"A big challenge these days is that people are living too fast. It's all about convenience." A chat with Terra Lightfoot
Hey Terra, how the devil are you?
I'm very well, thank you.
What have you been up to today?
I've awoken from a beautiful slumber after a crazy travel day yesterday. We drove from Ullapool to Inverness, flew to Manchester, lost a guitar, flew to Heathrow, then home to Hamilton. It was a 21-hour travel day. Today I did yoga and drank tea made from chamomile that I picked in Northern Ontario, and I avoided my phone for the first two hours of the day. Today has been better than yesterday.
What can you tell us about New Mistakes in two sentences?
It's a multi-disciplinary rock ‘n’ roll record, and it contains my heart and soul within its lyrics. It's a perfect snapshot of where I am as a person and as a musician right now.
If people could only listen to one track from record, which would you suggest? And why?
I'd suggest 'Ruthless', because it encapsulates a lot of what I wanted to get across on this record. it's a road song and a love song, and those are the two things that I write about most comfortably.
The title of the record isn’t a track on the record. How come?
Well it comes from the song 'Slick Back Kid': 'I've been trying to make some new mistakes, so I've been out looking for you every day" – and I figured out that idea of making new mistakes applied to everything I was writing about. I wanted to grow and learn and stop screwing up the same things over and over.
What’s your approach to songwriting?
I love to write when I'm on the road and that's been really easy since we've been out so much. I love writing on planes, or in my head while I'm driving. But when I'm home or sitting down somewhere I like to sit at the piano with a guitar on my lap and go to town. I don't have a static approach, I try to stay open to possibility. So I don't do lyrics first or what have you. I take what I can get when I can get it.
How does that differ from when you started out writing songs?
When I started, I think I took a lot more time with my songs — and they were really nothing to write home about. I remember working for hours on lyrics and thinking that I really had something... and I would look at them the next day and definitively not feel that way. Songwriting is something you can work at and improve on, like anything else. So now I just find it all a little easier.
What do you enjoy most about the process?
I have a few things I enjoy most about songwriting! I love hearing the initial idea for the song in my head, whether it's a repeated lyric or a melody or a groove, I love just working through that to try and expand it and let it grow in a way that I like. And after that, I love when I play the song through with the band and we get it to where I wanted it to be in my head. That's a really, really beautiful aspect of it: To hear the finished product, maybe not exactly as you pictured it, but to hear your idea come to life in reality.
Who’s Norma Gale?
She was a country singer in the ’70s and I met her through her son, Marc. She's since passed on but I had the pleasure of meeting her for an afternoon and I was really inspired by her. She was a songwriter, singer, guitar and bass player, she gigged seven nights a week and made her own money and ran her own business. She went on dates with Conway Twitty while he was drunk and flying a plane, and she backed up a lot of the big country singers playing bass. She was big in Nashville, played the Opry, and visited Elvis at Graceland too. She was just a really cool lady and a great role model for me, it was good to know that a woman could do all those things, and do them all without assistance from anybody else.
I hear you have Jake Clemons on the record, how did that come about?
Jake and I are both involved with the Light of Day charity shows in Canada and in New Jersey. We met there and became pals. He’s a really sweet guy and a great sax player, so it made complete sense to ask him to guest on the record. Needless to say, I was excited when he actually said yes!!!
Does how people listen to music these days matter? For example, Spotify not being near CD quality, or people using Apple earbuds which are just horrible. Or are you happy for people to just hear you guys?
A big challenge these days is that people are living too fast. It's all about convenience, and that is certainly poisoning how we are able to process music. But listening is the most important thing, no matter the quality, if people are being touched by songs and melodies and feeling something from that, then I can’t complain. You can still get emotional even when you’re listening on laptop speakers, I think. Ha.
You’re from Hamilton, Ontario. What can you tell us about your hometown?
It’s a beautiful place! An old steel town that’s changed its face to be an art and music hub. A lot of musicians live here. It’s a great incubator for creativity and everybody here supports each other. Two of my friends opened up record stores this year and both are quite successful. I think a great indicator of a city’s health is how many independent record stores can thrive there :)
What’s the best thing about it?
The nature - there are trails everywhere just minutes from downtown. And we have two really great waterfront trails that I treasure. We also have really beautiful pockets of downtown that have been untouched by time. Places that have been around for 50 years that are still selling sandwiches for $2.50. Those are my favorite places.
And the worst?
I cannot say a bad word about my city. But maybe that we need better public transit? Our transit system is lacking and nobody seems to care other than the people who are riding the busses every day.
How’s your 2017 been so far?
Insane. We toured Australia and Japan and those were two places I never even dreamed of vacationing at, let alone working. Australia welcomed us with open arms too, we had a really great reception there and we’re going back really soon. In general, I’ve just felt really lucky to be doing music for a living and travelling to so many beautiful places. It’s so inspiring. Kismet for the next record.
What’ve you got coming up in 2018?
So many things. The first thing is two back-to-back hometown shows with a small orchestra. I really can’t wait to hear that. Shows with strings are always really hard for me because I’m always listening to the string players instead of focusing on singing. Sometimes I’ll forget the words because I can’t handle the beauty of cellos and violins playing music that I wrote. A really heavy experience. After that we’ll be touring eastern Canada, the states, then heading back to Japan, then western Canada with our Aussie friend William Crighton, and then back to Australia!
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
I’m engrossed with 'Guitar Man' by Bread, even though it’s sort of funny. I can listen to it over and over. The words, the vibe, it’s all there for me this week.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
I think you’ve done a wonderful job.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Thanks so much for your time Terra.
To find out more about Terra, her music, and her plans for 2018 visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook, or stream her albums from all good streaming services.