Just a few weeks ago Emily Carr performed at a small café in Montréal’s NDG. The show was pure melody as one would expect from listening to the few tracks available on her MySpace page. I had the opportunity to ask Emily a few questions, and invited her to play on air, on CKUT’s Dykes on Mykes in early October, available to all via podcast.
Mél Hogan for Art Threat: In my CD collection, my favorite songs are the ones that tell a story, but just a part of it. They leave you feeling like you're in on something–they are intimate–but leave you insatiate. You do this in all your songs, which makes me think you are not new to song writing. Tell me about what makes you write… how thoughts become songs.
Emily Carr: When I started singing original music I was in high school. I was in this punkish band and the lead guitar player wrote all the songs. I was the singer, I was trying really hard to scream and yell and rock out but shamefully, I’d go home and listen to Jewel and Lisa Loeb, and oldies radio. I started writing songs myself out of frustration. I wanted to sing songs about my own feelings and experiences. The first songs were painfully slow and awkward. I would go the open Mike at the Cock ‘n ‘Bull and get booed off the stage…
When I sit down to play guitar I’ve usually got a specific feeling, happiness, anger, frustration, sadness, and often a few words in my mind. I wind up using my life experiences to illustrate the emotion. When people ask me what my songs are about I usually say they’re about nothing. That’s not really true, but the meanings change over time. Sometimes I just want to play something fun. I’ll write some really quickly, those are always the songs people like the most. The songs that take a long time to write usually don’t even make it to the recording.
AT: I love Supertramp (both the band and your song!) The lyrics are quite simple but there is a pleading in your voice that makes it the kind of song you play over and over again to find the hidden meaning. Can you reveal anything about its mysterious appeal?
EC: Supertramp is one of those fast, fun songs. I was out one night and a friend of mine was sitting across the table from me. She said, why don’t you write a song about me? Usually I’d just blow that off, but the jukebox song changed and she squealed, really truly squealed with delight. Supertramp. I said do you like Supertramp? She said you know me, I Love Supertramp! Right away I thought those were good lyrics….”Why don’t you write a song about me, you know me, I love Supertramp.” Pretty simple. It’s fun that people like it. I like it. That’s the secret science of song writing.
AT: If the lyrics to Prom Dress were just written out I'd think it was a funny song. But listening to it, it brings back all the awkward stuff of high school. What was your Prom like?
EC:I went to prom twice. The first time I dressed up really “cool”. I was all about Anti-Prom, down with pink; it was a disaster. I was so embarrassed. When I arrived I wished so badly that I had a pretty puffy dress like all the other girls. The next year, my mother took me shopping and we got the puffiest dress we could find, I got my hair done. It was the best day of my mother’s life. I did look really pretty, but I spent the evening sitting on the edge of a garden crying. I never thought I’d wear the dress again, but later, I found myself at this sketchy warehouse party wearing it. That’s when I wrote the song.
AT: I notice on your MySpace page most of your songs are available for download, something not too many artists do. What is your philosophy around making and sharing music? Supertram alone has 1769 plays! What is your feeling about what the Internet has allowed your music to do?
EC:I’ve tried to make money with my music, and it seems like everyone’s got some great advice about how to do it. I haven’t found a fool proof method yet, This past year I decided that since I’m not signed, and I keep writing songs with or without money, if someone wants to listen that’s really nice. I like to think that someday I’ll be able to make a living writing and recording music, but for now it’s free. I love the Internet. I love that we can share songs and listen to songs and download songs. I love songs.
AT: Your MySpace page says you're in studio recording a new full length album. Can you tell me about it? What is that process like? Have you recorded other albums? Are the songs on MySpace on the new album? What else is on it? Are you collaborating with other artists? When will the album be out? Where can people find more of your music?
EC:I am working on a new album. I got into studio to record the songs that I’d written recently but I really liked the producer and things just took on a life of their own. We started talking about doing something more professional and about taking the best songs and really making a complete album. I realized that it was going to take more money than I could afford so we applied for a grant to finish. I’ll hear soon if that came through. The record is going to be really lovely. I’m working with some great musicians. I don’t know what songs are going to be on it for sure, we have a lot to choose from. I want to make an album that has a unique feel, a little more up than my previous recordings.
AT: Apparently you used to sing all the way down in Windsor, Ontario–what has your trajectory to Montréal been like? Are you here to stay?
EC:I think Montreal is amazing. I am definitely here to stay for a while. I love playing live shows and usually play at least once a month somewhere in the city. Touring depends on the album, so for now, I’m concentrating on finishing that. My shows are listed on the web site and I’ll keep information about the recording posted.