By Trevor Morelli
CALGARY – Lush harmonies and Christmas spirit come together on Stay Warm (2018), the sophomore record by Toronto, Ontario trio The O’Pears.
“It is a holiday album, but it’s not your classic holiday album that is typically released by artists where it’s, you know, shiny and sweet and cheery,” explains singer Jill Harris. “It kind of shows the other side of the holidays, which can be bittersweet and complex and difficult. So it’s part original, and there are a few covers in there, but it’s the whole spectrum of emotions during the holiday season.”
For the classic songs on Stay Warm, Harris says the group went back to their inspirations and thought about the age-old favourites they felt the most connected to.
“One of our influences was Sufjan Stevens. His Christmas album from a few years ago is something that I come back to every year. He was highlighting traditional folk Christmas songs, and that was something that we were starting to do in our sets too,” she states.“The songs that we have covered on this album – ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’ – those things are hundreds of years old, but are just so beautiful; melodies that transcend the ages, that we just felt a connection to.”
Singing together for a decade has helped The O’Pears – rounded out by Lydia Persaud and Meg Contini – find the sweet spot where all three of their voices synchronize beautifully without too much overthinking.
“We kind of just gravitate to our roles now. The three of us met in 2008, so we’re coming on 10 years of singing together, and through all of those experiences, it’s really intuitive now for us to harmonize.
In this album, we did a little bit of layering. The whole album was recorded around one microphone. Whenever we sang together, we wanted to be in the same room, which is new to us for recording. But then for a couple songs to make it more ethereal and dreamy, we would add a couple more layers of our voices, which was fun.”
You may also know the group from the various other projects they’ve taken part in, including singing in the cover band Dwayne Gretzky, providing backup for Arkells on The Strombo Show, and perfoming with Canadian icons like Gordon Lightfoot, Sam Roberts, and Ron Sexsmith, among others.
“The O’Pears is such a focus for us, and that’s a huge project, but we’re also all freelance musicians,” notes Harris. “When you end up playing music in a certain scene for a number of years, you end up realizing that it’s actually a small world.”
The O’Pears perform Dec. 13 at Canmore Arts Place (Canmore), Dec. 14 at Knox Presbyterian Church (Red Deer), Dec. 15 at Cookhouse on Main (Sangudo), Dec. 17 at Fernie Arts Station (Fernie), and Dec. 20 at Ironwood Stage & Grill (Calgary).Canmore Arts Place, Cookhouse, Fernie Arts Station, Ironwood Stage & Grill, Knox Presbyterian Church, The O’Pears, The warmth of winter