Home Jason's Jukebox The Chat Room: Emily Triggs

The Chat Room: Emily Triggs

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On her new album, The Great Escape, singer-songwriter Emily Triggs presents an expansive 13-song collection that displays her wide-ranging talent in a whole new way. Listeners have already had a preview with first single and video “Summer In Nevada,” an homage to those who witnessed and participated in U.S. nuclear weapons testing during the 1950s and ’60s. The song is just one of several that reflect The Great Escape‘s overall exploration of different aspects of North American culture.

There are a few specific reasons why Emily Triggs titled her new album The Great Escape, the main one being that it represents a break from old ways of thinking that the Montreal-born Americana artist, now based in Calgary, says have held her back both artistically and personally. With her new material, Triggs set out to challenge herself by ignoring any genre restrictions, and the result is her most honest and empowering album to date.

The Great Escape was produced by longtime Neko Case collaborator Paul Rigby, who also played a multitude of instruments on the album. Other contributors to the sessions in Vancouver were engineer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Carswell (Destroyer, The Evaporators), bassist Darren Paris (Frazey Ford), drummer Geoff Hicks (Colin James) and engineer Erik Nielsen (City and Colour). By coincidence, one of the studios where they recorded, Afterlife, was near where Triggs’ father Stanley recorded traditional folk songs on a houseboat in the early 1960s, which have since been released as a three-disc set entitled The False Creek Tapes.

The Great Escape is Emily’s third solo release since 2014, and the follow-up to 2019’s Middletown, which was nominated for Canadian Folk Music Awards and Western Canadian Music awards. It’s all set the stage for The Great Escape to expand her audience even further, with its clear picture of an artist coming into her own through songs that encompass the full range of emotions, from tenacious to transcendent.

Emily Triggs’ tour in support of The Great Escape kicks off April 12 in Peace River, Alberta, and for full dates go to emilytriggs.com/shows. The Great Escape is available through Bandcamp and all streaming platforms.

 

You’ve said that you wanted to take a fresh approach with The Great Escape. Is there a specific song on the record that was a catalyst for that?
When I would sit down and work on writing songs, I felt like I had a group of songs that were screaming for heavier guitar and a more rock feel, so it was not one song but a group of songs. “Summer in Nevada,” “The Walls” and “Rough in the Ring” were all asking for heavier guitars and drums as well as “London 1969,” which is about the Apollo 11 moon landing — I wanted to take that song to the moon. I worked with Paul Rigby before, as he played guitar on my last album, Middletown, that I recorded with Lorrie Matheson at Arch Audio in Calgary. There was a musical connection as we got the feel for the songs, and I knew I wanted to follow that thread with him. Rigby and I sat down together from the start working out these songs; they told us where we were supposed to go, and we followed.

The album definitely shows off more of your rock side. Did making it take you back to your days of being in bands?
It did take me back to my days of singing back-up in rock bands, but I grew up listening to rock ever since I was a little kid. We didn’t have a TV growing up, so I would sit and listen to records one after the other for hours. I would listen to my Dad’s folk stuff — Lead Belly, The Carter Family, Kate and Anna McGarrigle — and my Mom’s Elvis and Beatles. My siblings were much older than me so I would listen to their records, which was whatever was poplular in the early ’80s. The first song I ever recorded into a tape recorder when I was a really little kid was “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. It seemed the hookiest, coolest pop rock ‘n’ roll anthem for any age at that time. I kept listening to rock growing up and started going to concerts as soon as I was old enough. My sisters would get tickets for me, get me a fake ID and stick a beer in my hand. I appreciate that they did that for me, and I still love going to concerts.

Many songs explore different aspects of American culture as well. What’s your relationship with the U.S. been over the course of your life?
My Grandmother was French-American and grew up in Vermont. My Grandfather would go down to the States from Montreal for work, and that is how they met and ended up in Montreal. I grew up outside of Hemmingford, QC, a small town south of Montreal, and we were 10 kilometers from the New York State border. We went across the border all the time to swim in Lake Champlain, see movies, camp, bowl, get cheap gas. It was not a big deal to cross the border. When I graduated from Dawson College in Montreal I went down to attend university in West Virginia at a small liberal arts college. Then I lived outside of Kansas City, KS, working and completing my practicum. I made some of my best friends during those times that I have kept in my life. Most importantly though, my Dad lived in California and was married to an American before he came back to Canada and met my Mom. I have three siblings that are American and beautiful nephews and a niece that live down in the States. We are all in contact, and I feel very lucky about that. I still go down to the States often for festivals, family, friends. I just drove down to Montana last month to see a show.

You already mentioned that you worked closely with Paul Rigby on The Great Escape. What did he bring to the project?
Paul had listened to all the songs in depth beforehand, and it showed because he came with a plethora of ideas. We would choose a song to work on, and he would pick up an instrument and play something for it and say, “How about this?” We would say, “That sounds great” and then he would pick up another instrument and say, “And I thought we could do this too,” and it would be even better. Then he would sit down at the pedal steel, and he would just keep going and going. His ideas were different and super creative. We had to stop him at his fifth or sixth idea because we were sold on the first two and we couldn’t record them all. But maybe the main reason I wanted to work with him was because I felt like he really heard me. He was kind, and I felt like he listened to me when I spoke and understood where I was coming from. He cared about what the song meant and wanted to work with me to serve the song in a creative and interesting way. I guess mostly I felt seen by him and those are the types of people I like to work with.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I am in the process of booking shows for this year into 2025. I am playing between Montreal and Toronto at the end of June into July this year, and I will be on the west coast at the end of August. It is looking like we will play the Alberta/BC shows in November 2024. I am really looking forward to getting out there and playing.

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