One year ago, Erin Costelo got a band together and spent 10 days in a wooden house in Nova Scotia, determined to record a new album. That album, Sweet Marie, was released Oct. 19, 2018, and Costelo is about to spend another memorable January week touring Saskatchewan. She will be in Yorkton on Jan. 20 at the Anne Portnuff Theatre as part of the Yorkton Arts Council’s Stars for Saskatchewan series.
This tour will be one of new experiences for Costelo, as she travels to towns where she has never been before, takes the stage in new venues and meets new people across the province.
Recording her most recent album was also a new experience, as Costelo decided to take a new approach to recording. Normally recording her albums over a long period of time, Costelo admits she could drag things out over years as she recorded, re-recorded and found studio time here and there.
“As I started to produce other people’s records and they couldn’t do it over two years, they had to do it in a short period of time, I started to realize that taking longer didn’t make it better.”
The challenge was to record 10 songs in 10 days with a new band. To keep herself honest, she would also invite a film crew into the process, with Amelia Curran directing. A songwriter as well as a documentarian, Curran was the right choice for the project because she would know what Costelo and the band would be going through, Costelo said.
“I was filled with anxiety before it happened. But Amelia, because she’s recorded many albums herself, I knew she would be really sensitive to that. I also knew that she would know what to be looking for and looking at, in terms of camera angles and making people feel as though they were in the room... Really, as soon as we were recording, the cameras were on top of us. What you watch are takes that are used on the album. But... you just forget that they’re there after a while.”
The band was new, and a bit of a leap of faith for Costelo, as she had not worked with the majority of the musicians before.
“We had 10 days to make this record. What if I hated everyone? What if the music wasn’t coming together? There was lots of anxiety leading up to it. But once we started it was incredible, and these people are my favorite people in the world right now.”
The ten days wound up being nine days of recording, when a technical glitch wiped out a day’s sessions. Costelo believes that solidified the band’s bond, as they rushed to get the songs recorded again.
“I think that because the musicians were so good, and there was this imperative, we had to get this done, it bonded us together really well. Nobody had a freak out or a melt-down.”
The album was also recorded in a unique location, a home with a unique wooden interior. She believes it was like being at camp with the band, leading to a relaxed feel to the album.
“It looked really great and it sounded even better, I really lucked out.”
While she admits there was the temptation to go back and make changes – “who would ever know” if she went back and did overdubs, for example – she’s glad she resisted the temptation and stuck to the rules she set out for herself.
“I am really happy I left it alone, it feels like a snapshot of a moment of time.”
This tour will be a bit different than the recorded album, as Costelo has rearranged the songs for guitar and piano, and is touring with only her guitarist and partner Clive MacNutt. She describes the shows in Saskatchewan as more intimate and conversational.
“It’s kind of like these songs get born multiple times through the course of promoting the album, which is what keeps it interesting and fun.”
Touring with her partner can be frustrating, she jokes, but she wouldn’t want to tour with anyone else.
“Sometimes you really want to tear each other’s hair out, but most of the time it’s really comforting. This can be a lonely life, touring solo can be emotionally pretty draining. Clive is the biggest supporter of what I do and the biggest champion. He’s pretty great to have on the road, and he’s a pretty great musician, that doesn’t hurt either... Knowing that there’s someone out there who always has your back is pretty great.”
Costelo plans on continuing to challenge herself with her next album, and continue to try new things on record.