By: Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Juno Award contender Amelia Curran feels a huge sense of pride ahead of the April 21 show — not just for herself but also for the Halifax community that helped spawn her music career and that of two other artist-friends nominated in her category.
Curran, Old Man Luedecke and Rose Cousins are all up for best roots and traditional solo album of the year, roughly a decade after they first met on the vibrant scene of Halifax’s open-mike nights and classic east-coast kitchen parties.
“We were all playing at Ginger’s Tavern for $50 a night and we were all struggling with running our own careers, booking our own shows, trying to do our own publicity, trying to pay rent, all those classic things,” recalls Curran, 35.
“As we’ve all sort of grown in our careers, we see each other less but that means we’re all working. And to see each other again in this crazy scenario, where people would think we’re in competition with each other, it seems to me that that’s proof that a really good music community can grow really successful artists.”
“Not that we’ve hit a ceiling of any kind,” adds Curran. “We’re still growing together and we’re still able to really just pat each other on the back.
“It’s like, ‘Way to go, our neck of the woods!’”
The St. John’s-born Curran is nominated for “Spectators,” the follow-up to her Juno-winning album “Hunter, Hunter.”
Old Man Luedecke, a two-time Juno winner and Toronto native whose real name is Chris Luedecke, is a contender for “Tender Is The Night.” And Kensington, P.E.I.-bred Cousins is in the running for her first Juno for “We Have Made A Spark.”
They’re up against Toronto-bred Annabelle Chvostek for “Rise” and Alberta native Corb Lund for “Cabin Fever.”
“It’s kind of neat that all of a sudden in this category at the Junos there are wonderful … singer-songwriters that have passed through (Halifax),” says Luedecke, 36.
“I guess it’s sort of the artistic hub east of Quebec. I think that’s fair. We’ve had a lot of help and (government) support … so it seems like there was a real sort of blossoming room for this community of singer-songwriters to happen.”
For Luedecke, Curran and Cousins, that blossoming started in the early 2000s. That’s when Luedecke — who first moved to Halifax in ’99 — had just returned from a sojourn of reading books in the woods in the Yukon and was ready to devote himself completely to his music.
With his signature banjo, he tested the waters of the open-mike scene, where he met Curran and Cousins. ”At Ginger’s, when I started going there to play open-mike nights, they really didn’t like me because I was one of a set of people that would go play their song … stay there for like five hours and only have one drink, the free one, and not tip,” he recalls with a laugh.
“We weren’t really all that well-to-do, but it was really nice.”
Luedecke also toured quite a bit, either through the Greyhound bus or hitchhiking, staying in youth hostels along the way.
Curran was also frequently touring while becoming a fixture of Halifax’s open-mike scene.
“I saw her play at an open-mike night … at this place called Planet Pool and she came in and played this song called ‘Freedom Walks,’ which is on her first record, and I literally lost my mind,” recalls Cousins, 35, who recently hosted and won three trophies at the East Coast Music Awards.
“I was just like, ‘That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard’ and I immediately wanted to get to know her. She had just moved from Newfoundland and she had dreads in her hair and I was like, ‘Who is this cool chick?’”
Curran, meanwhile, admired Cousins’ brave move in 2005, when she quit her full-time as an alumni events co-ordinator at Dalhousie University so she could devote herself completely to her music. ”It’s also earlier in the decade when independent music was a real machine and we were all doing this individually,” says Curran.
“Rose and I and a couple other of our friends would get together and we would just analyze the hell out of this stuff, you know, ‘What is the good way to do it?’ and share resources. It was just a constant machine, there was no stopping.”
Cousins and Curran eventually collaborated with Luedecke: Curran sang on his tune “Joy of Cooking” from his 2006 album “Hinterland,” and Cousins sang two songs on his first Juno-winning album, 2008′s “Proof of Love.”
The three still see each other every so often, either on the festival circuit or through dinner parties and conferences.
But their struggles aren’t nearly as big as when they first met.
Cousins’ “We Have Made A Spark” — recorded in just over a week in Boston — includes the melancholy piano ballad “Go First” that was featured on a recent episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Meanwhile, Curran’s songwriting strengths are drawing comparisons to Leonard Cohen.
And Luedecke — who now has identical twin daughters — was able to make his new record in Nashville with his “hero,” country and bluegrass musician Tim O’Brien.
“I’ve often referred to it as feeling like a graduating class,” says Cousins. “It’s like people moving through steps of a boot camp kind of thing and there’s an amazing group of songwriters from the east that have been doing that kind of in parallel with each other and in different genres, some kind of crossing over.”
This year’s Juno Awards will be held in Regina and will air on CTV.
New dates have been added to the European CD Release in Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Ireland. Check out the “Shows” page for full details.
NEW ALBUM ‘SPECTATORS’ – REL: February 11th 2013
Intriguing, diverse, and brimming with passion **** Maverick magazine
The perfect recipe for late-night music for grown ups! Word magazine
Halifax songstress Amelia Curran is excited to be heading back to the UK with the eagerly awaited release of her new album Spectators released on Feb 11th on Blue Rose Records.
Amelia will also be touring through the UK in Jan/Feb to promote the new album (already released in Canada on Six Shooter Records) with the tour kicking off at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on Jan 30th (Full tour details below)
Amelia’s acclaimed 2009 album Hunter, Hunter won her the much sort after Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album. With her new album, Curran returns to the scene with ten tracks that raise the bar on her signature lyricism, but also push beyond the folk boundaries that have defined her previous releases.
Produced by John Critchley, Spectators brings surprises, including brass, strings, piano, and rumbling percussion. “What Will You Be Building,” a downtrodden Dixieland dirge, distills existence into one essential question. “The Modern Man” is another standout track – Curran’s stark vision stands sharply against a dark, tense, shivering backdrop. Even, or perhaps especially, the love songs, cut through the bone. In particular, the earthquake heartache of “San Andreas Fault,” is as graceful as it is devastating.
Guest musicians featured on the album are a collection of Toronto and St. John’s notables, including The Once, Todor Kobakov, Bryden Baird, Selina Martin, Oh Susanna, and Martin Tielli.
Since the release of her first album in 2000, Curran has an impressive discography which each year have gained a number of East Coast Music Award nominations including ‘Folk Recording Of The Year’, ‘Female Recording Of The Year’, until her album triumphed over all and won the much desired Juno Award.
Amelia Curran was born to write music, a songwriter by trade, but a writer at heart, she believes language is everything.
AMELIA CURRAN TOUR DATES
Wed 30th Jan 2013
Glasgow – O2 ABC Glasgow (Celtic Connections 2013)
01413538000/ www.celticconnections.com / £TBC/ TBCpm (Opening for Aimee Mann)
Thurs 31st Jan 2013
Glasgow – O2 ABC Glasgow (Celtic Connections 2013) TBC
01413538000/ www.celticconnections.com / £TBC/ TBCpm
Mon 4th Feb 2013
Cottingham, East Yorkshire – The Backroom
01482847007/ www.backroomcottingham.couk / £10 adv/ 8pm
Tues 5th Feb 2013
London – Pull Up The Roots @ The Slaughtered Lamb
www.pulluptheroots.co.uk / £10 adv/ £12 door/ 7.30pm
Wed 6th Feb 2013
Biddulph, Staffordshire – The Biddulph Arms
01782514896/ www.biddulphupinarms.com / £12 TBC/ 7.30pm
Thurs 7th Feb 2013
Norwich – The Bicycle Shop
www.thebicycleshopcafe.com / £8 adv&door/ 7.30pm
Fri 8th Feb 2013
Liverpool – The Rodewald Suite at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
01517093789/ www.liverpoolphil.com / £12 / 8.30pm
Sat 9th Feb 2013
Newcastle – Jumpin’ Hot Club @ The Cluny
01912304474/ www.jumpinhot.com / £10 / 7.30pm (Opening for O’Holley & Tidow)
Sun 10th Feb 2013
Sheffield – The Greystones
01142665599/ www.mygreystones.co.uk / £7 adv/ £9 door/ 7.30pm
The new album is out today. And check out this new video for “What Will You Be Building” directed by Light Echo Productions.
AMELIA CURRAN’S NEW ALBUM, SPECTATORS, CONFIRMED FOR RELEASE OCTOBER 2, 2012.
Check out the first single “Years”: