" I went balls to the wall with how personal the songs are; I wasn’t afraid of that" In conversation with Carrie Elkin
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Hey Carrie, how the devil are you?
I’m doing great! Just came off the road and will be home for a few weeks, and it feels good to be home. That being said, this CD release tour has been fantastic.
What have you been up to today?
Well, I’ve been hanging out with Miss Maizy, my ten month old baby girl. So far we’ve stacked a bunch of blocks and knocked them down, gone to the park to swing, and drank smoothies. She’s now napping, which gives me the opportunity to get a little bit of work done!
The record was conceived during a difficult time for you, what can you tell us about The Penny Collector?
I think of it as a life cycle record. I lost my dad a couple years ago and was devastated. About six months after he died, I decided to take a trip to the mountains of New Mexico to finish writing the songs for a new album, and to grieve him. On the way to my little cabin in the woods, I received a phone call from my doctor saying I was pregnant with Maizy. The trip instantly became something different. I was grieving and celebrating simultaneously, which is what created the landscape for the album.
I actually named the record in memory of my dad. He was, in fact, a penny collector. We didn’t realize the extent of his penny collection until he died. We headed down into his basement to clean it out, and found 600,000 pennies! No kidding! 600,000. It was nuts!
And how did you approach songwriting on this record?
I’d say my approach to the writing is almost always the same, in that it comes to me from a completely emotional place, as opposed to my brain getting involved at all. I happened to have a lot of emotional subjects to work with on this one, for sure. I went “balls to the wall” with how personal the songs are, and I wasn’t afraid of that. I tried to keep my ego out of each and every word. I wasn’t worried about what other people might think. I connect more with these songs than I have with others I’ve written.
Does being married to a musician make it easier or harder to make new music?
Ha! Great question. Probably a mix of both. I mean, not only am I married to a musician, but I’m married to one of the most prolific writers around. For a long while, I would compare my songwriting self to him. That’s just crazy to do. As a friend of mine always says ”Comparison is the thief of joy.” We write in such different ways. So I’d say, in the past, it was more difficult for me to make new music. Now I embrace the way in which I approach my craft, which makes me much more prolific than I used to be. And Danny and I inspire each other with our different ways of going about writing. We really encourage each other. That being said, these days we’re mostly chasing around our daughter and not getting a whole lot of writing done!
‘Always On The Run’ is the most striking song for me, what can you tell us about it?
Thank you! The actual recording of that song was probably the highlight for me as far as making the album. It was so intense. AND, that song almost got cut! Once we started recording it though, it was like magic the way it came together. And then Ryan Culwell added his harmony vocal and my jaw fell to the floor. He was exactly what the song needed. I wish everyone I know could have been there in that moment. It was like he was possessed or something.
The song itself is made to feel like the listener is on a hamster wheel, I think. Just going and going and going and not getting anywhere. It’s made to make one feel uncomfortable. And I think it actually works!
Can you choose your favourite song from the record?
Wow. I’m not sure. I go through phases with it. 'Crying Out' was the first one I recorded and we used the entirety of the first take. It was a pretty beautiful moment. And that’s the song that was the start of this album, so it means a lot to me. But really, I like different songs for different reasons, so it’s really difficult to decide.
What do you enjoy most about the whole recording / releasing cycle?
I enjoy getting to talk about my dad every night. It’s a hoot to tell his story to people. He was such a huge personality and energy in the world. I love telling the stories behind the songs.
What does the rest of 2017 hold for you?
I have one more long release tour up into British Columbia and then down the coast of the western US. Then I’m going to take a break from the road and stay home with Maizy. Danny will hop into the studio pretty soon, I think, so I’ll probably be involved in that in some way. And we’ll probably escape to the mountains in the winter to enjoy a bit of snow and skiing and what not.
You’ve toured the UK recently, so my question is have you got a place you’ve loved? And hated?
This past UK tour was my most favorite one. I’ve been over there more than a dozen times, but there was something special about this one. Maybe it’s because Maizy was with us. And we had Danny’s mom along to be our tour nanny, too. It wasn’t exactly “ROCK AND ROLL!”, but it was a very connected time. And I loved all the shows. There wasn’t a single one that I hated, which is the sign of a great tour. Ha!
What’s the toughest thing about touring?
I’m a homebody, so being away isn’t my natural state. I want to have a garden and be able to cook delicious food for our family. I also miss our community a lot while we’re away. I feel disconnected.
And what makes it all worthwhile?
Playing music is one of the greatest joys of my life. Truly. That’s all there is to it. I love it.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
A nudist resort. You’ve probably heard the saying “If you’re feeling nervous about playing music in front of people, just imagine they’re all naked.” I had no choice at the nudist resort! I was playing for 300 naked people!
Are there specific challenges facing women in the industry?
Honestly, I think the industry in general is facing challenges. I’m not sure it’s specific to women. I think there has always been a perception of women not being as good at certain parts of music. For instance, I recently had a guy say to me at a show, "it’s so weird to see a girl playing the guitar." WHAT?!?! SERIOUSLY! It’s amazing how often those comments come out of people’s mouths. Also, girls understand how to run sound. I’d just like to point that out to our readers.
I think the challenges in regards to women are these small misperceptions. I’d say the big picture of the industry is taking its toll on everybody.
Are there any female artists that inspire you?
SO MANY. I’ve been inspired by female vocalists since I was a little girl. I love Linda Ronstadt and it breaks my heart that she can’t sing anymore. But vocally, she’s probably my biggest inspiration. Her ability to deliver a song is like no other. As far as writing goes, I have to say Patty Griffin. And Gillian Welch.
Then there’s the list of my close friends that are some of the most incredible writers around…..Devon Sproule, Raina Rose, Anais Mitchell, etc…..There’s too many to name.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
David Berkley’s 'Setting Sail'.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
How old I am. Just kidding. Hmmmm…..I don’t know. You’ve asked such thoughtful questions. I’m not sure I would have added any. Plus, by the time I’ve finished answering these, the baby will wake up. Had you added another, I may not have completed this task.
What are you doing next today?
Picking Sam Baker up from the airport.
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
Black coffee. My alcohol of choice is Whiskey. I love it. And I take it straight up.
Thanks so much for your time Carrie, it’s really appreciated.
For more information on Carrie visit her website or follow her on Twitter. You can stream her album The Penny Collector from all streaming service; Tidal below.