Toronto singer-songwriter Charlotte Cornfield says her intention when making her third full-length album, The Shape Of Your Name—set to arrive on April 5 via Outside Music imprint Next Door Records—was to free herself. That’s how the process indeed played out, as the record came together during five different sessions over the course of three years.
The songs are Cornfield’s strongest and most striking to date—contemplative and contemporary, funny and heart-wrenching. The Shape Of Your Namealso features a star-studded cast of collaborators including Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin, as well as Montreal songwriter Leif Vollebekk.
The seeds of the album were sown during a songwriting residency Cornfield did at the Banff Centre. She later brought these sketches to her former roommate Nigel Ward in Montreal who seamlessly fell into the role of producer. From there, they took their time, allowing the songs to breathe while an overall vision for the record came into focus.
All of this took place concurrently with Cornfield’s position as manager and booker at Toronto’s Burdock Music Hall, which has become one of the city’s premier singer-songwriter showcase venues. We chatted with Charlotte Cornfield as she prepared to kick off a cross-Canada tour with former Hey Rosetta! frontman Tim Baker on April 19 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. For a full list of dates and more info, go to charlottecornfield.com.
What makes The Shape Of Your Name different from your past work?
There's a lot of space in this record, and it's much more of a studio album than anything I've done before. I made it without an end goal, so there was a lot of time to try things out and experiment with different sounds until everything landed.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
“Silver Civic” is my favourite song on the record. Writing it was maybe one of the few times I've sat down and finished a song in one sitting. I have a hard time focusing, so it's rare to have that concentration. But I remember wanting to enter that emotion completely, to be immersed. And at some point, I stood up and was like, “Something just happened.” It felt intense right away. And a few days later I recorded what was supposed to be a demo at my friend Matthew Bailey's studio, but once again, it just felt special. So after a few stabs at that song, we decided to use that original version, and I asked Leif Vollebekk to play a little bit of piano. It's straightforward, but sometimes that's what it needs to be.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
That’s a difficult question, but I would describe it as “natural.” I've never been incredibly intentional about making changes to my artistic process and my music; they've just happened by living and growing and being exposed to all sorts of music and art. One thing I can safely say is that I feel much more confident than I used to; I trust myself, there's less questioning, less seeking approval. And I feel like that will continue to grow and evolve.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
I go through phases of being obsessed with songs, but I think “Paul” by Big Thief is a modern classic, and yeah, I wish I had written it. Adrianne Lenker is just such a brilliant songwriter, and this song is so strong and evocative, and it makes me want to cry.
If you could fix anything about the music industry, what would it be?
I would re-string it, maybe do some work on the bridge, and a new set of tuners wouldn't hurt.