Am I still falling?

Since local singer-songwriter Amelia Curran’s album War Brides was re-released by the popular Canadian independent label Six-Shooter Records a year ago, she has managed to capture the attention of critics across Canada. With her new album, Hunter, Hunter, she’s poised for even greater success. By John Feltham.

You are about to release your newest album, Hunter, Hunter, could you tell me a little about it?
It’s the only album I’ve ever recorded in St. John’s, which is special in and of itself. It took 20 months, three or four locations, including a couple nervous breakdowns. We recorded 20 songs, 12 of which made it to the album…

This is your fifth full length solo album but your first since being signed with Six Shooter Records. How has that changed the process of writing and recording?
That was part of some of the nervous breakdowns, I was nervous to follow up War Brides—which became the little album that could. It was intimidating to follow up something that people became so close to. And it was the first time I ever had to report to someone—but they’re great. They really let you do your own thing.

What about your decision to return to St. John’s to record Hunter, Hunter…?
It was necessary for me to come home. It was time, and making an album here was so exciting. To get to work with Sandy Morris, Jeff Panting, and The Once, George Morgan… it’s amazing, I’ve been watching most of these folks my whole life. To have people like that so willing to come into the studio was was very exciting.

I understand that the album was recorded in various places across the city, could you talk about some of the locations?
The old CBC building on Duckworth Road was my favourite. Another one was when Don Ellis was in the process of moving his studio, so we recorded on Mount Scio Road. It was the dead of winter and there was no running water. It was dark, it was cold, it was scary. We had space heaters humming along, but we would have to turn them off for the recording, and the instruments would go out of tune from the cold.

A lot of your music centers on the theme, “matters of the heart”… what’s the constant draw with the subject?
I’m a very emotional a person—a heart on legs. [laugh] A lot of these things are ways of expressing the things that are humiliating, but not necessarily sad. So many of the songs are sad, or at least sung as though they’re sad. Love songs and songs about lost love shouldn’t be downers.

But sadness is huge and you have to write about it.

So which gives you the most inspiration in song writing—the ‘highs’ or the ‘lows’?
Jim Cuddy once said, “Sadness is lingering so you can stew on it and get good writing, whereas happiness is fleeting and it’s hard to get a hold of it…” I’m paraphrasing here now, but, I think it’s a great explanation of it.

A lot of my music is inspired by tearing away the layers and looking at how horrible we can be as people… and the humiliating things about being human. To be embarrassed is what really gets the pen moving, being wrong about love is the most humiliating thing ever. Drinking too much, making mistakes…

One track from the album, “The Mistress”, is such a no nonsense song that cuts straight to the point about the frivolities of love, but a lot of your other songs are rich in metaphor. Did you set out to write a straight-to-the-point song like it is, or is it something that just happened?
I wrote that song in one day—but it was a long day with not enough food, too much coffee and too many cigarettes. I was at a friend’s house and he had to go to work. When I wrote it was actually twice as fast, with a different rhythm than how it ended up on the record. It was a very defensive narrative, unlike anything I had ever written before, and I don’t know if I would ever write like that before.

It’s a song that sort of occurred and fell into my head.

From your perspective, what other songs from the album do you like?
I really like “Ah Me.” I also like “Hands on a Grain of Sand,” which one of the last songs that was written for the album.

As I write more I’m getting better at sticking with a point, and straying from metaphors, which young writers tend to stick with. I think I’m becoming a better writer, and as my harshest critic, I think that these two songs are proof that I’m becoming a better writer.

Following the release of Hunter, Hunter and the concert at Holy Heart Auditorium you’re back on the road across Canada, and then throughout the UK. How is life on the road as a solo artist?
Yeah, I Ieave the very next day. I am so tired. I just finished summer touring—living in airports and waking up forgetting where you are. So yes, I’m tired. But I’ll get into the flow and go with it.

Looking back now with your years of experience, and the point where you are in your career as a musician, do you have any advice for young singer / songwriters in the city?
I always go back to writing. I think you have to write all the time. If I’m writing a song and I get to the chorus and I already dislike it and I think that this isn’t the best I can do, finish it anyway. You’re never going to have one process. So writing is the most important thing. That said, I’m a fan of the musician that’s not always the writer, whatever you’re doing, you have to do it for millions of hours to get any good at it. From when you wake up to when you pass out, it has to be on on your mind and the tip of you tongue.

I’ve been doing this for a dozen years, which is not a long time, but I do feel old and tired. But years ago in the record industry, they would say that 12 years is an overnight success. So in some people’s eyes I’m at the beginning of my career. But I have been putting in those hours.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I feel there’s a big storm coming at me. It’s like your diving from the high tower at the Aquarena and you think you’re going to hit the water, but you haven’t hit it yet and you’re think, “Am I still falling?” It’s when you realize you’re still falling and I’m thinking, is it time to hold my breath? I am very anxious to see what happens.

Hunter, Hunter will be available in stores on Tuesday, September 1. There will be a free, in-store performance at Fred’s Records that night at 7:30pm.

Amelia Curran will be performing at Holy Heart Auditorium with guests The Once on Thursday, September 3. Tickets are available at Fred’s Records and at the Holy Heart box office (55 Bonaventure Ave) or by phone at 579-4424.