Five Questions With… Taivi

On her new album, Rising Tide, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Taivi offers a refreshing take on Americana. Thirteen songs deep and recorded in locales ranging from Toronto, Guelph and Nova Scotia to Nashville and Frankfurt, Rising Tide is a culmination of a lifetime of music and expression for Taivi, who writes on both guitar and piano.

As a bonus, much of Rising Tide was made with the Grammy-nominated bluegrass Claire Lynch Band who in many ways mentored Taivi throughout the process. She first became aware of Lynch when a fellow musician gifted her a compilation of female bluegrass artists–O Sister! (The Women’s Bluegrass Collection).

Taivi and Lynch struck up a relationship on Skype, and as Rising Tide began taking shape, Lynch took the further step of offering her band for the core instrumentation. Notable is the fact that many of them have also played with leading bluegrass luminaries such as Nickel Creek, Tony Rice, Tim O’Brien and Alison Brown.

As for the music on Rising Tide itself, Taivi describes the songs as being about life and connections. Whether it’s the easygoing “Red Moon Rise,” the infectious “When I'm With You”—a duet with Nova Scotia recording artist Ryan Roberts—or the sobering waltz “One More Dance,” Taivi bares her heart and soul with every note of her beguiling alto.

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How does Rising Tide stand apart from previous work you've done?

This album marks a turning point for me. It was a terrific journey—one that became an album. Years back, I was struck by a comment made by Eric Andersen about the importance of being surrounded by excellence. He said that the kind of excellence wasn’t so important, but being amidst that quality was. Rising Tide developed with that principle. It began with Claire Lynch, an excellent musician, performing artist and writer, agreeing to serve as a mentor. Her focus from the outset was on helping me bring out the full qualities of each song. It was not about producing as such; the album evolved through the mentorship process.

Rising Tide was an exciting co-creation with Claire and others, drawing forth the best forces we could find as the project unfolded, regardless of where in the world the journey would take us. It was a lot of fun, full of growth, connections and beautiful moments. I think all of this comes through on the recording.

What songs on the record do you feel particularly attached to and why?

Each of the songs has a special place for me. The song “Keep On Moving” with its images and metaphors, brings together multiple layers and dimensions of my experience – touching on my ancestors, geographies I’ve known, people I’m connected to. It has a momentum that’s very much grounded in life but with transcendence.

The song “Get On Home” was inspired by Emmylou Harris and was the one that got the Rising Tide album project started. I had once heard her say that regardless of what she was going through, if there was one more song for her to sing, that’s all she’d need to take her further. That stayed with me, and then the lyrics and melody of “Get On Home” tumbled out. It’s a song that attracts other voices when I sing it live. 

During an early mentorship session with Claire Lynch, the idea of doing a demo recording of “Get On Home” came up. That song became the little seed that grew. It led to the recording of a second song, then three more, and ultimately, there were thirteen songs recorded in studios in southern Ontario, Nashville, Nova Scotia and even Germany. The project kept growing, and I’ve loved every minute of the process. Sending Emmylou Harris a big thank-you for the spark that started Rising Tide!

What do you recall about your first time performing in public?

I was 13 or 14 and had been asked to sing at a public event in downtown Toronto. I chose Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier.” I'm still smiling today at that choice, and continue listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie. That song goes beyond borders and is imbued with truth. And I sure loved standing on that stage, singing that song full of heart and conviction. 

How would you describe your artistic evolution to this point?

Always arriving! When Claire Lynch agreed to mentor me, it was a super-charge for my artistry. She helped me zoom into the individual integrity and character of each song, and had me relying on my instincts. I’ve been enjoying the process of allowing each piece the time and space it needs to breathe and find its way.

After being immersed in the creation of Rising Tide, I’m excited about getting the songs out in live performance, creating those genuine moments–like the magical resonance when you’re tuning two strings on the violin and find that sweet spot where the air seems to change. 

In recent years, I had a chance to meet the fabulous Garth Hudson of The Band. He kept telling me about this piano player he saw in Norway who had “a great left hand” and told me, “These days, I’m working on my left hand.” Wow. You just never stop. 

What are some of your goals for 2018?

My stepdad once told me, “These are beautiful songs Taivi, but look,” he said, pointing to a wall of LPs that he’d collected over the years, “These hold many beautiful songs – but who is listening to them? They are just here, on the shelf.” I got it. 

So a good part of 2018 will be about getting the music out there. I look forward to doing more live performing, spending some time on the Pacific coast, and dotting stages in southern Ontario. I’ll also be looking to develop plans to perform Rising Tide along routes where the album was inspired and recorded – including the east coast of Canada, Europe and the States. And there are songs, including piano and vocal pieces that I’ve wanted to record. Like Garth, I too should be working on that left hand!

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