Although they didn’t plan it that way, the new single Test The Timber by Edmonton folk-rock duo 100 mile house is precisely the song we need right now. Soothing and hopeful, its message to hold fast in the face of adversity on a personal level can now be extended to how all of us can get through the current pandemic by doing what’s necessary to support each other.
That theme runs through much of 100 mile house’s new album Love and Leave You, out March 27 on Edmonton’s Fallen Tree Records. As on their award-winning previous work, Peter Stone and Denise MacKay seem naturally attuned to life’s impermanence; the reality that we must cherish what we have, while knowing we must eventually let it go.
Made with a host of guests ranging from Juno nominee Chloe Albert to a heart-swelling string section, Love and Leave You builds on the themes of longing and love of 2016’s Hiraeth, which earned 100 mile house a Western Canadian Music Award, and a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination. On Love and Leave You they have emerged—stronger, wiser, and more honest than ever before.
As they approach two decades since their first chance meeting, both Stone and MacKay’s lives and the music they make have become inseparable. It’s palpable the moment you hear them sing together, and cuts even deeper as the stories they tell unfold.
Like all artists, 100 mile house has had to postpone plans to play live, but they are currently exploring options for a live-streamed performance. We recently caught up with British ex-pat Peter Stone to find out more.
What sets Love and Leave You apart from your previous work?
I hope that it’s our most accomplished album in terms of lyrics. We really tried to bring them to the forefront of this release. That’s part of the reason the instrumentation and production is so stripped back compared to our last album. We didn't want there to be anywhere the words could hide, forcing us to make every line count.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
Production-wise, I think the opening track River stands out. It was one of those songs that almost beat us in the studio but we stuck with it and I hope in the end we got it, with the help of the amazing vocal trio The Carolines. In terms of lyrics, Grateful and Like Each Day are songs that took a lot to finish. Finding the right way to approach more sensitive subjects is always a challenge.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
I think every album has had its own personality, and I think our songwriting has developed as we've grown as humans and our relationship has changed. I think our artistic evolution has just followed our age; we sing about things now that we never would have in our mid-20s, like starting a family and loved ones passing away. Our first album included a song about a soccer team, and I’m not sure I'd ever repeat that again.
What do you like most about living in Edmonton?
The people. It’s such an honest city, there's no pretentiousness here. The music community is wonderful; the audience at all of our first shows were just musicians, that’s how everyone looks after each other here. Also, the Empress Ale House is the greatest bar in the world. It's my home away from home.
How are you coping with self-isolation?
Me and our two-and-a-half-year-old have embarked on a new career in PSA rap videos about staying at home. There's not really much more than that to say—if you're intrigued, we shared some on our Instagram. There’s been a few comments that we should stop wasting time with this folk music and take it on full time.
Label: Fallen Tree Records