Ingrid Paulsen, Victoria News
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Given the option of a record label signing her, but having to cave to their decisions and leave both her band and manager behind, Allison Crowe declined the offer. The Nanaimo-born singer spent nine months in and out of negotiations with a label in New York earlier in the year.
"We were almost at the stage of pre-production for an album when I figured out it wasn't going to work. It became more clear that what they wanted was to get rid of the band."
All Allison Crowe Band correspondence ends with a Crowe quote, "Why music? Why breathing?" Her priorities are clearly defined toward the very goal she declined, but when asked if she had doubts, she answers as if the question was illogical.
"When I finished high school I started in combos with Kevin (Clevette) and I knew Dave (Baird) through high school. We became a trio about four years ago," she explains. "Partly because of their musicianship and because we've come this far as a band, I'm not about to just ditch them now. Why would I do that?"
Crowe says although having her whole life up in the air during those failed negotiations was stressful, she used the time to her advantage.
"I wrote a whole lot of songs. I probably wrote about 20 new songs over the span of one month during that time. I'm happy with them. I feel like I'm progressing."
Over the years, time and experience have brought Crowe's song writing to focus on unfortunate circumstances, both locally and globally.
"I wrote 'Lisa's Song' after I came home from touring in 2002. I found out that Lisa Marie Young, who I know from high school, went missing that summer. I wanted to do something for her, for her family and her, so I wrote the song and gave it to her family."
When emotions are running so high there is nowhere for Crowe to turn she sits at her piano and pounds them out. Bringing the song to Young's mother was difficult, but it was also all that was in her power to do. Her band recorded the CD Lisa's Song + 6 Songs with the sale proceeds from the recording going toward the ongoing search for Young.
"My mind is racing and breaking me into a million pieces, because I can't take you home," Crowe sings for 'Lisa's Song'.
"I remember when Lisa would come to the Queens during the early years of the band. I remember her support," she says.
Young's disappearance from Nanaimo wasn't the only discouraging inspiration Crowe sourced over the last couple of years.
"Early this year I wrote a universal song about peace. On TV I was watching what was going on. You don't know who is telling the truth. I wrote about the frustration of that and the frustration of being too scared to say what you want to say." The band submitted the song in the hope it would be included on the UNESCO Web site and it was accepted.
But the muse Crowe draws from is not exclusively dark. It is light and good will that will make up the majority of songs for Crowe's upcoming concert. Tidings: 6 Songs for the Season is the band's latest recording.
"We basically recorded it live off the floor in White Rock," she says. Crowe was just as happy to leave the tortured retakes of the studio for having the power of the audience on her CD.
"The pressure of live performance is good for the song. I find when I have a whole lot of time to do something I don't try as hard. Maybe that is human nature. The pressure and the energy of live performance helps."
Tidings asks the definition of a Christmas melody to broaden. Crowe chose "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen to start the CD and adds "Shine a Light" by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards along with "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan in with one old favourite, "Silent Night" and one she only recently fell for, "In the Bleak Midwinter".
All will be merry and bright at the Allison Crowe Band's upcoming show and the future has a similar shine. The band plans to record a full album in spring followed by Crowe's first complete cross-country tour.
"I don't regret the time that we spent in negotiations. It opens your eyes and you become more cautious, which is exactly what you want to be."
Despite lessons learned, Crowe isn't known for caution in her performance approach. And those eager to hear the revealing, cascading power of Crowe's vocals won't be disappointed this performance.
Allison Crowe will perform Dec. 19 at UVic's Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets are $15, available at Lyle's Place, Ivy's Book Shop and The Patch.
Bass player Dave Baird, vocalist and pianist Allison Crowe, and drummer Kevin Clevette. Crowe will perform Dec. 19 at UVic's Phillip T. Young Recital Hall.