BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics.
ROOTS ERIN COSTELO league of her own BY ALIX BRUCH Sometimes the best plan is not having “Even if I tried to make an album of a plan. From a young age, Erin Costelo a specific genre, I don’t think it could never felt the need to think about what come out that way. Just because of my she was going to do with her life, opting make up as an artist, the things that I’ve instead to simply “live life now.” Having been influenced by and the stuff that I’ve surrendered to the winds, the Halifax-based listened to and absorbed, it’s always going artist has landed among many to come out through that filter. That has talented Canadian musicians, settling in made it really freeing to just write songs.” as part of a passionate and collaborative By refusing to acquiesce to the constraints community. Settling, however, is not in and expectations of the larger Costelo’s vocabulary. Being an accomplished music superstructure, Costelo is making singer, songwriter, producer, and music on her own terms. Fresh off being composer, one might describe Costelo as signed to U.S. Label Compass Records, a jack-of-all-trades. This versatility is no Costelo got to work on her fifth studio doubt impressive, but winner of Nova album, set to be released in Canada this Scotia’s producer-of-the-year humbly fall. As a deliberate personal challenge, attributes her multifarious qualities to the album was recorded over the course her own idiosyncrasies. of just ten days in a rustic house in rural “I think I’m just a total Gemini and Nova Scotia. Costelo was accompanied I get really bored,” confesses Costelo. by a group of incredible musicians, “I have to be distracted by a bunch of including Juno award-winning artist and different things. So I don’t think it’s as long-time friend, Amelia Curran. impressive as it sounds. It’s my own “To hold myself accountable, I decided neurosis, really.” I wanted to document it [the recording Following her passion for creating process] as a film because I figured if evocative music, Costelo has carved herself I didn’t then I would change my mind a unique place in the music industry. and take longer. I have a difficult time The soulful vocalist is living in a space of deciding something and sticking to it. freedom that many yearn for, but few are So Amelia has started making films, and willing to navigate. It is difficult to pair we were just hanging out in the summer her sound with any specific genre, and for when she offered to direct it. And it was some musicians, that can be an intimidating the perfect match! She has such great position to be in, but for Costelo, experience in the studio, so I knew she it makes her feel right at home. would have an eye for what to be looking 38 | MARCH 2018 • BEATROUTE at and looking for. it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had and I can’t wait to share it with people.” Costelo’s previous record, Down Below, The Status Quo, took multiple years to take shape and be released – a stark contrast to her newest venture. Costelo welcomes new challenges as opportunities for growth and acknowledges that this album is more personal and the lyrics are the strongest she has ever written. “I wrote through the process of being there which was the first time I had ever done that. I don’t think that I’ll ever do it again because I think that it has taken years off my life, but it was a super amazing hyper-creative way to make a record,” Costelo explains. “I wouldn’t say that it’s different, but it has more space and is lyrically more direct because I didn’t have time not to be. I think Down Below, The Status Quo made me more accountable in my lyric writing. I want to write stuff that feels like I am putting something out into the world that is representative of who I am and what I think about things. Reflecting on things that make us human. And when you have someone like Amelia Curran watching over you, you’re like, ‘Damn I want to write some good lyrics here!’” Erin Costelo performs April 6 at the Calgary Folk Club and, April 7 at the Blue Chair (Edmonton). ROOTS
MATTHEW BARBER reaching for a fresh frontier THE WHITE BUFFALO from no breaks to big breaks Canadian folk-singer Matthew Barber is getting a tad bit older, having turned 40 last year. As a staple of the Canadian singer-songwriter genre since 1999, he believes his music is maturing along with him. Known for his traditional, melancholic style and critically-praised albums, including The Family Album (2016) in which he teamed-up with his sister Jill, who is also an accomplished singer, Barber branches out on his most recent album, Phase of the Moon. “While this album isn’t radically different I feel like it is just a natural evolution in my song writing, but it still certainly has vintage singer songwriter influences. I try to make it sound relevant and contemporary, but my main influences are still older records. It is not a melancholy record I suppose, but it is also not a party record, it is a contemplative record.” The recording also reflects Barber’s diverse musical ability: “I did something kind of new this time. I played all the parts myself, aside from a couple string arrangements. I played the guitar, bass, drums, vocals, all that kind of thing.” Over the years, Barber has invested heavily trying to perfect the art of recording, if possible. “I’m always sort of looking for new ways to make records. It’s sort of chasing this mysterious thing of what it is to make a perfect record. It’s hard to make a great record and I feel like I have been chasing this my entire career.” Moving into middle age, Barber is also chasing history noting his music has weathered alongside with him. “I feel like when I was in my early 20s my life had more of spontaneity and excitement and everything is kind of happening for the first time. And now it is more about looking back, I have more responsibility and I have more pressure to feel like an adult.” On the cusp of his ninth full-length and not content to rely on formula, he believes an artist needs to strive and reach for something beyond. “It is more than just having good songs and good players, you have to have this sort of intangible element that emerges. I mean there is a reason that not every record attains that even though all the pieces might be there.” Matthew Barber performs March 5 at The Imperial (Vancouver), March 6 at Geomatic Attic (Red Deer), March 8 at Marquee beer market and stage, and March 9 at The Starlite Room (Edmonton). BY ANDREW BARDSLEY BY JORDAN STRICKER It has been 16 years since Jake Smith released music supervisor out to lunch and it ended up his first album under the moniker The White happening,” recalls Smith. “It was a great run, and it Buffalo. He’s learned many lessons on the road, really helped my career.” and there may be many more to come. With a Smith’s music is typified by his hefty voice, laid hefty baritone voice carrying notes that can be atop of a bed of similarly powerful acoustic guitar. heard for miles, he has constructed a roughand-tumble musical mode all his own. He to go with the toughest gauge of string you can He strums his strings so hard he has no choice but strums an acoustic guitar to transport his experiences of love, pain and everything in between. “I like the juxtaposition of having something buy. Raised in Southern California, Smith started his that is really dark but feels good.” musical journey at 19 drawn to both twang and Sporting long flowing locks and a grizzly beard, raging power chords. “I grew up on country music. Smith’s towering presence is felt the second he When I got into high school, I got into the punk touches the stage. His songs are just as dramatic scene in California which really had an impact. romping from heartfelt to heartbreak to mayhem Those two elements really influenced me.” and murder, painting pictures that vividly play-out No stranger to getting things done and setting like short films. the bar high, when he could only grind out a couple of chords on the guitar he would call venues genre. I can write a murder song, I can write a “I like the fact that I don’t have to stay in one and play his music over the phone with hopes of love song, I can write a heartbreak song. There are landing local gigs. “It’s crazy to think that at one no limitations to what can be written. I’m lucky juncture I didn’t even consider myself a musician, enough to have a voice that can one moment be to now having a catalogue and playing all over the tender, and in another be aggressive and a little world it is amazing.” scary,” says Smith Continuing with that progression, White Buffalo’s newest effort is called Darkest Helping White Buffalo’s popularity soar followed when they were included on the Darks, Lightest Lights. soundtrack to the outlaw motorcycle TV series, Sons of Anarchy. The White Buffalo performs March 8 at Marquee “I had no label or management. I only had a few Beer Market & Stage (Calgary) and March 9 at the projects under my belt but my lawyer asked the Starlite Room (Edmonton). ROOTS BEATROUTE • MARCH 2018 | 39