Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Bumping into... Clara Engel

Bumping Into... is a series of mini-chats with a variety of peeps that you might run into in some of our local music communities. (There's a bit of an intro and my thoughts behind the series here.)

How are you? Where are you?

At home in the west end of Toronto. Big flakes of snow are falling outside.

What have you been up to since March or so?

Cancelled a US tour in March, and released this album in April:

Figured out how to record myself at home in a more satisfying way, which was a process. Then I recorded an album this fall... I just released it on the winter solstice (when I used to always play a show in the before-times). It's called A New Skin and it heavily features the cigar box guitar, my new favourite instrument.

Now I'm helping my friend Brad Deschamps of Polar Seas Recordings assemble a benefit compilation for a small local animal rescue. Brad and I are also doing a collaborative project which is turning into a concept album about a ghost bird, and that's been a lot of fun. Besides that, going for nature hikes with my partner, spending quiet down-time with them and our two guinea pigs. I'd be lying if I omitted the fact that I semi-regularly freak out about the future -- both the state of the world at large and my microcosmic part of it.

Have you found any new ways to do old things? How are you feeling about the shifts in how music is being made/shared/listened to?

I guess I never tried to record things very well at home before. I used to be all about recording in various locations, and my preference was always to have someone else engineer the session. So I had to make some pretty big adjustments. I do really miss the sense of occasion that recording live off the floor with other musicians gives me. There is no replacement for that.

I was making an effort to get out to more live performances before this started, so I miss that. In terms of musical discovery, Bandcamp is really great, I've been using it even more than pre-pandemic.

I go on the TPL website (usually late at night... it's like late night shopping but you spend no money and support the library!) and put cds on hold. I miss browsing in person, but I'm glad that some sort of browsing is still possible.

Any works of art that have been a light for you in these times? Anything that's just been a good diversion?

I just finished reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, which was amazing, and carried me through much of the pandemic. Watched some really good films on Kanopy -- recent highlights that I can think of right now are The Wolfpack, Bayou Maharajah, Carmine Street Guitars, We Are The Best. Also watched a few very silly shows, most recently Swedish Dicks with Keanu Reeves and Peter Stormare. There's been so much music that has been a light for me recently, but some of my favourite Bandcamp finds are Calabashed, Alice Coltrane's ecstatic music, Gillian Welch's Boots releases, Zedashe, Sangre De Muerdago, Daniel Kahn & Psoy Korolenko, Wojciech Rusin, Lankum, and Frances Pylons.

How are you feeling about 2021?


Anything else we'd chat about if we bumped into each other?

I'd be curious about how you've been during this ongoing weird time, and what your thoughts are about the future of live music in Toronto. I'd probably find a way of working my guinea pigs into the conversation.

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