Summer 2016 (A Record & A Movie)

Summer 2016 was the close heat of Toronto sticking to your skin like flypaper. I lived for the weekly evening thunder showers that spurred the grown ups of Roxton Road to race out of doors like the recess bell had rung.

By day, the streetcar. A rusty mammoth clinking its hourly migration, tired old thing complaining audibly on the detours down to King Street. Up to Queen, east to Parliament, and flit like a damselfly into the air conditioning. And one by one heat mopped day, we made a record.

By night, two electric fans. Seated on the floor because the couch fabric is too warm and bakes your underside. Online hours, where productivity is instantly gratifying in the way of a ping pong return, forgetting the job will be yours again by morning. With this pattern, by some miracle of patch and quilt and fray, we made a documentary.

I wanted to think of it like an alter ego. Recording artist by day, filmmaker by night. But truthfully it’s more like I put my shirt on inside out and backwards and insisted to myself it was a new shirt. I tricked myself into intense productivity. (And it worked.)

A finished project is like the furthest displacement of a pendulum where, against all nature, it appears to pause. Like on a swing set, at the top of the arc, when you thought you might be flung off into outer space. And your body rises from the seat more softly than it seems it should. And you are weightless, and a little scared, for a moment so brief you cannot be sure it occurred.

In art, it is the time between pride of completion and outside comment. That pause. Brief, weightless, and frightening. But artists have exhaustingly delicate mental constitutions.

So I’ll put it to you like this. In St. John’s, I can see the ocean from my house. I have to go upstairs and into the spare room. (Which isn’t so much a spare room as the room I don’t happen to sleep in and is therefore distributed with things that have no other home to go to. Boxes of unsold cds and a desk that will never move again because I would have to take it apart to get it out the door and threaded down the hall, and then where would it go.) Let me start again.

I can see the ocean from my house. I have to go upstairs and into the spare room. I have to bring a kitchen chair to stand on. And in the top right corner of the window there, I can see the ocean from my house. I could just as easily walk to the ocean and see much more of it. But this part is on the mortgage. No one else has exactly this view. And it changes daily. And the afternoon is different from the morning, is different from the evening, is vastly outdone by the night.

I cannot see what you will see.

(Gone airs in Newfoundland & Labrador Saturday September 17th 8:30pm on CBC Television. National air date TBA.)

Road

ROAD

We gaze on the mountain. We gather, the four of us, typical band in typical formation, quickly testing the sounds. Check, one, two. Thumbs up. It works, I can hear you. Now play.

In summer, it is all outdoors. Cross the field to the main stage, past the playground to the office trailer. Supper is in the tent, we eat and drink like happy vikings in some Disney cartoon. We confirm the perils of one another’s travel stories. Lost luggage, delays, cancellations. Someone’s banjo has been following them across the prairies for days and still hasn’t caught up. I’ve heard there are vehicles that have gone over that cliff road, and were never retrieved. They rust on the rocks like barnacles, trees in the wheel wells.

They mean the hill. That’s what the locals call it. The hill into Bella Coola, British Columbia. Highway 20, which runs 21 kilometres of turns and switchbacks, 9 kilometres of which is reportedly at an 18% grade of narrow dirt road. Off we go then.

We drove the mountain in presumptive silence. We leaned into the turns like cyclists and out of them like confused bees in a breeze. We hovered, a tense meditation, a telepathic support from passengers to driver, you can do this, you’re great, you’re doing great. We pressed our feet firm into the car floor until it tingled, some kind of polite camaraderie with physics. We made soft jokes. Little lambs ears of comedy. We dared not to say, how breathtaking.

There are things we are lucky to have experienced. Music is a passport. But it isn’t the job. The job is in the getting there, the moving about. The road and all the time it takes.

With little exception, my first thought to myself upon waking, is “give it a moment”. It has been years since I knew exactly where I was. I am aligned with ghosts of where the bedroom window should be, but rarely is.

Two days later we take the plane out of Bella Coola Valley. Four bands, sixteen bandmates not mentioning the Big Bopper. We bury our faces into the windows and for a while there is the drone of the propellers and a few inhaling “wow”’s, and we all sink into our private minds again. Our telepathic support has ended and we are going home.

I saw water and ice that looked like spilled paint. A scale and age of things I cannot comprehend. The worn cartilage of earth.

Back at the airport, we trudge, carrying our lives, pared down to thirty seven pounds of gear and a change of clothes. We are scolded by the flight crew, who do not wish to see us approaching. Musicians are so demanding. They travel in packs, clinging to their figure eights of luggage, and they smell like smoke and lavender and the nineteen eighties.

Music isn’t the job. Do you see. It is the reward.

You could put that stage anywhere at all and we’ll get to it. And we pull ourselves onto the rigging and squint into the mist. And up over your heads and past the peaks of the carnival tents. And above the baseball field lights and the sharp fingertips of spruce and fir, above the evening whispers of cloud and the thin veils of snow that never lift. And all because sometimes, the mountain looks back at us.

Now play.

On Writing

Today I am writing, I write.  Like a dog with a rope, strangling the living daylights out of a chorus.  Wrestling imagery from thin air like fishing eels.  They fight, the bastards.  They fight and sometimes they win, take the whole line with them, fishing pole sailing along the skin of the lake, gone forever.

Sometimes a not so far off hurricane.  Wall of cloud and rain and berry red sky.  The approach.  The song cometh.  Can’t speed it up any.  Coax it out, tie it gently down, try not to spook it.  Drifting, skittish, malnourished little creature.  Calm now, hush.  There you are.  There you are.  There.

Sometimes the weight is unbearable.  Must get lower to the ground, bad day on gravity.  Might have to dig.  Push the greasy soil out of the way, breaking fingernails on a stone you didn’t know was there.  And it hurts.  It hurts and I can’t do it and I don’t want to do it because it is mean to me.

Sometimes everything is on the head of a pin.  I can’t stand when it’s like that.  Gives me a headache.  The squinting.  The scrutinizing.  World on the head of a pin, someone said that before.  Sometimes it is a moth and you are an idiot with a lantern.

It’s behind me right now, waiting for me to catch it.  Like trying to see your own ears.  This one’s clever and annoying and I might ignore it for one that wants to play nicer.  It is an imp, a hag, tapping me on the shoulder and running away.  When I go outside for a cigarette it raps on the window and waves at me and locks the door.  It keeps moving my coffee cup.  It keeps saying no, not that chord, not that note, colder, colder, warmer.  I might not win.  This one could hide from me a long time.  I will be haunted.

Warmer.  Warmer.  Seeking scalding hot boiling lava.  The floor is molten lava.  Lunch is ready but I am not hungry or I can’t tell.  Maybe another coffee or is it too early for a glass of beer.  This is today, staring off into space and appearing as though I am doing nothing but the floor is molten lava.  Today I am writing, I write.

It’s Mental Website

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Coming Home

Coming home is as good, if not better, than all those romantic tales would have you believe.  Tonight, by the time my luggage slumbered over the slats of the carousel and I finally put the key in the lock, it was 4:00 am.  But I am too delighted to go to bed quite yet.
Understand, there are no open arms waiting for me at the airport.  I stomp through the arrivals corridor with the familiarity and confidence of mud.  My home has no partners, no pets, not even a plant thirsty from neglect.  But every time, I go running about the house and hugging all the walls I can get my arms around.  Flick all the lights on and check all the taps.  Compliment the house for still standing and thank it for still being here for me.
So this is the scene – sitting at the kitchen table in the wee and small hours of the night and typing away like everything is balloons.
Very simply, I don’t want to forget how good it feels to come home once tomorrow’s errands have sunk in.  (And they do sink, like shoes in slow tar.  Some last desperate pops of breath and come the life police to ground you.)
On a night like this, a literal homecoming, I don’t want to have anything to do with the ground.  I want to live in the dark joy of the private night, with the image of tomorrow as sunshine, marching bands, and confetti.
This is where I belong – alone in the night, safe in the hold of home, day dreaming a beautiful universe.
On a night like this, I love you.  And tomorrow I will begin to worry and then I will write a song for you because by that time I will have forgotten all other forms of communication.  I will think of all the things that make us afraid and all the things that loneliness eats.  Turns of doubt and corners of jealousy, where we become unreasonable, and unfair.
In a way, happy belated Valentine’s Day.  Life is hard and the road is dog eared from all the things that have gone before.  But tomorrow could be confetti – shredded and messy, but bright.
Whatever it means to you, let’s always be coming home.
Amelia.

 

Massey Hall Show! April 29, 2016

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Touring

It’s always been funny to me that I’m technically closer to home while on tour in the UK. Rocky Newfoundland and Beautiful British Columbia are wildly far away from one another. And considering I never did get my drivers license, I’m not sure how I ended up getting to drive back and forth across Canada so often.

The drivers license is one of those things that just eluded me. Somewhere between questionable eyesight and just never getting around to it, I have ended up, for all intents, on foot. So when my bandmates and I set out on tour it’s lads at the helm, I Phone navigation in the passenger seat and I retire to the backseat, never giving up my Blackberry (never!), and never really sure where we are or how we got there.

But I love a Canadian tour. There’s loyalty in a Canadian tour. Every roadside stop is a reward for having come so far.

I’ll admit, at times it’s hard. There is weather and darkness and we are away from our families. Accidents happen and money is scarce and if one of us sneezes we’re all down for the count. But we can play, and we can sing, and come snow or rain or great rocky distances, that is what we’re always going to do. A Canadian musician is a juggernaut. As long as you’re there, we’re coming for you.

Thank you for being there for us. We’ll see you in March and until then, we’re taking requests – let me know on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll bring you our best.

(If you want to see where we’ll be the whole list – and growing – is here.

Winter

They measure snow with a ruler, you know. Or a metre stick. Nothing fancy.

In December, in St. John’s, our first snowfall gave us thirty centimetres and I thought I’d never get through another winter. I stood still on a sidewalk, wondering how to navigate the ice, and said aloud “I can’t do this.”

My reflections on 2015 are just so. The year that was and will never be again. Shaky ankles on an icy sidewalk, a frightening promise of broken bones. During the slick St. John’s winters we all lose our cool, or at least cover it in thick layers of wool. Our typical downtown loping strides turn into tiny hops. Cautiously penguin-stepping down the middle of the road and into the new year.

I am afraid. What if I fall, and what if I fail.

But those first thirty centimetres are long gone and 2015 ended gently. What snow and ice has come since is still terrifying on these hills but somehow one grows accustomed. We do that every time. We say good riddance and tuck our chins into our chests and wait for the light to grow.

Somebody said it’s a minute a day. It’s probably not that precise, but still.

In the final minutes of 2015 I was riled into a spirited force, some delightful place between disorderly and hopeful. The old year is so tired and dull. The new year is full of promise and sunlight. I do that every time. Gather up a years worth of living and ball it up like painters tape. Measure it by it’s crumpled mass, it’s edges yellowed and dusty and softened. Try and throw it away, but it sticks.

Winter is a repetition. But it never promises to be anything different. Not like the voices of spring and summer that sing and beckon. Winter sits on us and refuses to change and we have to live around it. We listen to it intently while it whispers adoringly in lamplight and we hide away, small bundles, while it moans.

And we stick a ruler in it and measure the hell out of it. Five, ten, thirty centimetres. And one minute a day. One precious, sunny minute more, every day.

Stay safe and warm.

Amelia.

PS
You can help homeless and at-risk youth in St. John’s stay safe and warm this winter by donating to Choices for Youth, here.


( November 4th 2014, Six Shooter Records )
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