This past spring singer-songwriter Jennifer Castle released her third album (her first under Flemish Eye), Castlemusic. Though only 31 minutes long, the album is a window into her imaginary world. With her beautifully breathy voice, Castle will lull you into a daydream of your own only to pull you back into reality with the Neil Young-like “Way of the Crow.” We spoke to the Toronto-based artist in anticipation of her Vancouver show September 29th, 2011 with Ruffled Feathers at the Electric Owl.
What are your earliest memories of making music?
My earliest memories are probably writing songs for me and my sisters to sing or to go along with our dance routines. Also, when I was younger and would hear mechanical sounds, I would try to match my voice to those sounds, so if someone was near me they wouldn’t know I was making those sounds.
I’ve often wondered what leads an artist to create music in a particular genre. What has led you to make the kind of music you make?
My music has always been singing-based because you don’t have to do anything but sing. Music centered around lyrics and voice has always come very naturally to me. I’ve written music and sung always. Sometimes I hear songs, and I want my own. It’s like adding a response to what I’ve heard. It’s communication. When I’m playing music I’m just playing around with my guitar.
How has living and creating in Toronto influenced your work?
There is a rich improvisational community in Toronto, and it really influenced me at an experimental time with my own recordings. I tapped into that community when I was solidifying a lot of the work that is a continuation of my work now. There are no doubt improvisational groups all over the country, but Toronto has a unique group and is a unique city, it’s inevitable that it influenced me. Toronto is also a place I like to leave. I like to distance myself from it because there are a lot of people making similar music here. I like to leave to find out what I’d want to do if it were only me –to find something singular to me, and my own.
How do daydreaming and imagination inform your work?
When I’m daydreaming I sing. I take for granted that life is sitting around thinking about music. It’s a lot like childhood –imagining, daydreaming and singing. It’s what I like to do when I’m alone. I need to daydream, it resets me. It sounds flakey, but sometimes I just need to flake out. I think everyone does it.
Tell me about the creative process behind your album Castlemusic.
I had been playing a lot of music at the time and years before. I picked up on a feeling and thought this feeling has legs, so I made the choice to make a record. I had been playing all of these songs (not side by side) but was affected by a sensation and thought, “Okay now would be a good time.” There are always songs floating but there’s not always the desire to pin them down, to record them and put them through studio filters. I just let them be.
What have you learned in the process?
I learned a lot more about the logistics of making a record and started feeling more comfortable with the techniques. I’m more comfortable sitting around playing music, as there are more smoke and mirrors [with recording]. I think what I’ve learned will reveal itself in the next record. I don’t think I know just yet what I’ve learned.
Some of your songs are more upbeat; I’m thinking now of your song “Poor as Him,” while some are more breathy and dream-like such as, “You Don’t Have to Be.” Where do these two different sounds come from?
When I was recording and talking to the people playing with me I was like, “This song has to be loud enough to be heard in heaven.” Not really, but I would give a lot of physical direction for the sounds of the music. I’d say, “This song needs to turn the corner and blow a kiss.” It didn’t matter who it blew the kiss to, it could be Aretha Franklin for all I cared, it was just the idea that this song needs to make this gesture. Some of the songs I just release to go somewhere else. I’d just try to shake them out. Some of the songs ended up sounding just like me like, “Remembering” and [they] couldn’t be let go. I just had to be comfortable with the vulnerability of those ones, but the others were free to transform.
In this era everything is consumed so quickly, but the music on this album can’t be. How do you hope your listeners will perceive it?
We consume new music very quickly in this culture. Even I consume music quickly. There are signifiers in music that I hear, and I try to make up what it means, and I try to make up my mind quickly about whether I like it or not. And of course there are also cultural tastemakers who tell people “You should like this,” but there’s not a lot of those people telling people to like my music. There’s also music that I didn’t and haven’t consumed quickly. It grew on me. I don’t know what to hope for with my music. Sometimes people hear it, and say the like it, and then they say, “You must hear that all of the time,” and I say, “Are you crazy?” I am thankful when they like it.
How do you feel about performing your music live and touring?
I’m starting to understand it as I do it more and more. Performing is very different from recording. Plus, I feel like there’s a folk singer on every block of the world. Before I play I always think to myself, “I hope people want to see this thing” because it’s not necessarily the thing I did when I recorded it. I like to sing and play guitar, really like it, but sometimes I wonder what on earth people are doing traveling around and signing songs.
How do you feel about Vancouver? Are you looking forward to performing there?
Yeah. Vancouver is a home away from home. I’ve lived there twice, and I always go back to it. Many of my very dear friends are there. I’m always wondering, “Am I going to live there again?” My absolute favourite place is Strathcona. It’s really amazing.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
September 23 :: Montreal, QC
September 29 :: Vancouver, BC
September 30 :: Edmonton, AB
October 1 :: Calgary, AB
October 22 :: Halifax, NS
October 23 :: Fredericton, NB
October 25 :: Montreal, QC
October 26 :: Kingston, ON