A Conversation With Cree/Metis Folk Singer Christa Couture
Christa Couture is a Cree/Metis folk artist who has traveled all over Canada and the UK playing music for an appreciative fan base. Her first album, Fell Out of Oz (2005), received critical acclaim; her second album, The Wedding Singer and the Undertaker (2008), hit the Top 10 on CBC Radio 3 and earned her a 2008 Canadian Aboriginal Music Award (CAMA) for Best Folk Acoustic Album. Couture also received a nomination for Best Female Artist. In addition to performing as an award winning Aboriginal Canadian Singer/Songwriter, Couture also serves as the Production Manager of RPM.fm, a website dedicated to promoting and introducing new indigenous artists into the music market. In June 2011, she released the EPs Loved and Lost.
ICTMN: Can you tell us about yourself?
COUTURE: I grew up making music and writing songs. I have a very musical family. My father was Native Cree, and was a traditional ceremonial singer and he had an amazing deep warm voice. Part of his healing work was his voice toward other people. My mother also has a beautiful voice. Before she had kids she sang in a folk trio similar to the Peter, Paul and Mary group. They were called the Cellar Dwellers. And we grew up listening to her sing and listening to all her records she loved like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. My aunts, uncles and grandmother all played piano. I was lucky to be surrounded by music. I grew up writing songs and doing all the stuff that comes pretty naturally to little kids rather than adults.
Songwriting comes more naturally to kids than adults?
I think for me as a writer, I remember something that Neil Young said and it rings true for me. He says that he stops once he starts thinking. As adults we're always thinking. When you are in that creative moment or the news or the spirit is moving you—then you're not thinking. It is that moment of inspiration. As kids, you are in that space so much as a child. As adults, we'll think, is this good enough? As an artist you have to learn to keep those forces of doubt out.
How did you become a musical artist?
In high school I had decided I wasn't going to sing anymore. I did a lot of musicals and thought it was too hard. I wanted to go to Broadway, but I gave up. I said, "Screw it, this is too hard." And I went to work in television. I didn't sing or play an instrument for a few years. I really started to miss it. I had that ache in my belly for it and I needed an outlet and a way to express myself. I started taking guitar lessons. I was a late bloomer. I didn't release my first album until I was 24 years old. It’s still young, but I was just beginning then.
You describe your song, “I Will,” off of your album Fell Out of Oz (and now featured on Loved), as being about a person you had a "mostly imaginary relationship with." Can you explain that?
It was romantic; it's just that it was mostly in my head. I was traveling in Europe, and I met this boy at a hostel. We spent three days visiting Amsterdam together it was wonderful and I was so enamored with the experience. I spent months imagining—what if we lived in the same city? What if we would have been able to get to know each other more? I wrote the song for those wonderful few days of inspiration and ideas that he gave to me. Basically I had a crush on a boy, that is the song.
In addition to being an award-winning musician, you are also the production manager at RPM.fm.
I'm always juggling a few things. In the heart of my being is a musician-singer-songwriter. However, I have worked in film and television for years and I went to film school. Before RPM.fm went live I saw it was such a perfect fit because I am also a musician. I was part of a community that they already wanted to profile and I had a background of working in film and television. I was so excited about it. I remember the interview with Jarrett Martineau and it just rang true for me.
"Jennifer Grey" is another interesting song included on Loved—it's about the character in Dirty Dancing, can you explain it?
"Jennifer Grey" is an old song, I wrote it because it was my 24th birthday and I had just performed live for the first time. I had just moved to London after traveling a bit in Europe. I had been there for about a month so I was in that state of being stimulated, overwhelmed, which included things like waiting for the bus on the wrong side of the road, but I was also excited and open to every possibility, but I also felt a little homesick yet I didn't want to admit it. I wrote "Jennifer Grey" about friendship and about the friends I had in Vancouver that I was missing so much even though I was in this exciting time and I was discovering a new place. The song came to me very quickly, singing to myself on the streets of London. Dirty Dancing is also a classic film, so this is an ode to Patrick Swayze.
How did it feel to win the CAMA award in Canada?
I was nominated for best acoustic album which I won. I was also nominated for best female artist in 2008 but I was up against Crystal Shawanda, so guess who won. It was wonderful, it was amazing and it was intense because the first night they had the dinner and awards for the first round and the second night had performances and that was in the Rogers Centre SkyDome in Toronto. That is a stadium and that is definitely the biggest place I have ever performed and for the most people I have ever played for. It is a massive place. They were filming it for television and there were cameras everywhere in a big house band. I wasn't used to having cameras in my face—it was exciting, the adrenaline was pumping. I had just followed Tanya Tagaq, and Buffy Sainte-Marie was going to be receiving a lifetime achievement award. It was amazing, it was a thrill to be there, it was exciting that it was a native event, and to receive acknowledgment from it was cool. That was my first splash into the native music scene in Canada.
Can you tell us a little bit about these EPs you've just released?
Loved is a sort of "best of" album which is a great place to start to start if you're not familiar with my music, Lost is five songs that I recorded over the last few years that I've never found a home for; they're sort of lost tracks which needed a place to go. They're both on my website as free downloads or you can leave a tip in any amount. I do have albums for sale on my website ChristaCouture.com, and I'll be going into the studio in November to make a new album, which will be out next year. You can also follow me at twitter.com/ChristaCouture; I love to have conversations with listeners. I am always online and happy to talk.
This is a portion of an interview Native Trailblazers, a weekly radio show hosted by ICTMN contributor Vincent Schilling. Visit blogtalkradio.com/NativeTrailblazers to listen to more.