Raine Hamilton’s new album about mountains will have you seeing them with new eyes
Brave Land, the new release from singer-songwriter Raine Hamilton, is a concept album about mountains. The majestic summits were not familiar to Raine until they started touring across Canada.
“What I know most deeply is the flat, vulnerable land of the prairie where I grew up,” Raine said from their Winnipeg home. “We do not have hills here. We do not have ‘up.’ It’s just not an axis of existence that we really deal with. When I started to tour more and spend more time in the cracks of this North American continent, I spent way more time in mountains. People would give me directions (like), ‘OK, the venue is up the road and then left.’ And I would be, ‘What way is up?… Oh, literally up!’ There’s a whole other possibility here.”
That information opened Raine’s eyes to a new relationship with the world around them.
“That was a brand new way to experience the world, and I really started to pay attention to ‘up’ and to the land’s relationship to ‘up,’ they said. “For me it resonated as a really spiritual experience to connect with the land that reaches into this other realm. This land that connects with the sky and with the spiritual space. I thought, ‘Wow, this really resonates with how I experience my existence,’ which is as an earth-bound being and a spiritual being. Man I really got into the mountains!”
Raine’s exposure to mountains taught many lessons that have been applied to Brave Land.
“The big lessons I was learning were about courage, wisdom and this connection between the worlds,” they said. “So all of the songs connect to one of those themes in some way and/or the songs have some direct, more literal connection to the mountains.”
Case in point is “Eclipse,” which resulted from Raine witnessing a full lunar eclipse one winter at Banff National Park.
“We found a dark bend in the road to just sit through that experience of the loss of the light and the return of the light,” they explained. “Even as I describe that [now], I feel in my body the tension of the loss and the relief at the return. That songs speaks to the importance of light and the experience of trust that it returns. The experience of ‘distress tolerance,’ to describe it in a less poetic way.”
An added benefit of Raine’s connection to mountains has been a new relationship to other landscapes.
“It helps me to tune into land wherever I am,” they said. “A Grade 5 teacher who’s very versed in the geography curriculum pointed out to me once that a lot of my work connects with the land and the landscape. She said, ‘Oh Raine, you have a great Grade 5 geography lesson here!’. We hear that in my connection to the ocean, to the red sands of Prince Edward Island, definitely to the prairie in my first two albums. So this mountain connection, I think, is pretty downstream for me ’cause this connection to the land was already deep in my work.”
There’s more to Brave Land than just mountains though. “Love Has Come For Me” deals with love and accepting there’s a place for you with it and that you’re deserving of it.
“That one I describe as ‘a radical anthem of self-love,'” Raine said. “For me that had a lot to do with the exploration and acceptance/moving-to love, and celebration of my own queerness, which manifests in me in a whole bunch of ways. For me the movement throughout that process to radical self-love was many-fold. It took a lot of twists and turns, plus a lot of work and a lot of movement for me personally. When I got to that point of radical self-love, I just looked back on the path I had just walked and thought, ‘This is amazing.’ To have walked through all these things that are so hard and to get to this place of deep love where life feels amazing! That felt very necessary to celebrate.”
Raine’s musical qualifications include a Master’s degree in Medieval Musicology and being an instructor of workshops on songwriting and fiddle tune writing in English and French. Their non-musical skills include being a bike mechanic who teaches bike repair to youth.
“Bicycle mechanics is a very empowering skill in a bunch of ways,” Raine said. “It is socially empowering for our communities to have better control over transportation. It contributes to transportation equity in that all people can have access to more of the city we occupy and we all belong in, and it’s very confidence boosting to see something that is broken and to fix it. What a good metaphor for all of our hearts and all of our society.”
Throughout 2021, Raine had been releasing a song a month from Brave Land, building up to its official release. They are now working on a podcast about the album.
“This is a concept album that is deeply, thematically connected within itself. Typically that’s stuff I would explain in my live shows, so those connections and the concept-ness of the album would become more evident. That is not an option we have right now so I’m creating a podcast where myself and my bandmates describe the process, showing clips of different songs and isolating different parts to see how they connect. I am really enjoying being able to sit with the story of each song, and I’m delighted that important artistic context will be able to reach a wider audience.”
For more on Raine Hamilton and Brave Land go to: rainehamilton.com.