Kathryn Calder is one of those artists who belies her age. She began her professional music career as a teenager, and by the time that most people are just stepping into their first independent record store, she had recorded 2 EPS and 4 CDs with the Victoria based Immaculate Machine (from whom she parted ways in 2008), and toured the world and recorded three albums as the newest member of The New Pornographers.
She has experienced the whole spectrum of what a musician’s life can be, from playing in the corner of the local bar for a small group of friends, to playing in front of 40,000 screaming fans at prestigious festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury. She has appeared on national television numerous times, but still takes the time to personally reply to fans on her Facebook page. She’s also moonlighted on other artist’s albums from The Pink Mountaintops to Neko Case’s Grammy nominated ‘Middle Cyclone.’ It seems as if she’s done it all. Yet the one frontier she has never embarked on - until now - is having the spotlight solely on her.
Recorded at her mother’s house in Victoria BC, ‘Are You My Mother?’ is one of 2010’s most innovative releases. It is a deeply personal record that was largely born through two years of Kathryn caring for her terminally ill mother. Yet the songs on “Are you my mother?’ are universal in their tone because the record relates to so many facets of all our lives. This is NOT a eulogy. Rather, it is a statement that life is a mixed bag, and that without losing things you would never know to cherish them. Yes there are songs of loss on ‘Are you my mother?’, yet there are also songs of love, friendship, and whimsy. It is a beguiling album, that - because of the wisdom and experience communicated by her voice - gives the illusion of being written by someone in the twilight of their years, while at the same time it expresses the excitement and wonder of a young woman who is just finding her own voice.
While the songs are sophisticated in their tone and expression, the process of recording them was surprisingly simple. With little in the way of technology, Calder and her producer, Colin Stewart relied on intuition and improvisation to create a record that sounds full and lush but also reflects the charms and intimacy of the surroundings in which it was recorded.
By using found items such as Kleenex boxes and filing cabinets as percussion, an old high school trumpet, and an out of tune piano plucked backwards to add texture, Calder and Stewart were able to create a unique soundscape for her vocals and expressive piano playing. Although Kathryn played most of the instruments, she did have the benefit of friends and band mates to fill in any gaps she might have missed. Local musicians and other notable friends like Neko Case, Kurt Dahle, and Todd Fancey of The New Pornographers, and members of Ladyhawk all lent their talents to the project.
‘Are You My Mother,’ is one of the most exciting and honest debut records of 2010. You will hear a moment in time and all of the feelings that were contained in it.
Kathryn Calder doesn’t like to let the grass grow under her feet for too long. 2010 is shaping up to be a busy year as she’s already working on a follow up to “Are You My Mother?” before going out on the road for six months with The New Pornographers.