Carrie Day speaks just as she sings: calmly with an ever-present sense of tranquility and poise.
The topic is her latest album, Life Is Like This, and she speaks of the disc with a closeness that comes from letting go of something personal, which is precisely what the lyrics encompass.
The album is her first since the 2010 release of Immaculate Night, with many of the songs completed long before she ever hit the studio. However, Day notes that this time around, there was a sense of cohesion to the album.
“I feel that with Immaculate Night, there was no real continual thread or theme running through it, it was just a collection of a bunch of songs I had been writing over the years … I love the album; I like the diversity of it, but at the end, I didn’t feel completely satisfied,” she says over the phone prior to starting a day of music teaching. “So with this next album, I do feel, probably because all of the songs were written around the same time and just really being aware of how people are all kind of the same, they all get lost at times. We all want the same things: we want to be respected, we want to be liked, we want to feel like we belong.”
While the majority of the songs on Life Is Like This were written well over a year ago, the title track didn’t come to fruition until earlier this year on one particular evening when Day was feeling a little down and out.
“I was sort of going through a depression and feeling really stuck in the day-to-day, not having a good perspective about the bigger picture. I was on my way home from my day job and I just saw the sky and the trees and the sunset and it was just such a grand moment, and really a fleeting moment, but it had an impact, so I went home and started writing the song that night,” Day recalls, adding she took on much more of the album’s composition this time around, particularly with instrumental arrangements. “A lot of these songs I did write when I was feeling quite positive and strong and grounded, and the funny thing is, after I had written the majority of them, I sort of fell into a depression and just even thought, ‘How arrogant of me to even think that I have anything figured out. I don’t know anything about how life is,’ but you know, that’s part of the cycle too, that ebb and flow. We have strong times, we have low times … really what we have to do is be there for one another; be supportive.” – Meaghan Baxter
After a decade of making music, Carrie Day laughs to recall how she got involved in it all, almost by accident. “A friend of mine wanted to work with musicians to get experience in recording,” explains the Edmonton singer-songwriter. “It was a learning experience for me too.”While she was already an accomplished pianist, she was just getting her feet wet as a songwriter. They recorded a couple of dozen songs that were never issued.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Day (then known as Carrie Hryniw) released her debut disc Pieces Of Me. Now she’s hit another career milestone after hiring a producer for the first time – Stew Kirkwood – to oversee her fourth album, Life Is Like This (recorded at his Sound Extractor studio).
“It was really much less stressful to allow Stew to produce this time and to take care of bringing in the musicians when they were required. One of my good and bad qualities is that I’m a perfectionist. That might be what drives me, but it was great to be able to just focus on executing my own parts rather than giving feedback and trying to take on that larger role.”
Most of the tunes on the album benefit from Day’s strong piano melodies. She also plays a bit of organ and guitar, and gets help from various guest musicians including Kirkwood, Kyler Schogen, Brad Smith, Doug Organ, Paul Bergeron and trumpeter Bob Tildesley. Backing singers and a children’s choir fill out her vocals in a few places without losing the session’s sense of space.
Over 10 new songs Day addresses different types of relationships, drawing on themes of universal love, offering solace to friends and family in song, balancing heartfelt sincerity with poetic invention. Despite taking on some heavy emotions, the set ultimately starts and ends on a hopeful note.
Day penned the song Soul Shine for her eight-year-old daughter, Sadie, and the girl also takes part in the children’s choir elsewhere on the disc.
The best advice might come in the upbeat title track that opens the album, Life Is Like This, a reminder to tune in to life’s simple pleasures. As Day observes in the tune, “we keep on moving/afraid of losing out on what it is we’re already missing/when we can’t hear for listening.”
“That song came to me when I was driving home one day, taking the same route I always do, but this time I started noticing a beauty in things that I hadn’t seen before.”
The official release of Life Is Like This in concert Sunday follows a year of more deliberate work on Day’s part to expand her horizons. She’s been involved in songwriter’s workshops and even took a trip to Nashville last February to meet a few seasoned professionals. She’s also been working on getting her songs placed in film or television.
She’s performing more regularly too, sometimes in a songwriters-in-the-round situation. That’s in addition to her mainstay as a teacher in piano and music theory.
Jamie Price opens the evening before Day and her band mark the release of Life Is Like This at the Yardbird Suite (102nd Street at 86th Avenue) 7: 30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are sold out but the CD will be available from Blackbyrd Myoozik and iTunes. – Roger Levesque
She saunters into a bustling cafe on a very rare sunny and warm fall day, but the look of tranquility on Carrie Day’s face feels a bit more like a mask than a truly relaxed air. But of course why shouldn’t Day be stressed: besides finishing up rehearsals for her upcoming release show for her latest record, Immaculate Night, Day is also prepping some of her other art—in this case painting—for two shows set to hang in October and November.
It’s a ridiculously crammed schedule for someone who does almost everything herself, but it’s also rather indicative of the boundless creativity that Day evinces, proof that she is not the type to hold back or go in half measures.
“I can’t complain to anyone,” she says with a genuinely buoyant smile. “I did it all to myself.”
There is a strong sense that Day wouldn’t have it any other way. Immaculate Night is her third full-length—earlier records Pieces of Me and Finding Grace were released under her “hard to pronounce” birth name of Carrie Hryniw—and it reveals a songwriter and especially a singer very comfortable in her milieu: Day has poise to spare, and a powerful voice that seems capable of wrapping itself around any emotion Day wants to throw it at, from the breezy happiness of opener “Good Day” to the more plaintive melancholy of closer “Divine Immaculate Night.”
Also evident on Immaculate Night is Day’s ease with a melody, which might be attributable to her leaning more towards her piano when it comes to writing. Classically trained, she admits she avoided the instrument for a time, wanting to break out and try new things—but now that she’s been away from it, she’s come to appreciate what she can do with it more and more.
“I think I just got so sick of the instrument when I was done school—I would just look at it and feel nauseous,” she admits. “That’s when I started to play guitar, and I’m not trained on that at all. I used to call myself a hack, but now I just know my limits, and I can play within them. But now I’ve been leaning more towards the piano again. Now that I’ve had a 10-year break, I’m writing on it more and more. Which is good, because that’s the one I can actually play.” – David Berry
Carrie Day admits she’s a night person.
That must explain her new CD Immaculate Night. It starts with a fun, upbeat pop-folk tune Good Day, but after that it’s filled with the imagery of night. While the Edmonton artist — formerly known as Carrie Hryniw — showed a lot of potential on her two previous releases, this third time out Day has really found her groove as a singer and songwriter.
“On this album I’m a little bit all over the map,” she admits, “but I kind of liked that. It was about letting go of the reins and any inhibitions, to let whatever happens just happen creatively.” One of the first things you notice are the excellent production values, aided by funding from a Rawlco Radio grant and Stew Kirkwood’s Sound Extractor studio. Lindsay Woolgar’s bass and Alex Boudreau’s guitar fit just right with Day’s keyboards oroccasional guitar, core parts of a longer cast that also features cameos from trumpeter Bob Tildesley and clarinetist Don Ross.
But ultimately the most alluring thing about Immaculate Night is Day herself — the way she has channelled raw emotion into such seemingly casual but polished phrasing, the gentle melodies and appealing hooks of the songs, and the lyrics themselves, which take a broader view of the world inside and out than anything she’s done before.
“I had a writing spurt that seemed effortless — I almost feel as if I can’t take credit for it — and I wrote a lot of songs I had wanted to write or tried to write for years beforehand.”
Two numbers, End of the War and White Flag Waving, came about from recurring nightmares of being in a war zone and moving beyond it. A Glimpse of Heaven is for her six-year-old daughter, while Prisoner of Your Mind is dedicated to insomniacs. Other songs encourage you to love and dream, while the final title tune is a moving ballad inspired by the death of a homeless man, something Day witnessed on a street in India a decade ago.
Time and wider performance experience have really paid off in new confidence for Day, a University of Alberta music grad, single mom and music teacher.
You can hear Carrie Day and her backing band in concert Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Yardbird Suite (102nd Street and 86th Avenue). Tickets are available from Blackbyrd Myoozik or at the
door for $15, or $8 for children. – Roger Levesque