[ folk/roots ]
"I started writing plays in high school and I thought I'd stay with that," says Amelia Curran. "The writing trumps everything for me." That won't shock music fans already familiar with the smoky-voiced singer-songwriter, who plays the Canadian stage at the 49th Annual Philadelphia Folk Fest on Sunday.
This year, Curran's seriousness about writing earned a Juno award for her CD Hunter, Hunter (Six Shooter), which took the title in the Roots and Traditional category — as high a distinction as there is for a folk recording in the Great White North.
Lines like "You and I are carpenters, we build the bridge that we deserve. We hammer out the meaning, from the words," make you wonder. Curran sounds like a good Irish name: Did she go to parochial school?
"Yes, I did go to a pretty archetypal Catholic school. Newfoundland switched right after I left to a non-denominational system. It was hard. As an Irish Catholic girl, I struggled with guilt," says Curran, on the phone from St. John's. The antidote? "I drink!" she half-snickers. She did name her 2002 album Lullabies For Barflies.
Music wasn't always her aim. "I started busking out of necessity in St. John's, then hosting an open mic for a bit of money every week. I just sort of rolled with it. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder how it happened. I was an indie artist for 10 years, I sacrificed quality of life — I always say musicians are cursed by desire. It's a living but a small living." Still, she didn't pick Toronto when she decided to move to a bigger city to give her career a boost. "I live in Halifax where the winters are mild but messy."
"The Mistress" is one of Curran's most popular songs. Just Curran and her guitar sounding almost church-like, chanting on the dark side of a grand mood swing. "Hello, it's me the mistress. Is there anybody home? Cause the last place I should be, is sitting here alone. All I ask for is forgiveness, if you've got some give it here. You don't act much like you need it. You don't look much like you care." Things arc to the nearly bleeding end, then hint that the pendulum is about to change directions again:
"Is it better to be free? Am I better off without you? Am I happier alone? Hello, it's me the mistress, would you please pick up the phone?"
Clearly it is not speculation. When invited to politely decline further discussion, Curran sounds bemused. "I'm not shy! I tend to say that everything in that song is true except the title. It's a rant, it's a defending one's self-worth after having been terribly misunderstood." That seems like enough of an explanation, but there's more: "At times I've been an awful person, but I've always been myself." Let it be an inspiration: "We've all been awful at times. Do not beat yourself up. Move on and be less awful."
For more Folk Fest coverage, see our best-bet picks and John Vettese's feature on Spinning Leaves.