So far this year, Cape Breton indie rocker Carmen Townsend has released her first CD, Waitin’ and Seein’ (Company House Records), gigged her way across Australia, and opened for Heart and the legendary Wilson sisters (who inspired Townsend on her own career in music).
Happily, she’s back in Cape Breton this weekend to play a much anticipated show (with guest musician John Gill) at The Upstairs, corner of Dolbin and Ferry, Sydney, on Friday, April 8 at 10:30 pm.
Townsend took the time from her busy schedule to update WGO on the recent big events in her career as well as upcoming events like the East Coast Music Association conference in Prince Edward Island this month.
WGO: Was this CD meant to be listened to loud? It is a very rocking CD.
CT: I wanted to make most of the record loud and rocky, that is what I do best I think. We really wanted the live energy of the show to come across on the record. It took a while though…haha…i spent many late nights in a basement on Charlotte Street over-dubbing guitar tracks to make them sound as huge as possible.
WGO: The CD has a very full sound except for a couple of tracks, it is just you and your two bandmates (drummer Thomas Allen and bassist Shane O’Handley). Were you trying to stay as close as possible to your band’s live stage sound?
CT: Yeah, I really wanted our live vibe to come across. Some people reviewed the record and don’t know what to do with it. There is a lot of variety, and that’s what I like about it. I write from experience, not everyday is a rock tune on 11. Somedays I just want a little peace and quiet and I choose not to hide my tunes about unrequited love, doubt, and broken hearts behind crunchy guitars.
WGO: Your tunes are rocking but your lyrics have an intimacy even a poetic quality you don’t find in a lot of rock tunes. Care to comment.
CT: I am a hopeless romantic. I write what I feel. Every song is about a situation that I have gone through, nothing is made up. Even with the track Jesse Harris wrote, I felt very connected to the song “Start All Over” from the get go because it mirrored my situation at the time.
WGO: How did the Australian tour come about?
CT: We were chosen to be a part of the Sydney to Sydney program after our set in Cornerbrook, NFLD, at the ECMAs. Our gig was at a legion at a very strange time, I did not think anything would come from it. You never know who’s watching!
WGO: And this is the inevitable “how was your reception” question, followed by “now that you are back has there been any impact on your music career”?
CT: It was a great experience. Such an amazing country, and they love their rock and roll. I was fortunate to sell a lot of CDs. We were lucky enough to go back twice in one year! It just opened my eyes to the opportunities out there. Regardless of where you are, how many people are at a show you never know what could happen.
WGO: Did you get a sense of the Australian indie rock scene and how does it compare to back home?
CT: We were able to check out some local acts of many different genres…..lots of great stuff. The one thing that really stuck out for me is the way bands are paid. You have to wait for invoices! I could not imagine trying to make a living there being a musician. We have a pretty good deal here in Canada.
WGO: What shows in Australia stand out for you.
CT: I absolutely loved the Woodford Festival. It was the New York City of music festivals. Although it rained all weekend, I was completely blown away by the amount of talent from the artists involved. So much life and art in this little area in the middle of nowhere. I just walked around for days.
WGO: What about your time as opening act for Heart on their recent tour?
CT: Touring with Heart was every bit a dream come true. It could not have come at a better time for me. My record came out on January 25 in Canada and 3 days later I’m in front of 6000 in NFLD opening for Rock and Roll Legends. I can clearly remember being obsessed with them when I was a little girl. I never missed a set they played…..sang along to every song I knew. It was such an amazing, life altering experience. To stand out on stage with just an acoustic guitar and mic….singing my brains out. It was also incredible to see how much work goes into putting on a show at that level. I was able to travel/sleep on the production tour bus. I felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see how much work these people do. Everyone on tour was so lovely and I sold a lot more CDs than I thought I would. I would be quite pleased to open for them for the rest of my life…haha….they are the real deal and so sweet. Hard to believe they are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!! I don’t even think I could describe the feelings that come up when I think about the whole month spent with them. I miss that life. :)
WGO: And the East Coast Music Association conference is happening in Prince Edward Island this month. Are you going to ECMAs? Are you showcasing? And how have the ECMAs helped you in the past and how do you think they might continue to help you or any emerging artists in the future?
CT: Yes, we are headed to the ECMAs. This is the first year with my record!! I have never been eligible for nominations, so maybe next year I will be. The ECMAs have helped me in everyway possible…from performing to networking, to inspiring showcases from my friends. Everybody wins at the ECMAs.
WGO: You are back home now but still on the road. How big a part is touring for you and music artists in general?
CT: Touring is the the most important part to me. Being able to see the world, meet people, and deliver your art to the universe. I try to keep the mind set that every show is the first and last so that raw energy will always be there.
WGO: You are playing the Upstairs this weekend. Is this your first show since back from Downunder and are there any new tunes or changes since your tour?
CT: I have a bunch of new tunes…..some of them sound a little country! It’s kind of freaking me out a little. I am working on finishing lyrics for a punky rock and roller tune that the boys and I have been jamming forever. I think I need to runaway to the woods soon though…..just tea, woods and tunes. That’s what I need!
WGO: And what was or were the thing or things you were most happy to get back home too.
CT: I live in Halifax now, so I was really excited to get back to this city. I love the vibe here, and I live for seeing live shows. I missed my nephew and my sister as well. I like my quiet time alone.