In this age of celebrity culture when so much emphasis is placed on awards and social media “hits,” is there room, or interest, in the quiet accomplishment of a life well-lived and a job well-done? That’s one of the motivating questions behind Rachael Kilgour’s new album, My Father Loved Me. It’s also an exploration of her father’s life growing up in Ontario before he moved to Minnesota and started a family.
“It was kind of like peeling the layers of an onion,” said Rachael at last year’s Folk Music Ontario conference. “He was an older dad by the time I came along, so by the time I was an adult and was curious about him, he had changed significantly because of dementia.”
Growing up in Duluth, the family dynamic was set by her mother’s side. Her father’s contribution was relegated to just being the breadwinner in the family. Besides, his work as a contractor meant he was busy with work much of the time. But it was during yearly trips to Ontario to visit her father’s family that Rachael gained some insight into the man her father was growing up.
“That family was always very loud and fun and pulling pranks on one another,” Rachael said. “It felt like I fit in because I think I was quite similar to my dad in a lot of ways.”
Exposure to her dad’s side also provided something extra. To Rachael’s way of thinking, having this “Canadian content” in her meant she was “exotic” compared to her friends at school.
My Father Loved Me was produced in Toronto by Rose Cousins. It was important for Rachael to have songs about her Canadian father to be recorded in his homeland.
“What felt really important was my dad’s Canadian heritage. Being an immigrant, he really clung to it, and I think it would have meant a lot to him that I came back here to record it.”
Rachael doesn’t have many musical connections to Canada but she did know Rose, who enthusiastically agreed to produce the album.
“She’s incredibly talented, and when she says ‘yes’, she really really means it,” Rachael said.
Rose’s approach in the studio was to let Rachael “do her thing” and then build the songs up from there. Rachael feels Rose understood the essence of the songs and, therefore, was able to add meaningful accompaniments.
“She would say, ‘Oh, I hear in the song you’re longing for your parents to have a deeply romantic story. Why don’t we have this huge orchestral string swell?'” Rachael said. “I was left weeping at the end result.”
My Father Loved Me is Rachael’s fourth album in a career that has seen her gain some recognition. She was the grand prize winner of the 2015 international New Song Music Performance & Songwriting Competition, and she won the 2017 Kerrville New Folk Contest.
What led her to songwriting in the first place was, in her words, a crippling fear of expressing herself.
“I didn’t really know how to connect with people. I have always felt things incredibly deeply. The anxiety of social interaction as a young person was just too much.”
The ability to say exactly what she wanted in a song was a gift to Rachael and it taught her how to communicate in other ways.
“It’s such great therapy!” she said.
For more on Rachael Kilgour and My Father Loved Me, go to https://www.rachaelkilgour.com.