I’ve always felt that the arts are like a spectacular sunset—more vibrant for throwing her rays up against the heavy grit of pollution resting in the atmosphere. I guess that means that when you’re free to feel everything all at once, untethered by stable emotions and impending deadlines, your art is always at its most raw and powerful. Autonomy is a fleeting and powerful lens to view life through.
And let’s face it, when you make art for a living, sometimes the rush of creation dulls a little. So, even though I’m one of the most la-vie-en-rose-esque working artists that I know and gushy to the core, I was gobsmacked to experience the wave of total euphoria that flooded into my heart when I started working on these collaborative projects with the LIFE AU LAIT artists-in-residence.
And if the previous two moved me—this one literally shook me back into the days of teendom: that fluttering in my stomach, longing in my throat, mind-racing, head-spinning rushes of love. I remember the feeling particularly well because, well, music has always done this to me.
From the time I swooned over bands, went to every show (backstage whenever possible), scoured magazines for tiny quotes or bits of intel from my favourite artists, to the days I spent writing music, playing bass in my first band, scratching out scraps of poetry that I left between the pages of library books or lyrics scrawled into numerous journals for the imagined scholars to someday find and analyze.
Today everything’s different. Time is precious and better spent doing what I do best: hanging out with my five-year-old and running LIFE AU LAIT. And then it happened, I teamed up with Annelise Noronha for our summer residency.
Everyone in the County knows that Annelise is a great talent—it just shines out of her
Annelise is one of my absolutely favourite County people. Introduced via Facebook through Hill Kourkoutis (one of my great all-time friends and another beautiful artist), it took us almost a year to actually meet in person. It was a quick connection—she was mega-talented and uber-cool, we laughed about our face-blindness and how neither of us can tell characters apart in films—constantly confused about why the good guy hero kept committing crimes.
Everyone in the County knows that Annelise is a great talent, it just shines out of her. She’s entrenched in the arts scene and plays every event that’s meaningful to play—from women’s fundraisers to feel-good jam sessions to the big County festivals.
I started imagining collaborating with her early on, but the County days fly and it was difficult to cement an exploratory meeting with nothing to tether it—until the summer residency approached and I suddenly knew just who.
More importantly, she was into it. We met up at Beacon Bike + Brew to get it onto paper. She had the water buffalo pate, I had the smoked salmon and dill. We ping-ponged our hearts out and the idea got better and better.
My stomach started doing flips halfway through our meeting and it didn’t stop ever.
Annelise’s vision for her County life was to reconnect to the artistry of music, the love of her craft. We decided to do something totally collaborative that was bigger than both of us. We’d make a piece of music together. Something small and open, lyrics from me and then she’d run with it and create the bones of the song. Next, we’d send it to a select group of awesome County musicians so they could contribute to it in various ways that were meaningful to them. They’d record their part, send it back to us and it would grow and grow in heart, depth and complexity with every submission. Annelise would produce the final song and we would share it with everyone.
It would be something that showed the deep and beautiful connection of artists in the County music scene, and for the rest of us, something that felt powerfully County and totally universal.
We imagined driving around our country roads, top down as the sun sets…
I was head over heels in love and I went home and jumped into it with a fervour. My heart fluttered around like when I was thirteen and found out a boy that I’d never noticed before liked me. I penned a poem for Annelise to pull from and waited heart-in-mouth for the next steps.
Somethin’ about the County sun; she kisses my skin, she shines down on us.
These flowers, wild, reach out across the wind, her long shadows dancing on white sands
and she burns low and hot, down on the water.
We fall through the long grass, holding hands, flames of sunlight in her gold eyes,
sparks of barn dust flying through her rays, we laugh and try the wine again.
We carve out our stories in the fields of grain.
We’re County people under the County sun. He said, “Step on up and let me show you everything”
Her glinting waves crest in his hands
And we drink it, we drink it all in.
A week or so later, she sent me the rough track and my heart exploded. She explained that this was a starting point: simple and open in order to be hospitable to the vision and ideas that would come in from the others. I was already obsessed. It was a great lesson to see the road a poem would travel to become a lyric and I appreciated her great intervention.
Then we sent it out to the others and I held my breath for weeks until the morning, a few days ago, that Annelise messaged me back. She’d produced the final cut, I should check my email.
The rest is not for me to interpret. It’s our shared experience that makes it relevant and the magic of the County that makes it beautiful.
We hope you feel it too.