Coffee Afternoon With Allison Crowe

May 31, 2011

Photo – Allison Crowe European Tour Poster 2008

If you read Allison Crowe’s blog 7 Thumbs Up you’ll find entries about Allison’s day-to-day life including cooking, crafting and walking her mini Dauchshund, Link. What you do not see a lot of about, however, is music which is misleading. “Music is my whole life,” says Allison. When she isn’t doing the things she’s blogging about Allison is busy making music.

She says she is constantly writing, and all recording is done on her own; a surprising revelation when you consider she’s embarking on the making of her eighth album. However, not so surprising when you know how her music career began: “One of the first things I put up online was a Pearl Jam song, “Release”, on a Pearl Jam message board. I recorded it with a fourteen dollar computer mic.”

Allison’s eighth album, however, will be a much bigger endeavor. It is  a project she has wanted to do for some time but says wasn’t possible for tons of reasons. “What I’m hoping is someone who does recording and production can help me. My knowledge of production is self-taught.” Why has the need for more production changed? Allison says for this album she wants a darker, louder sound. Her manager expects production could take between 6 and 18 months. When asked if this is a conscious decision to leave behind a folk singer / girl-with-a-piano image Allison is quick to laugh. “Not at all! I’ve always been that. I was that first! The songs I was writing this winter veered in that [darker] direction.”

Home of Allison Crowe Music Management, Salt Spring Island, BC

I asked if she had any insight as to why the songs veered that way. Did it have anything to do with a Newfoundland winter? She thought about it for a moment and said, “Maybe subconsciously. You take inspiration from everything around you, or I do anyway. What’s going on in your life … no … it’s not something I would set out to consciously do but it was more circumstantial. The winter lent itself to being home more, and being indoors more I was able to be more creative and have lots of time to think. … Growing up on Vancouver Island, growing up near the water, it’s inspiring. I can’t exactly say how, but it is inspiring, for sure.”

There are 10 original songs on the upcoming album. Those songs already exist as “bare bones skeleton tracks” with Allison working to round out harmonies and complete melodies. The new album (as yet untitled) will also contain one cover – “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. I asked Allison why she chooses to do covers. She makes no excuses; they are fun to play. “Love the songs. They’re fun to play. For Tidings “River” was suggested to me on a message board. Besides the fun of putting your own twist on songs … if they [the audience] don’t know you, they know other songs so it almost builds a trust between listeners.”

Our talk of trust between listeners brings up the idea of  her music, which is licensed under Creative Commons. She wants people to download, share, make music videos and add her songs to mix lists. “[It's the] power of the internet, so instant and so everywhere. I’m all for it. Yes please, download  my music. I want people to share the music and hear it. The internet is fantastic. Totally awesome. There are websites like Jamendo where people can listen and then donate if they want to. And they do. People will donate if they have that option and they like what they hear. It creates more of a community, a relationship.” It’s also how Allison ends up touring in Europe.

“That’s why I can travel the way I do because you get in touch with people or people hear it and go, ‘That’s really cool. You should come play here.’ We can then say to them, ‘Where?’ or ‘Do you have suggestions of places to play?’ So it’s pretty fun. It’s pretty cool, hey? I don’t know how I’d do it without the internet.”

And, honestly, I just don’t know how Allison Crowe gets it all done to make an album the way she does, but she does. Before we finished our lattes I prodded her a little to give some insight or clue or comment into her newest project, something that could make us go, “Really? Wow. I can’t wait for that!” Aaaaaand… she did it!

“More of hmm… I’m not sure. What should I say? Um… well, I’ve been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails lately and that’s the kind of  direction  I’d like to go. There’s songs off From The Choirgirl Hotel there’s a darker, more industrial sound. That’s kinda where I want to go. Because when I was a teenager I sang in all sorts of different bands there was a lot of harder stuff I did and I really kind of  miss that. And that’s difficult to pull off solo,” she laughs.

Until we can hear Allison’s latest album we can content ourselves with two iTunes releases – an original called “Arthur” and an Patty Griffin cover, “Up To the Mountain” which will be available in June, or at the very latest July.  Also, be on the lookout for concert dates around Newfoundland. As they appear we will post them on our Events Radar.  For those of us who are really lucky and able to travel to Europe, Allison will be launching a Fall tour there beginning in October.

Image 1 by boki.b

Images 2 & 5 by Billie Woods

Images 3 & 4 by Adrian du Plessis

Video “Up To the Mountain” by Philip Norman Robbins