Published Nov 14, 2014Amelia Curran is known for her knife-edged lyrics, steeped in metaphor, that so strongly connect with the human experience that she draws constant comparisons to Leonard Cohen (a compliment she says she'll never grow tired of).
Six Shooter Records signed the St John's, NL-based singer-songwriter after hearing one of her first independently released albums, War Brides, in 2006. In 2010, her full-length Hunter Hunter took home a Juno in the solo roots and traditional album category. That same year, she took first prize in the Annual USA Songwriting Competition.
While her new release They Promised You Mercy, out now via Six Shooter, is not a departure from the lyrically rich songsmith we've come to know, Curran admits on this record that she wanted to experiment more with sound, musicality, and even rock.
"I wanted to write simpler songs musically and songs that would be fun to play and not necessarily so insular," Curran tells Exclaim! "But lyrically I can't help myself. So it's still talking about my feelings and my heart and those kind of inside, but worldly themes. But the music, it was really important for me to get a big band together to make that joyous sound."
Curran is no newcomer to playing with a band. But, like on 2012's Spectators, that instrumentation is often sparse, usually featuring bass, light drums, and some well-textured strings. This time, her "bigger band" includes layers of horn sections, lap steel, and even a Hammond organ.
Juno Award-winning producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda (Measha Brueggergosman, Great Big Sea, Rheostatics) balances the stronger rock acoustics in They Promised You Mercy with Curran's signature sounds: those doubled, deep vocals, and the complements of violin and cello. Curran credits him completely with the album's aural accomplishments. "Michael just dealt with this wall of sound and mixed it down to these perfect moments."
Straight out the gates is the upbeat "Somebody Somewhere" (in which is buried the album's title: "Somebody somewhere is missing you now / They promised you mercy and they'll find it somehow"). The song is complete with booming drums and even some singalong-able "na-na's." Curran says the simplicity of this song was meant to be a mood-booster. "It's that whole phrase that just makes me feel better… and that as alone as it gets, you're not really alone. If someone says 'it's going to be okay' — even though it can be really difficult to make things okay — there's a path to it. We'll find it. And I wanted that 'you're not alone and its going to be okay' message."
Further upbeat songs such as "I Am the Night" and "Song on the Radio" reflect the work of Wojewoda, the band, and Curran's step into what she calls a more "jolly vibe," but the mid-album track "Time, Time" is reminiscent of Curran's earlier sounds (think: "Soft Wooden Towers" off Spectators) and is a well-placed reminder of her softer, yet hauntingly well-crafted introspection. "It's the kind of song that I'll always write. I always say I just write the same song over and over again in a different way."
Curran says the kind of studio experimentation that birthed They Promised You Mercy is something she plans to continue on future projects. For now, though, she's gearing up for a handful of Ontario and Quebec shows — see those dates below.
11/20 Montreal, QC - O Patro Vys
11/21 Ottawa, ON - St. Albans Church
11/22 Toronto, ON - Harbourfront Centre Theatre