Kathryn Calder’s Process of Elimination


When Kathryn Calder stepped into Colin Stewart’s South Saanich studio last year to begin work on her third solo album, she had no idea what kind of shape it would take.  Calder had no demos prepared, and no tangible ideas in mind.  Instead, she chose to follow her own instincts, to experiment with the infinite array of sounds the studio affords and, more importantly, to whittle these sounds down to cohesive songs.  For Calder, the studio provided a sanctuary.

“I love working in the studio.”  Calder says “It is my favourite part of everything.  I love sitting around playing with sounds.  Sometimes I create things that don’t make it onto a record, but that’s ok.  It doesn’t matter because it is my own time, and with this record I had more time to experiment and make decisions.  It was a relief not to have any deadlines to be worried about as it gave me the time to really think about if I liked something or not.”

Calder’s confidence in her own selective songwriting process owes much to her musical education with The New Pornographers.  This band of songwriting wizards, which Calder joined in 2006, boasts an impressive roster including Carl Newman, Dan Bejar of Destroyer, and Neko Case, has undeniably informed Calder’s own approach to songwriting as a process of elimination.

“When I watch Carl work it is interesting to see him cut up a song that was already really good.  It is inspiring; he changes the structure of a song in a way that is very merciless.   Even if the song is in its last stages, even if it takes a lot of work to re-arrange and fix it, Carl takes the approach of ‘if you don’t like it fix it’, so long as it is for the sake of the song”

As Calder rehearses her band, consisting of Ryan Beattie, Nicolas Bermudez, and Mark Kerrey for a West Coast tour, Kathryn Calder’s carefully crafted songs will continue to morph as other voices inform interpretation.  While Calder is at once excited and anxious as her songs, born in a Saanich studio last year, take on a new and more collaborative incarnation, she would have it no other way.

“I enjoy playing live, and I enjoy touring, but it is definitely a different thing than recording.  In the beginning, when you are putting a band together and figuring out how everyone gels, and who plays what part, it is kinda tough, but eventually it is not as complicated.” Calder says, “As long as it has the essence of the song, that’s good enough for me.  Even though all these guys played on the record, why try to recreate the album?  That would be like karaoke.  We want to make it a different thing, to make it a truly live experience. ”

words: Nick Lyons

photo: Ilijc Albanese

Come see Kathryn Calder play the Copper Owl on Thursday, April 16 with openers Scars and Scarves, and Leisure Suit.