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:

Long Time Leaving – new album cover reveal!

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,
xoc

On New Year’s Eve day I sat at my keyboard and wrote this little song for us. As I mention in the video, it’s a “not-that-happy yet ‘happy new year!'” song. Which is to say it’s for all the mess and beauty and pain and joy we’re all tied up in and surrounded by. It’s my second HNY song and this time I managed to not make it date specific… : )

Having just written it, the performance is a little rough around the edges, but it is with all my heart: happy new year.

To Us (Happy New Year)

Happy new year! I wrote this wee ditty yesterday with all the best wishes for a new year of mess and beauty. To us!

Posted by Christa Couture on Friday, January 1, 2016

Lyrics:

Oh, our human ways that we tally up the days
We fold the corner of the page to keep our spot
And then we act amazed to see a number change
Like it’s us that’s rearranged when it’s not

I’m not one to tell you, hon, “it’ll be alright”
Of course it might be, but here’s the rub: not tonight

So happy new year to choices, to losses, and divorces
To all the best intent that missed the mark
Happy new year to brilliance, to stillness, and to sickness
To that which didn’t kill us that made us hard

No I’m not one to tell you, hon, “we’re in the clear”
Of course we might be, but here’s the rub:
Probably not this year

So happy new year to resentment, to enjoyment, disappointment
To all the best laid plans we won’t pull off
Happy new year to the weary, to fury, and recovery
To that which doesn’t kill us that makes us soft

Yes, to that which doesn’t kill us that makes us soft

I’m not one to tell you, hon, “don’t give up”
But if you don’t you’ll get the joke that is yet to come

Happy new year
Happy new year
To us.

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”:

Photo 2014-05-06, 12 47 25 AM

(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:

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

Here’s another video from the German tour – an unplugged performance of me singing BGs with Robert Carl Blank on his song “10 or 12” – filmed at our last Songs & Whispers show together in Bremen.

Some days before there had be an afternoon at a house concert where I hummed along to this song from the audience while Robert ended his set with it. The next night I fumbled my way through it on stage, and from there it became the closing number of our night together. That last night in Bremen was the first time dance moves were introduced however…

Where have I been the past two months? With you.

Here’s a little song I wrote in the backseat of the Mazda 5 as my seven week Canadian tour came to a close. A little song but a big thank you!

Lyrics:
On the highway in the USA
Radio still tuned to the CBC
Getting closer, closer to over
I’m moving into memories

I’ve seen that I can’t give you hope
But I can show you the ropes
I can’t make you understand
But I can give you a hand
You’re my alibi

When you hear me loud and clearly
On the wave of a microphone
I hope it helps you ’cause that helps me too
You and I could feel less alone

Though I can’t give you hope
I can show you the ropes
I can’t make you understand
But I’ll give you a hand
You’re my alibi

“Michigan” has been, through the recording process, the short hand for my song “You Were Here in Michigan” which will be the first single – coming in one week! – from my new album – coming in September! – “The Living Record”.

A savvy and smart friend of mine commented not too long ago “it seems ‘Lost in the City’ would be a better title” and he’s right in some ways. Lost in the city is the lyrical hook of the song and a less cumbersome, ie catchier name than “You Were Here in Michigan”. I’ve been told my specificity in songwriting has narrowed my potential fanbase (pft) and something like the difference between “You Were Here in Michigan” and “Lost in the City” is a good example of my not-broad-enough leanings…

But “You Were Here in Michigan” it is. JUST ‘CAUSE. Acutally, for many reasons, but I’ll spare you them.

Of course, as we know, “Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title” and with that in mind, let me tell you more about this song that I am soon to unleash on the world.

I hadn’t actually expected to keep this song. I write many songs in passing that get thrown out, forgotten or ignored. As it should be. Somebody stop me if I ever start to carefully preserve and tend to every little thing I write. I wrote/sang this song to myself as I drove north from Flint to the ISLAND Hill House last fall, it kept me company and described the view. The next day I decided to record it and put it up on YouTube.

This is that rough, early rendition of “Michigan”:

I hadn’t planned to work on it again, but over the weeks that followed it kept popping into my mind, a pest really, demanding my attention.

One evening, not long before we went into the studio, in some late, fertile hour of the night, I gave in to its persistence, wrote a bridge, changed the ending and voilà, it was complete.

Once in the studio and in the shared hands of Steve and the band, it grew bigger and stronger and it has come a long way since that recording above! I can’t wait to share it with you.

In one week.

xoc

 

One of my favourite Ian Sherwood songs is “Here I Go”. During our wee tour last month I got to sing along with it every night! One morning, while still waking up and about to hit the road, we recorded this in a friend’s backyard…

I love how the sun comes out during the bridge – well played sunshine, well played.

Watch: Ian Sherwood w/Christa Couture – “Here I Go”