Amelia Curran has built a reputation as a singer/songwriter who holds nothing back. Her music has often been praised for its displays of raw emotion, offering a window into the struggles both she and those close to her have endured. However, Curran’s new album Watershed, released March 10 on Six Shooter Records, marks a stylistic change in some ways.
The overarching themes of the 11-track collection are openness and honest communication, reflecting Curran’s tireless efforts to erase the stigma of mental illness through It’s Mental, the organization she established in her hometown of St. John’s, but also her general belief that we all need to address the cruelties we inflict upon each other, and ourselves.
Serious and important subject matter indeed, but on several Watershed tracks, particularly the first single “Gravity,” Curran gets the message across via some of the most accessible and catchy music she’s written thus far. Working with co-producer Chris Stringer (Timber Timbre, Jill Barber, Elliott Brood), Curran and her band have made a record that is affecting on many levels, but, in keeping with its themes, is never less than welcoming to the listener.
Along with Watershed, Curran will publish her first book of lyrics this year entitled Relics & Tunes through Breakwater Books, and the documentary she produced exploring art and suicide, Gone, will also air nationally on CBC in the coming months. In April, Curran will do a short tour of Ontario, joining Donovan Woods, Tim Baker, and Hawksley Workman, before headlining her own show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on May 13. Go to ameliacurran.com for more details.
What makes Watershed stand apart from your previous work?
This album was a team effort, in the interest of the authenticity of who we are, and what kind of musicians we are. It is the first time I have had the same band mates on consecutive records and I’m completely in love with them. I think everybody should be.
The intense emotions on these songs seem to capture how a lot of people are feeling right now. Was this a difficult album for you to write?
It was difficult in the sense of getting over oneself and ceasing to care too hard what others may think of you. I’m romantic about the world and I can’t help myself; I am insisting on these messages of love and compassion and unity. It’s a bit like stepping onto thin air and hoping there is goodness out there to help me out.
I've long admired your work as a mental health advocate. What would you say needs to happen immediately to improve the live of people with mental illness?
Well, first of all, thank you! We work really hard and we care really big and we’re trying to reflect our talk with our actions, which can be hard in a bureaucratic system. There is so much that needs to be done and it is easy to drown in it. People are tired of hearing about stigma and yet it is enormously harmful, from doctor/patient discrimination to homelessness and imprisonment, it is stigma that makes it so hard to change this system. We must realize that one cannot have physical health without mental health. We must close that gap.
You're also publishing your first book of lyrics. How does it feel to see your words on the page as compared to on record?
It’s funny, I’ve always said that lyrics do not read well when they go masquerading around as poetry. I’ve never been happy linking those two forms. But the songbook is, simply, an offering. I’d never published lyrics in any liner notes, this is just a token to say thanks, in a way, for listening.
What do you recall about your first time performing in public?
I remember that no one knew I was there. I played for 20 minutes, in the intermission of someone else’s show, and got paid $50. It was a small favour to me because I needed the money. No one noticed that I had ever been in the room. In a way, it was a lesson that music should not be a competition. As you start engaging with the industry, you get all of these signs to be more attractive or more stylish or more intriguing. The industry, in its interest to help you, will forget that you are a person. You must hold onto that on their behalf.