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 Undertaker. The 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? …