Tamara Lindeman is The Weather Station. The Toronto-based singer/songwriter and actor started recording recording at 19, and was a member of the indefinable Toronto musical collective The Bruce Peninsula alongside the likes of Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre), Casey Mecija (Ohbijou), and Daniella Gesundheit (Snowblink). More recently, she released a series of musical postcards called Duets with Daniel Romano, Baby Eagle, and Marine Dreams [You've Changed Records], following up 2009's debut The Line, and released her last full length, All Of It Was Mine in 2011. Her new work, Loyalty, was released earlier this year.
Loyalty was recorded in La Frette, France with Afie Jurvanen - otherwise known as Bahamas - and Robbie Lackritz, the ‘secret weapon’ of Canadian music production. The album has a well-furnished, beautifully rich and confident tone; it's a series of mature emotional and geographic reflections. It represents the work of an artist finding a voice and relishing exploring it.
"That was by chance," she says. "That studio was where Feist had made a record - The Reminder - so I knew it as a fan. Basically I was singing with Bahamas and we went to that studio to record a song for a movie soundtrack. The owner of the studio really liked us and asked us back, so we had this time and it was a matter of what to do with it. Afie was like 'Why don’t we make your record?', and I was like 'okay...'"
The record has a gorgeous, laid back, thick, rich sound, and marks quite a change from the slightly homespun feel of All Of It Was Mine.
"We recorded on tape. Everything was on tape, and was through this crazy old board, so it all sounded heavy and nice which I like. I think going in I wanted to make something more in your face… once we got started the setting was so beautiful, and I felt so happy, I just wanted to make something really beautiful..."
"[All Of It Was Mine] was such a specific thing," she says. "Two people recording on - not a ton of great equipment on that record. I didn’t even know it was going to be a record. It was serendipity meeting Danny [Daniel Romano] and playing with him was what kind of made that work."
Having first toured with and then recorded an album with Bahamas, it is clear that he has had an influence on the sound of Loyalty.
"Afie is master of pop. He imparted some grooviness. I come from a folk background - this has more of a pop sensibility. I learned a lot from Bahamas. I learned a lot about dynamics - Afie is not afraid to take things to absolute silence and build things up again. That’s something I like to do too."
Like its predecessor, the idea of travelling comes up again and again throughout the album.
"Well the travelling is just 'cause I was touring a lot; that’s what I was thinking about. I think there is a sort of - this may sound strange - a subversive aspect to the album. A lot of it is not what I expected it to be, and lots of songs are not things I expected to write songs about. In writing the songs I was subverting the reading of what something was in my life - I thought something was this and I wrote the song and it wasn’t."
The conversation turns to the fifth track on the album, "Personal Eclipse", which is based around a memory of driving through Nebraska.
"So 'Personal Eclipse' [is] a travel song. I wrote it at home and wrote about thinking back to when I was 20 when I rode across America - that other big country. I did that drive a couple of times, and felt so romantic about it... it felt so meaningful to drive around America. Looking back and writing about it, I realised this strange feeling of recognising that if I made such a journey now it wouldn’t have the same meaning and wouldn’t be as worthwhile.”
"I’ve always been seeking out empty spaces, and I was looking at that in my own life, and was thinking maybe that’s not the healthiest thing to do... maybe I should seek out the nice places where other people are, you know?" One of those communities is in her hometown of Toronto. "I’m amazed at how prolific and intense it is. It is totally a community of musicians [who are] very supportive, not competitive. The real danger is the real estate boom, and people starting to move away... we may lose our community if we are not careful, or if people can’t pay rent."
The conversation turns to Lindeman's other career as a film and TV actor, which has included roles alongside Tilda Swinton and Stockard Channing.
"Acting such a thing apart," she laughs before continuing, "...acting is something other people ask me to do - embodying someone else’s vision... some of my success in acting always depended on how much I can erase myself in the service of someone else’s vision. It’s a funny thing - it seemed like a double life when I did it full time. It seems like a different world."
The reaction to Loyalty has seen many again trying to make Linderman into somebody else, with the phrase 'the new Joni Mitchell' being bandied around liberally. "I find it funny when she is the only person for me to be compared to, like everyone is afraid to compare a female musician to a male. Why not compare someone to Leonard Cohen or Neil Young if you are going to compare to a classic titan of music? Joni I find so specific. You know when people compare someone - a woman with a guitar - to Joni Mitchell, I say 'well have you heard Joni Mitchell?' It is interesting to me, like when I heard her for the first time the first thing that jumped out was how crazy her melodies were. They just went all over the place, and I actively don’t do that."
This analysis of Mitchell by Linderman is typical of an artist who seems determined to continue to learn and develop the songwriter's art. Indeed, this was the purpose of the Duets project she worked on between records in an attempt to understand further how others worked.
"It’s crazy how different it is for each person. I thought I had a normal practice but it's different with each person. With Dan Romano I was driving to Buffalo to pick up a car part, and he said 'why not drop by on your way home'. I came to him and he said 'I have this chorus' and I said 'I need to think about it… I need to go home' and he was like 'no, no write them now we’ll record tonight and then you can go home'. Then with a couple of people we spent months writing songs together and we never finished them, and in some cases I was the person being like 'look we’ve got a chorus'... it was very slow. I’m slow, but I didn’t realise there are people who are slower. I would love to do more. I have a couple more to be mixed."
The road to Loyalty has been one full of surprises, lessons, and discoveries, both musically and personally. It is Lindeman's ability to weave these into her songs that make it a record that deserves to be heard. For such a personal record, it seems only fitting to give her the last word:
“[Loyalty] means so much to me. It’s very much a symbol of emancipation - I felt strong making it. I felt like I came into my own in a way that I hadn’t before, and I feel I am looking forward to making another record. It’s part of getting older. In a lot of the songs on the record, it was kind of looking at how I have tried to please people in my life, and am always trying to be obliging to what other people want me to be. I think this record was where I realised ‘yeah, this is me’. I remember after I made All Of It Was Mine I thought I should write songs like Danny, that I should be more straightforward. But on this record, I just circled back to being who I am, thinking about life.
Loyalty is out now. You can hear a taste of it below, and see Lindeman perform tonight (17 September) at London's Sebright Arms. Her full U.K. and Ireland tour dates can be found at the bottom of the page.
17 - London (UK), Sebright Arms
18 - Manchester (UK), Gullivers
12 - Leeds (UK), Brudenell Social Club #
13 - Glasgow (UK), Art School #
14 - Dublin (IE), Whelans #
17 - Bristol (UK), Trinity #
18 - Brighton (UK), Komedia #
19 - London (UK), O2 Shepherds Bush Empire #
# = w/ The Mountain Goats