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Amelia Curran - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 24 / 1 / 2013

Amelia Curran - Interview


Critically acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Amelia Curran speaks to John Clarkson about her just-released sixth album, 'Spectators'

Amelia Curran is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter, who has become known for her the spare and intimate arrangements of her albums. Her last album, folk record, ‘Hunter Hunter’, combined acoustic solo songs with some band numbers. Her sixth and latest album, ‘Spectators’, however, has been a departure for her. The minimalism and understatedness of her previous material at one level remains. At another level ‘Spectators’ is, however, a much more expansive record, not just involving Curran and her regular two-piece band as ‘Hunter, Hunter’ did, but another twenty musicians. Strings, brass, a piano, an accordion and electric instrumentation all appear alongside Curran’s trademark acoustic guitar work. Amelia Curran recently moved back to her home city of St John’s in Newfoundland after living for over a decade Halifax in Nova Scotia. She will be spending much of this year touring ‘Spectators’, including dates in Britain and Ireland in February. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Amelia Curran about ‘Spectators’ and its difficult evolvement. PB: You won a lot of acclaim and a Juno Award for ‘Hunter, Hunter’. It has taken you three years to release Spectators’. Did you feel a lot of pressure after ‘Hunter, Hunter’ about writing a follow-up? AC: I did. (Laughs)! Mostly it was a fear of alienating people. I was so grateful for how ‘Hunter, Hunter’ was received that I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. PB: ‘Spectators’ is, however, a very different album to ‘Hunter, Hunter’. It is more pop-orientated and it also involves a lot more orchestration. Was it important to you that you didn’t just end up making another album in the same style as ‘Hunter, Hunter’ and simply repeating yourself? AC: That is always the fear with me. No one wants to make the same record over and over again, but I definitely would run the risk of doing that if left to my own devices. A lot of what you hear on ‘Spectators’ is down to the influence of John Critchley, who produced it. I think that he did excellent work. PB: It is at one level despite all the people involved very understated. How much of that was down to John and how much of that was down to you? AC: I have always been a bit of a musical minimalist, but we tended to agree. Once we got down to it, recording the album was a quick process. PB: You moved back to your home city of St John’s recently after having spent a decade living in Halifax. Did that also slow the album down? AC: Most of the reason that it took a long time was because that I am such a sticky writer. I couldn’t settle on a list of songs. PB: You, however, moved to Toronto for three months during the process of writing this album, so that you could isolate yourself and write some material. Most people when they go on a retreat travel into the wilds, or somewhere really out of the way. Why did you decide to move to another big city? AC: I must be the only person who has ever gone to Toronto for privacy (Laughs). I was so excited to be back in St John’s that I couldn’t work. I do have some family up there, but mostly people would leave me to my own devices. I don’t have a social network up there. I don’t have too many friends. I found a little place by myself. I lived in a box high in a tower (Laughs), and one of those little conundrums. I had never lived like that, never lived in a big building, and so I felt really tucked away and quite isolated. I came back with three songs. PB: Where were the rest of the songs written? Were they all written in St John’s or were some of them written before you left Halifax? AC: All the other songs were written in St John’s, but some of them were started in Halifax or on the road. Writing some of those songs was a really long process. Sometimes I can finish a song in one sitting, but that is really quite rare. At other times there will be half a song sitting there and it will take me a month to get back to it. PB: Are you a writer who does a lot of rewriting? AC: I do, but it is dangerous. I find that if you do too much rewriting you lose a lot of the romance or the experience of writing the song and that can kill it. I have lost a lot of songs by going too far. PB: Why did you decide to call the album ‘Spectators’? AC: I have this kind of guilt about standing and watching the world going by and worry that maybe I am not really doing my part. It is a philosophical thing, but I got quite worried about it last year (Laughs). Some of the songs on the album reflect that. PB: Songs like ‘Years’ and ‘The Modern Man’ are about our place in the universe. You seem to come to the conclusion on them that ultimately as individuals we are pretty insignificant in things. Did you plan that theme from the outset or was that something which just evolved as the album progressed? AC: It just evolved that way, but a lot of the songs on the album did end up related. PB: The last song ‘Face in the News’ seems to be about someone that you once knew suddenly appearing on the news. Was that inspired by a real incident or a real person? AC: It is not really a true story. I watch a lot of news on television. Any time there is a tragedy someone will always say how unexpected a tragedy it was. Tragedy is always unexpected which is good I guess. It is as if, however, by the time something is on the news on television that it is too little, too late. Along with that though comes the guilt I was talking about of wondering if I, and with that song I guess everyone else, is doing enough to stop it. PB: You are going to be touring Britain in during the first part of February. You have been playing with a band for the first time in some years in Canada. Are you going to be touring solo over there or are you going to be bringing musicians with you? AC: I will be touring solo. PB: And once you have toured Britain what are you plans after that? AC: I am going to spend some time in Ireland after that and then I am going to go back to Canada to attend a folk music conference. Then I am going to play around the world for the next I don’t how long, going down into America and to Australia and I am not sure where else yet (Laughs). PB: Thank you.

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Amelia Curran - Interview

Amelia Curran - Interview

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Amelia Curran - Interview
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