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Singer favours the do-it yourself approach

Profile: Allison Crowe says recording independently is hard work, but

By Amy O'Brian, The Vancouver Sun, May 13, 2006

Allison Crowe is all bangles and rings and smiles. The island-child,
singer-songwriter has a new love, a new home, she's in the process of
recording a new album and she's about to set off on a Canadian tour.

She can barely get out a sentence without laughing and has a bright-eyed
optimism that is rare even for a successful 24-year-old.

"It's a happy time," she says, while sipping coffee at a Denman Street
coffee shop.

"I have a lovely new boyfriend and I'm starting to see the results of
everything I've been working on."

Angus, the boyfriend, is sitting within listening distance and pipes in
briefly before returning to his novel. Crowe met him last year while
performing her hard-to-define brand of jazz and classical-influenced
fold rock at the dinner club he runs with his mother in Corner Brook,
Nfld. The pair e-mailed for a while, realized they were in love and,
during our meeting this week, Crowe let it slip that she now considers
Newfoundland "home".

It's not that much of a stretch to think that a girl once devoted and
passionate about her Vancouver Island home could be equally comfortable
living on the Rock. Aside from all the snow and ice, Crowe notes that it
's still close to the water and it's still not the mainland.

"There's tons of music there as well - a lot of tradition. There's a
real cultural base there," she says, bouncing a flip-flop off her toes,
one of which is decorated with a ring.

Crowe has been recording a new album that she says has "a bit more
upbeat" feel than her past albums - of which there is a live recording
on double-CD, a Christmas album and her 2004 album Secrets. She also
says it will be a little more rock'n'roll and her vocals and
piano-playing talents will be rounded out by a band.

The Nanaimo native has been performing since she was 16 and, when it
came time to record her music a few years ago, she decided to do it
without the backing of a recording label. Instead she established her
own label, Rubenesque Records, and has been relying on the internet and
a chaotic touring schedule to reach as many listeners as possible.

"It's a lot of work, but I would say it's more rewarding to do it
independently because you're doing what you want to do and you're
growing a fan base in sort of a grassroots way," she says.

"When it comes to creative control, I'm pretty hard-headed. It's what I
do. I write and I play music and I have a real hard time with someone
telling me how I should do that."

She looks to independent success stories such as Ani DiFranco and
Loreena McKennitt - the Canadian singer-songwriter who began her career
by filling mail orders for her music from her kitchen table and has now
sold 13 million albums.

Crowe plays mostly small, intimate venues - with the exception of
Vancouver's Pacific Central Station this weekend - and talks about
growing her audiences 100 people at a time.

"Eventually, playing for 30,000 people would be fantastic."

She's performed in Paris and Amsterdam and Dublin, traveling from city
to city in a motor home and sleeping in the parked RV on European city

"It was kind of like National Lampoon," she recalls.

Her next adventure will take her across Canada by rail, with
performances scheduled in cities along the tracks.

She hasn't yet had the break-out radio hit that would make her a
household name, but Crowe says she's happy to just "keep doing what I'm

"I just love to perform."


The singer-songwriter is influenced by an unusual mix of artists,
including Pearl Jam, Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Nina Simone, and Counting

She grew up in Nanaimo, with a family "steeped in jazz", including a
father who is dentist by day and musician by night.

The tattoo on her right fore-arm is a Celtic symbol for luck and wealth,
and is also a version of her company logo.

Her next performance is this Sunday (Mother's Day) at Vancouver's
Pacific Central Station. The performance kicks off her "Rock'n'Rail
Revue" - a Canadian tour supported by VIA Rail. See her
www.allisoncrowe.com for details.