Interview with Allison Crowe
by Tamu Miles, Arts Editor
The Navigator September 21, 2011
Photo by Teddy McCrea of ladysmithphotography.com
On Sept. 23, Vancouver Island residents will have the opportunity to take in an intimate evening with Nanaimo-born singer-songwriter and musician, Allison Crowe. Crowe will be playing at the Ladysmith First United Church. Opening for her will be long-time friend and fellow singer-songwriter, as well as radio host, Lena Birtwistle. This concert combines the 10th anniversary (as of Aug. 2011) of Crowe's personal label, Rubenesque Records, spending time with her family, heading into a studio to do some recording for her next album, and a special request made by Ladysmith resident Jayse Van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen's mom, Sue Bonde, and her stepdad, Guy Woolfe, are celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary and Van Rooyen and her sister wanted to do something special for them. Crowe is one of their favourite musicians and while Van Rooyen was hoping for this concert to be a surprise for her parents, Crowe says that she "wasn't sure at the time she [Van Rooyen] wrote which coast I was going to be on. Then it turned out I was coming to B.C. . . . so we planned a show in Ladysmith as well."
Crowe has played Ladysmith's First United Church in the past. The last concert there was in 2005 for the Christmas Tidings show. She told me "it will be fun to do a different show there this time. It's always a lot of fun doing shows in Ladysmith and I know Jayse's parents are so excited." She hasn't played live since early this summer, "so I am excited to play live again, too." She is also partial to the church's piano and the overall sound of the venue. "I think [it's] because there is a lot of wood and the building has such a nice warm, natural sound."
Crowe, who hasn't been to the West Coast since last Christmas, is looking forward to some time with her family. She is also doing some recording while she's here. She is not sure when her new album is going to come out, but says, "I do a lot of recording on my own, but I tend to be quite loud, so often for vocals I need to head into a studio. My gear can only take so much!"
Her last album, Spiral, gave her a chance to try things musically that she had not been able to do previously. "I was definitely going for a different feel—fuller arrangements and more sounds and layers and things than I'd been able to do before."
The album was not created in studio, but by uploading files to an FTP server for sharing, and by emails that were sent back and forth between Crowe and her long-time friend, Kayla Schmah, who also produced the album. "She added these amazing arrangements to the songs, with strings and different sounds." When I asked Crowe if she found producing the album via long-distance-interweb difficult. She answered, "actually, it worked out great I think because we had the luxury of time on either side; nothing was rushed or anything."
Music has always been a part of Crowe's life. Her mother plays piano and her father, who still "gigs around Nanaimo sometimes," plays the guitar. For Crowe, music is not only a form of communication or a means of self-exploration, but "I know when I was younger, for sure, I wrote to get things out of me that needed to get out and be able to sort of release. I feel maybe that's changing a bit as I get older, but it's still a factor for sure. Then communicating that with an audience is one of my favourite parts of what I do. I mean, if I write something and it can help someone even if it's a totally different experience they're having in their life, that's amazing."
Tickets for the show are on sale at the Beantime Café and Salamander Books in Ladysmith, and Toad Hall Emporium in Chemainus. The cost is $20 for adults and $15 for students in advance, and $22 for adults and $17 for students at the door. Show starts at 8 p.m. For more Crowe information, including tour dates and streaming music samples, go to <www.allisoncrowe.com/index.html>.