The Canadian alt-country chanteuse loves Louisville but worries about her native land
You're calling from Louisville? That's one of my favorite places in America.
Hey, we get to ask the questions around here! What is it you like about our city?
Oh, the boys from My Morning Jacket are nearby. And I'm a bourbon girl. I'm always happy to be introduced to a new bourbon. In other cities, promoters say, 'What's this crazy thing on your rider? Woodford Reserve?' In Louisville, it's 'Which cool bourbon can I discover today?'
After touring non-stop for five years, you took some time away, even worked at a vineyard, before getting back to work on the new "Asking for Flowers." Did you simply need the time away to be able to write about something other than life on the road?
Absolutely, it was definitely one of those times where I needed to be grounded somewhere. I was pretty burned out. It felt like I had been touring since about 2001. I'd moved three or four times. Everything changed, and I was never able to stand still. To write songs that were new and fresh, I had to think about staying in one place. I needed to resume my secret life working in the garden.
The strength of this record is the storytelling - the number of songs on which you're clearly reaching beyond your own experience to write about loss and love.
I tried to be a little more fearless with the decisions I made this time. I started looking into stories about other people's lives that are in a sense ordinary but to them are extraordinary.
You also stepped away from the guitar and got yourself back to speed on the piano again.
I didn't want to call this album in and just use a formula I knew had worked for me in the past. I wanted to write songs that were really good and feel like I was progressing as a songwriter.
In addition to that pressure, you also had one of your heroes, Jim Scott, producing this album. Did that make you even more anxious about the songs?
It did. Jim was somebody whose name I would see on the back covers of albums when I was a teenager. He did Tom Petty's "Wildflowers," which was the soundtrack to my teenage life. Meeting him alone was a thrill - a big piece of cream cheese icing on a slice of carrot cake. What was really intimidating was taking these songs into a session with the people he picked to play on the album (Benmont Tench of Petty's Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan drummer Don Heffington) and playing some of them for the first time.
You take your own country, Canada, to task on "Oh Canada" for racism and violence - that might surprise some people here, who imagine Canada as this idyllic country with national health care and good hockey.
People look at Canada and say, 'Oh, it's such a great country and there are no problems there, and there's no racism and there's no poverty.' And the truth is, sometimes Canadians do that and become complacent to things that are wrong. I don't think it should take the murder of a white person to signal a problem, when there are a lot of people of all different colors being killed by gun violence.