With an excellent new album Sweetheart Of The Valley just released Lonesome Highway caught up with the Canadian singer to ask her a few quick questions about her past present and future.
You were a member of some bands in Toronto such as the punk orientated Last Resorts. Was that an exciting time for you?
The Last Resorts was my first original band, more new wave than punk. I was the main songwriter. We played a famous Toronto club - Larry’s Hideaway. A career highlight with them was opening for Wayne Kramer & the MC5.
Cow Punk was a natural outgrowth, for many, of that scene what attracted you to that direction music wise?
I was always attracted to country music because of the melodies and the vocal chops of the singers. I loved the energy of punk so combining the two, into cowpunk, just made perfect sense.
Your debut album Can’t Stop The Girl was released by CBS and produced by Steve Buckingham. How did you get your initial major label deal?
Sony Nashville and Sony New York both discovered me when I was in my cowpunk band Rang Tango. I had a choice of what city to go and record. I choose Nashville as it is mecca for any country musician.
What were the good and bad sides of your career at that time? It seemed that the doors were open to a lot of different interpretations of traditional country music at that time with Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam and Lyle Lovett all making inroads at radio.
The good parts of my Sony deal was that I got introduced to vintage Nashville, the tail end of an era. I met a few of the greats; Harlan Howard, Cowboy Jack Clement, Tammy Wynette, Billy Sherrill, Roy Acuff. I had a hip young A&R guy Larry Hamby, who thought it was important that I meet them, he gave me a priceless gift.
Your next album Untogether came out 4 years later on Virgin Music Canada how different was that experience as against the Nashville one?
Untogether was my total departure from country music! I equate it with when Willie Nelson made a reggae record. I made an incredible trip-hop record that was ahead of its time in Canada. Most people hated it, I loved it. Its where I really learned to sing.
The next step was back in the band Hey Stella and an album release in 1999. Was that a broader approach to roots music and something you felt more at home with at that time?
Falling back with Hey Stella was so natural. We were all old friends and we’d all played together in one configuration or another. Always a blast with them.
The Book Of Minerva sound like an interesting project that was released in 2007, how did that come about?
The Book of Minerva was my stripped down acoustic record. It won me Songwriter of the Year and Alt-Country Recording of the Year at the 2007 Hamilton Music Awards.
Since then you have been involved with songwriting workshops and worked as a show producer/creator. What insights did they give you and were you still performing at that time?
I’ve always been playing! I think I’ve taken maybe one year off in my entire career! I put the songwriting workshops - Creative Genius Songwriting Workshops together bc I kept getting asked for songwriting/mentoring advice. They been super successful, sold out very quickly.
Sweethearts Of The Valley in some ways brings you back full circle to the CBS album as it is largely a broad spectrum of what can easily be recognised as country music. Is that the music you love most?
I’m so delighted with Sweetheart of the Valley. I feel like I completely nailed what I heard in my head - said exactly what I wanted to say but kept it sparse, moody and haunting and I had the best band in the world backing me up!
What were your influences growing up?
My influences growing up were Brenda Lee, Suzi Quattro, Tanya Tucker and Patti Smith.
How about now?
Well now it would be Emmylou, P.J. Harvey, Gillian Welch and Howling Wolf.
What are your plans for the future, and does Europe figure in them?
I’m getting lots of spins in Europe and I’d love to come over for some gigs! I’m trying to put that in place as we speak!
Interview by Stephen Rapid