Les traductions pour les articles avant l’automne 2013 ne sont pas disponibles pour le moment.
It’s fitting, somehow, that Catherine MacLellan compares songwriting to gardening. After all, the Prince Edward Island-based singer-songwriter is unabashedly obsessed with the latter. She admits that these days, her garden is where she finds her inspiration. “I really love digging in the dirt,” she says with a laugh. “A lot of things come to me there.”
For MacLellan, the songwriting process is as mysterious as a sprouting seed growing into a full-blown plant. “It’s similar in the sense that you don’t have total control of it,” she explains thoughtfully. “You do what you can…. You can put compost in the ground, but then it’s kind of up to the seed.” MacLellan describes her own rather organic songwriting process as one wherein she waits for a “song feeling” to strike, rather than adhering to any sort of strict writing schedule. “Basically, I just feel a song coming on, and then I sit down and write it.”
It’s an approach that has served her well thus far. With three albums under her belt, MacLellan’s honest, unpretentious and heartfelt approach to music-making has earned her heaps of praise from both audiences and critics alike. Most recently, she won both Female Solo Recording of the Year and Folk Recording of the Year at the 2010 East Coast Music Awards for her album Water in the Ground, along with Solo Artist of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Awards. In the last year she also represented PEI as part of CBC Radio 2’s Great Canadian Song Quest, and took home a handful of prizes — including both Songwriter and Album of the Year — at the 2010 Music PEI Awards.
Though MacLellan jokes that she first starting writing “bad songs” at age 10 (her brother’s cigarette smoking was an early theme), she says it was the death of her father, singer-songwriter Gene MacLellan, from suicide in 1995 that enabled her to find her voice in music. “I was a shy kid,” says MacLellan, who was 14 at the time, “and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I hid in my room and wrote all these sad songs. That’s really how I got started.” MacLellan says songwriting is still her preferred method for exploring things that are hard to talk about. “I’m still on the path of writing songs about emotions that I can’t find the words for in everyday conversation.”
MacLellan, who was born in Ontario but grew up in PEI, credits her father for showing her what was possible for her own musical career. “We would come home from school and he’d be editing a song or writing one with a guitar,” she recalls, “and that was how he made his living. I think it gave me the idea that I could do it.” But thanks to the early exposure, she also knew better than to romanticize life in the music industry. “I knew it would be a struggle, but it was one that I was willing to take up.”
Though MacLellan acknowledges her reputation for making melancholy music, she is currently embracing a more optimistic outlook in her songwriting. “I don’t want to leave a legacy of ‘I’m so sad and my life is so hard,’” she says with a smile, crediting the birth of her daughter, Isabel, now four, for helping her to find some lightness. “Suddenly it wasn’t about me any more. My perspective definitely changed.” Though she acknowledges the pull to write sad songs about things like break-ups, MacLellan says she realized she didn’t want to keep herself stuck in that rut. “I wanted to get myself out of the pattern of sadness and misery. I want to be happy!”
On the cusp of getting to work on her next album (“I have a big backlog of songs,” she says), which she hopes to have realized within the next year, MacLellan says she’s grateful to get to make music for a living. “I don’t have these grand dreams,” she says. “Mine are really practical. My one dream was to get to do this for a living and to not have to do another job — and now it’s about what I have to do to keep this going.”
She acknowledges having a dream come true, however, when in February, she shared a stage with musicians Gordon Lightfoot and Gord Downie as part of a behind-the-music concert presented by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, wherein an emerging artist is invited to perform with more established musicians. “I can’t believe it actually happened,” she says, the disbelief at playing with two of her musical heroes still palpable. “I don’t see how it can get much better than that!”
At the end of the day, however, MacLellan says she feels privileged to come home to her daughter — and to her garden. “I’m kind of a homebody,” she says, acknowledging that her touring schedule gives her a best-of-both-worlds balance between big-city stimulation and small-town community living. One more dream, she says, is to find a way to make touring “more meaningful and less crazy.” Then, MacLellan says, she really could imagine doing it for the rest of her life. “I’m a practical dreamer,” she says. “I like attainable dreams.”