Published Jun 12, 2014This week marks the release of Trouble & Love, Americana heroine Mary Gauthier's eighth album overall and first studio record in four years. According to the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, Canadian troubadour Fred Eaglesmith provided invaluable advice for the making of the record.
Speaking to Exclaim!, Gauthier explains, "When it came time to look for a producer for this new batch of songs, Fred was telling me 'It's time for you to produce yourself.' I'm like 'I don't know how.' He goes, 'well that's why you should do it. It's time you learned how.' He kept telling me to just get a great engineer and produce it with him, the way Fred does with Scott Merritt. I think I've found my Scott."
That would be Grammy-winning engineer Patrick Granado (American Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster). He mixed and mastered Gauthier's previous record, 2012's Live at Blue Rock, and he graduates to a co-producer role on Trouble & Love.
"The album is definitely co-produced. Patrick was in there as much as I was," says Gauthier.
The singer stressed spontaneity at the recording sessions in Nashville. "I wanted it to be real. The way to get to real is to not perform, but to actually be there. So we stripped it down to get the spontaneous reactions. We didn't have any rehearsals, and it was recorded to tape. It's a different sound, isn't it?"
This honest approach is a perfect complement to songs that dig deep emotionally, Gauthier's signature. In her press bio, she states, "I wrote this record with a broken heart. The songs were the medicine that put me back together."
Gauthier further explains that she's really drawn to the idea of songs as a healing force. She is now involved in SongwritingWith:Soldiers, a program founded by noted roots singer-songwriters Darden Smith and Radney Foster that pairs veterans with established songwriters.
"Their stories are unbelievably powerful. They taught me something, that songs can heal. I knew they healed me, but I didn't know I could work with someone else and help them heal. Songs are powerful medicine and I want to explore that more and deeper. Songs have saved my life. I have literally pulled myself out of hell by writing songs."
That was exemplified by 2010's The Foundling, a somewhat harrowing album that reflected upon Gauthier's often traumatic experiences as an adoptee. "That record is more like a piece of therapy in a way, for me and other adoptees," she says. "It is just not something I'm drawn to perform now."
Her material usually comes across as intensely autobiographical, but Gauthier concedes that "sometimes I take poetic licence to get to the truth. I believe Picasso said 'art is a lie that points to the truth.' If I read to you exactly what happened to me during a day, that's boring. You have to put interesting things in there to keep people engaged. It's not journalism, it's poetry."
Gauthier admits that she has yet to write from a place of personal happiness, but hints that "I feel it coming. The next batch of songs from me will be very different from anything I've done before. I'm very different now. We'll see how that reflects in the songs. I'm not going to write 'Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,' but there is no need to repeat what I've already done."
Trouble & Love is out now via Six Shooter Records in Canada. She also has several North American tour dates lined up, and you can see all those here.
Read more about the process behind Gauthier's new album here.