

songe selectsThe 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:

mike & laundry2_5724

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.

Niko, Futcher, Murrary, Michael-Owen, moi. Captured by Rosamond Norbury.
Niko, Futcher, Murrary, Michael-Owen, moi. Captured by Rosamond Norbury.

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.

Horrible font and HMV listening post; I cringed at the former and was so thrilled by the latter.

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.”

An outtake from the cover photoshoot, by David Wignall, and before I knew the value of hair and make up artists.
An out-take from the cover photo shoot, by David Wignall, and before I knew the value of hair and make up artists.

 

I’m a huge CBC Radio fan. Any time I’m on tour and I get to stop at a new station in another Canadian town I get a thrill just posing in front of the large, requisite logo that adorns every CBC entrance. Over the years I’ve slowly been able to meet my favourite broadcasters – from Bill Richardson, Shelagh Rogers, to Sook Yin Lee.

The time first time I met Sook Yin was over the phone for an interview on DNTO in 2008. I was mid-tour for The Wedding Singer and The Undertaker and stopped at CBC studios in Saskatoon. Last month, not only did we get to work together in person, but in front of a live audience at Vancouver’s York Theatre.

And as you know, I love to tell stories. This one started in February when DNTO producer Andrew Friesen sent me an email asking if I had any story to tell for an upcoming “objects of affection” episode. Our conversation lead to me sharing my recent essay for Room Magazine, Wallflower, Late Bloomerand, once we dialled it down – with extra help from and big thanks to another DNTO producer Kaj Hasselriis – we settled it: my object of affection was my new leg.

You know, my robot leg, aka the flower leg, the fancy leg, the result of the incredible crowdfunding campaign the Kneeraiser; my prosthetic leg that houses the microprocessor RHEO knee. The knee that changed my life as an amputee about a year and a half ago.

After a few months with that new knee, last summer the life change became highlighted in an unexpected way – on the dance floor.

The tale spans losing my leg at 13, an awkward junior high dance, and my new knee changed everything. I won’t spoil it for you – just go have a listen to live performance here.

christa-couture-s

 

 

 

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.

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

Oh Canada! After a summer (mostly) at home, I’m ready to hit the road again. From Vancouver Island to Montreal, here are my 2013 solo Canadian tour dates:

September 7 – Vancouver BC @ KickstArt Festival, The Roundhouse
September 12 – Vancouver BC @ The Prophouse
September 18 – Port Alberni BC @ Rainbow Room
September 19 – Gabriola Island BC @ Rose Crystal Studio
September 20 – Victoria BC @ The Solstice Cafe
September 21 – Salt Spring Island BC @ Steffich Fine Art
September 22 – Denman Island BC @ House Concert
September 24 – Armstrong BC @ Wild Oak
September 25 – Ymir BC @ The School House
September 26 – Calgary AB @ Wine Ohs
September 27 – Edmonton AB @ The Blue Chair
September 29 – Sherwood Park AB @ House Concert
October 2 – Regina SK @ Artful Dodger
October 3 – Winnipeg MB @ Times Change(d)
October 7 – Montreal QC @ Grumpy’s
October 10 – Ottawa ON @ Avant-Garde Bar
October 15 – Toronto ON @ Free Times

Christa Couture 2013 Canadian Tour Dates

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