Rose Cousin’s new song, “All the Stars,” works its intricacies just below the surface. A recurring string part, twinkling keyboards and ringing piano flow with the swell of backing vocals, all coming together as a sample of what appears on her current album, We Have Made a Spark. Amongst its careful layering, the music is never in your face about how much is going on. It doesn’t overwhelm, even with such a full sound.
The Halifax native made this album with a large community of musicians in Boston, something of a second home to her these days. Together, they gave the record a rich, understated beauty that, since its February release, Cousins has had to translate for the road. As she recalls, “‘All the Stars’ is the hardest to recreate because it’s just so lovely to have… the arrangement of it works so well on the album,” says Cousins. “But I did recently work it up on the piano which gives it new life.”
Challenges lend experience, and she shares her creative thinking that “At this point I’ve played so many shows, that now I’m trying to figure out ways to play them so that they can be just as full and lush when I’m on my own.” Not to say that she’s always alone out there. She’s brought musicians from the album on tour, as well as brought in guest musicians here and there. The value of maintaining a sense of community in her music has been an important consideration to Cousins, partially extending from the Kickstarter campaign that funded the recording process of We Have Made a Spark, and puts it simply that, “Community is important to me. It’s the best tool musicians have.”
When I ask Cousins if this is the most touring she’s done in a year, her answer is a near immediate, “No,” with a laugh. “Maybe it’s the [tour] most people have been privy to.”
More critics and fans certainly have been privy to her work these days, as evidenced by a Polaris Prize long list spot and her first headlining tour of Western Canada this past spring.
All that leads to the question of what might be next. It’s a little early to tell and Cousins is a little unsure. She’s been thinking of a live solo record, but nothing’s completely certain. She’s got a lot of different sounds running through her head these days.
“I’m listening to Hannah Georgas and she’s got this electronica thing going on, and Jenn Grant’s new record is beautiful. But of course then Amelia Curran has this beautiful record out that’s still kind of acoustic with a little bit of lushness in between,” she reflects on her contemporaries. “There’s so many things that attract my ear that I’m still taking everything in. I need some time to chill out and be quiet and play my instruments and see what comes out. But I’ve been thinking about pulling out my electric guitar and I’ve been thinking about drums a lot. I don’t know. We’ll see.” Cousins reveals her suspicion that percussion might be much more involved in her upcoming songwriting process from their most basic foundations. Something in the double-kick of Bon Iver, for example, makes her think it might work.
Her songs wouldn’t have to work their way into a happy atmosphere either, because the drums can set the energy high from the start, as she succinctly reasons, “I don’t have to give up my sad songs. I’ll just have a sweet beat behind them.”
You can set the tone right at her show on November 9 at the Ironwood.
By James Brotheridge
Photo: Shervin Iainez