Published Jun 12, 2012You can't accuse Toronto singer-songwriter Ivy Mairi of rushing out her second album, given that her acclaimed debut, Well You, came out in 2007. Recorded last year, her new album No Talker is finally being released today (June 12) via Latent Recordings, the independent label headed by Cowboy Junkies' Michael Timmins.
In the gap between albums, Mairi has remained busy musically. She has toured extensively as a member of noted Toronto band Bruce Peninsula for the past three years, as well as performed in kith&kin, a folk-based trio featuring her mother and sister. Her vocal talents have also been utilized on recordings by Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers), Bellewoods, Isla Craig, and Entire Cities.
"I needed time to learn how to perform," Mairi tells Exclaim! of No Talker's delay. "When I released my first album, I think I'd played maybe five shows. I joined Bruce Peninsula and did three tours of Canada and the U.S. in my first year with them. Then I started playing with my own band and when that started to happen, my songs went in a new direction and I started thinking about recording again. Mike [Timmins] was curious to see the kind of band I put together, but I think he was pleased in the end."
Mairi also credits touring with Bruce Peninsula as helping fire her muse.
"About half the songs on the album were written after I returned from a visit to Austin with Bruce Peninsula in 2010. We did a little tour down there, my second with them. After the first tour I realized it was such an amazing thing to play music every night, and talk about and listen to music all day. You come home with all this inspiration. We were talking about how the time to write and record is when you just get back. You are sounding your best and that is all you have been living, so I decided to take some extra days off work. I wrote a lot of songs and finished others I'd been recording into my iPhone while on tour."
Timmins produced No Talker at his Toronto studio, the Clubhouse, a role he also filled on Mairi's debut. The pair were introduced back in 2005, when Mairi was just 17, and a lengthy period of collaboration resulted in Well You. Timmins has been effusive in his praise of the young singer, stating that "her voice, songs and interpretive skills are extraordinary."
Mairi acknowledges the differences between songs written at 17 and those at 22. "I think the new ones are a lot more mature and based on more genuine life experience than fantasy life experience."
The core band on the new album comprised guitarist Matthew Bailey, bassist Lucas Gadke and drummer Michael Brushey. Cellist Anne Bourne appears on three tracks, as does pedal steel player Michael Eckert, with Timmins guesting on electric guitar on opening number "Kenyatta."
Mairi goes on to explain that the recording process was easier this time around.
"I just think I knew a lot more about what I was capable of. I still don't think I knew what I wanted, but I had more of an idea. When we did the first album, when I think back, Mike was so respectful and patient. I really knew nothing about recording or performing. We mixed it together, and he was so patient in explaining how things worked and asking my opinion. This time I went in with my own band that I'd been playing with for six months or so. The goal was to do a lot more live-off-the-floor recording, whereas the first one was recorded more in pieces. It was nice to go in with fully formed arrangements, and it all went a lot faster. I felt more able to articulate the kind of sounds I was going for."
There was also a higher comfort level with Timmins. "The first time I was a little nervous," says Mairi. "When you are 17, it's like talking to adults. We couldn't have the same kind of conversations we have now. With the first album, Mike would need to get mic levels for me and it'd be just me and him in the studio. Sometimes it was a struggle to get me to talk enough to get that! This time I know a lot more about being a musician, and we have much more common ground than we did."
The singer is now keenly anticipating her first dates in Western Canada, which will come as part of as-yet-unannounced fall tour. "We're looking at touring pretty extensively through October and November," she says. "I'm hoping to play some shows on the U.S. West Coast as well."
While we await Mairi's tour announcement, the official album release party for No Talker will take place at Toronto's Cameron House on June 21.