From singing church hymns to sharing the stage with Bon Iver and Anais Mitchell, Rachel Ries has come a long way.
The daughter of Mennonite missionaries, the singer has always lived her life in song. Her music echoes the soulful melodies of Regina Spektor and Feist, while keeping in tune with the finger-pickin', foot-stompin' rhythm of American folk ballads.
Her third feature album, Ghost of a Gardener, marks Ries' return to music after a years-long hiatus. Her time away was a period in life she says was spent growing up and coming into herself as an artist. "I approached this new record with a lot more bravery and confidence in my own voice," Ries says. Her break saw her return to studio filled with passion and determination, but she took it slow and brought her album to life through a playful back-and-forth with different sounds. "I just wanted to play and trust myself. It was so much fun."
Growing up in the church, she says music has always meant more to her than a good hook and catchy lyrics---it's a way to search for truth beyond understanding. Her title track, "Ghost," and the album's name speaks to Ries's most recent journey through music to find herself in her past. "I'm basically that ghost of a gardener," she says.
The writing of her album helped Ries to reconcile with her lost connection to the land. Raised as a farm hand in South Dakota, she was uprooted as an adult into tiny New York apartments and now lives her life in flux between urban/rural. "I felt like there was this ghost of me that was confused," she says.
But the album's dark undertones give way to the peace Ries says she eventually found both personally and professionally. "Sometimes you don't understand your life, but you just gotta live it anyway."
Ries recently finished a UK and Ireland tour, is now wrapping up a four date Canadian set with one final stop in Halifax at The Carleton on Wednesday, June 29.
"Playing music for people," she says, "is my favourite part of every day." --Stephanie Taylor
Rachel Ries w/Kim Harris
Sunday, June 29 at 9pm, $10
The Carleton, 1685 Argyle Street