Amelia Curran is no stranger to the night. Her homecoming show at The Ship on April 2 promises a harvest of mercy. Curran offers an evening of intimacy with a full band, a few jokes, as well as her haunting poetics.
Known for her smoky sad-luck serenades and Cohen-esque lyrics, Curran’s ability to navigate melancholy, love, and loss comes with years of experience. While her latest album, The Promised You Mercy (Six Shooter Records, 2014) is filled with pop music tenacity, artful resolve, and radio tracks “Song On the Radio,” and “Somebody Somewhere,” its stripped down confessions like “I Am the Night,” “Time, Time,” and “You’ve Changed” that assure your clemency.
With a Juno Award, numerous of East Coast Music Award nods, and an extensive discography, including: They Promised You Mercy (2014), Spectators (2012), Hunter, Hunter (2009), War Brides (2006), Lullabies for Barflies (2002), Trip Down Little Road (2001), and Barricade (2000), Curran’s been feverishly writing and working on a new album.
Last time we were in cahoots They Promised You Mercy was just released, and we were buzzed in caffeinated conversation at Lion & Bright in Halifax. Upon the album’s release you were a bit apprehensive about the more poppy, lyrically upbeat qualities of the record. After seasons of touring, how does the work resonate with you now?
First of all my dear, I think I had a glass of wine, didn’t I? Oh, hell, I should have if I didn’t. They Promised You Mercy was an adventure and I think I knew that at the time but one can never be certain.
This album is the only one where I managed to completely hand over the reigns and do precisely the one job of writing and singing. I did love it, though I’m not sure it’s an experience I could commit to again. Michael Philip Wojowode made that record more than me and I loved every step of it. It takes a band to perform it and I’ve got a great band and sometimes it’s that simple, and how lovely.
Far as the pop sensibilities go, well, all of creativity is an exploration, I think I was only taking my turn. I’m a fan of pop music, even those who reject it may not realize how far reaching and often times culturally important pop music has been. But I only meant to take a turn and see if I could do it. I’m proud of that record and have been every step of the way.
Rumour has it you’ve been writing, and working on a new record. Can you tell me a little bit about this? What’s on the horizon?
I’m working my arse off! I think we can say that in The Overcast, can we? I’m just at that exciting apex where I’ve been filing away at all the songs that have collected the past two years or more and choosing my favourites, or what I think has the most potential. So far I’m on my own, cataloguing and sorting and making small humble demos to share with my bandmates. We’re going rogue, trusting our instincts and our relationship as a family and I am too excited to really say: I’m about ready to make records I can be trusted to make. Perhaps with less to prove and more to contribute instead.
Over the years we’ve caught up in Norwich, England, Toronto, Calgary, and certainly have tied our hearts and hesitations between home and Halifax. How does living in Newfoundland influence your practice? What is it about the poetics of this place that holds you?
The love of Newfoundland has been described a thousand times in a thousand pieces of art or politics and still we shrug our shoulders and wink and nod it off. I think, sometimes, it’s just nobody’s business why we love home so much. I work around the world and for all that pre-tense I could live anywhere. Once an artist steps off the stage and goes home, nobody gives a hell where your home is. I will work a hundred extra days to live in St. John’s if I have to. And at this point I probably have. It’s the only place I belong. Comes a time, rather than fight for happiness, we simply reject unhappiness, and do what suits. For me, that’s living here. I lived in Halifax for twelve years and I’ve taken to saying “nine of those years were lovely,” though I couldn’t tell you which nine. There just comes a time. This is the only place I can exist. That’s more to do with bloody Newfoundlanders than it is to do with art.
In 2011, you published two poems, “Late Night Hours Are Fat and Slow Warblers,” and “Secrets,” in Riddle Fence, and stated that you had “a cautious desire to publish poetry.” I’ve often hoped for a collection of your poems to surface. How does writing songs differ than writing poems? Are you still working in poetry?
I will only say what I have always said: songs are not poems, and poems are not songs. I know a song, inside out I know it, if it introduces itself well enough. But a poem has been a foreign thing to me, I am not educated enough or have not tried hard enough. I write them like the devil, like anyone with a large feeling or opinion, but I do not know them and I prefer to leave it to those who know better. I love a poem. Particularly one written by a poet – imagine that. But I won’t invade on a good art with the ego of having known another good art. It’s too much. There is a lot of ground and only few of us to cover it. We ought to stand up for one another, and stick to it, and choose our battles privately.
You launched “This Video,” as part of IT’S MENTAL, a call to arms to raise awareness for mental health care in Newfoundland and Labrador, and beyond. In turn, you’ve shared your story and struggles, and became a spokesperson for action. What have been some of the triumphs and challenges of this movement? Have we made progress? What can we do now?
Frankly, I’m exhausted with myself. There are thousands of me, scrambling at the gates, raising our hands, telling stories and saying it’s going to be okay. But we’re a long way off. I have struggled with this a lot. And all the stories I have heard and all the awful tales or uplifting tales led me to this. We are missing a right, and that is the right to become well again if we are sick. If we are sick we are quickly on the street or imprisoned or dead rather than treated or rehabilitated. Perhaps, as a society, we don’t have room for another bleeding heart. I don’t know yet. But we are building an army, so we’ll see. I always wanted to believe that the smallest of us could change the world. It’s romantic, silly, tiresome to hear, but there it is. I haven’t been proven right, but I haven’t been proven wrong either.
IT’S MENTAL has a brand new website and we are giving away our T-shirts for free to build our visible army.