On the War path

After a four-year hiatus, Amelia Curran returns with the quietly hypnotic War Brides. Matt Charlton catches her before she hits the road.

Eyes ahead Amelia Curran hits the road with War Brides. photo Scott Munn

There’s a certain look that’s unique to musicians a few hours from going on tour. With eyes open beyond their lids’ natural extension and a cigarette that burns down a visible amount with each inhale , Amelia Curran is obviously in the countdown. As she sits down to discuss her new album, War Brides, she shows both weariness and anticipation of the trek she will embark upon in less than two hours.

“I just realized that I unhooked my computer and it has all our tour information on it,” says Curran. “I think I know enough to get by…even though it’s somewhere I’ve never been before.”

Backed by her recently assembled Mercy Band (including Benn Ross, Lukas Pearse and Phil Sedore), Curran is heading out on a nine-date tour of Newfoundland, with a Halifax show on August 10 at the BusStop Theatre. With a re-born determination to pursue music full-time, this is just the first in a series of upcoming outings and releases Curran has planned for the next few months.

The St. John’s native initially developed a reputation in the theatre in her home province. But after a brief stint studying acting at Sir Wilfred Laurier University, she decided that she needed a change. “I was going to move to Boston, but I’ve still never been there,” says Curran of her original plans. “I was 21 or 22 and leaving Newfoundland, that was the focus. Where you end up isn’t really important. It’s just about the leaving part.”

First finding herself in Bridgewater, the budding performer soon moved into Halifax. Spending her days living in the And art space, she nurtured her songwriting skills alongside such other upcoming artists as heavy meadows.

“For six months I lived with all these crazy people slept all day and partied all night.”

Over the next three years, Curran released her debut solo album, Barricade (2000), Trip Down Little Road (as part of the seven-person collective The Sense Amelia Project) and her sophomore solo release Lullabies For Barflies (2003). Following this initial flurry of activity, the next four years found the increasingly well-regarded artist fall relatively quiet.

So, what has she done with her time away from the microphone?

“Nothing,” she says, laughing. “I don’t know what I have been doing over the last four years. I did have a day job, which makes it kind of hard to keep focused on music.”

Eventually regaining that focus, Curran recently teamed up with Sedore to work on new songs. Soon after, the duo began recording the tracks that would make up her third solo offering, War Brides.

The album is a low-key, roots-based affair. Finding a middle ground between Gillian Welch and a subdued Lucinda Williams, each song carries itself with ponderings that draw the listener in by sounding like they have forgotten there is a listener at all. The album’s subtle instrumentation shows the duo’s skill without making it the focus of the album, a common mistake of recordings in the roots genre.

Released in a relaxed and decidedly independent manner, Curran will continue to tour the record on weekends and in free time. Her main focus now, though, seems to be the impending release of the recently recorded Mercy Band album.

“Everything is really serious with the four of us now,” she says about the band. “I think we should really start trying to make a living. We’re gonna finish mixing the album and then try and get some industry help. I’m looking at small labels around Canada, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just going to give it a shot.”

Atthis, Curran is quick to gather her things and get ready to head out the door. With the packing, planning and the fact that she is leaving for tour in just over an hour all coming back into focus, that familiar look creeps back into her eyes. She lights another cigarette and heads out, not 100 percent sure how she’ll get where she’s going, but no less confident she’ll end up where she needs to be.

Amelia Curran CD release w/Dusty Keelor, August 10 at the BusStop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen, 7:30pm, $10/$7.

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