Amelia Curran is a good dog running halfway home. The gifted songwriter, whose line I just used, recorded her latest album in St. John's. It's a poetic record, styled in country-folk and earthy cabaret music. Curran has lived in Halifax for a decade, but had the urge to return to her birthplace for this album called Hunter, Hunter. "Newfoundlanders are infamous for always wanting to go home," she explains over the twangy din of her band's sound check at a Toronto club. "I'm no different that way."
The places she's been, the places she's at, the places she's headed and the places that are gone - these are the things that inform her songs. "Being human is a little ridiculous," she reckons. "I'm sad a lot of the time, to lose the past and to not know what's going to happen."
What's happening at the moment is that she's been touring nationally behind her fourth album, the first with the gutsy Toronto independent label Six Shooter Records. Some of her dates this fall are solo, some are with Canadian folk-rock icons the Skydiggers, and one, which takes place Tuesday Nov. 10 in Vancouver, is a Bluebird North songwriters' circle.
Curran loves a good metaphor; she does not use them bluntly. The "good dog running halfway home" line from the poignant Hand on a Grain of Sand could be interpreted as a reference to her decision to make the record in St. John's and not committing to return there full-time. "It could be," she says politely. But really it's more general, about trying but not quite fulfilling intentions. "Despite all my efforts, all my love and all my gratitude," she admits, "I still only make it halfway."
(The album, by the way, was originally to be titled Good Dog Running, but Curran's father didn't like the sound of it.)
Asked about the riveting chorus-less confessional The Mistress, the earthy, blue-eyed Curran admits to writing from experience. "I don't find the character particularly cool," she explains. "It's me - it's a much younger me, a more defensive me." The song, an unembarrassed heart-spilled phone message to a spoken-for lover, has been around for a while. Could an older, wiser Curran write such a song today? "Youth is so powerful, especially when you're an artistic person," she answers. "The song is a young me, stomping my feet, scrambling over myself trying to prove myself. Eventually you learn you don't have to do that."
The elegiac songwriter moved to Halifax on a whim, and is now starting to feel a little guilty about leaving "just a helluva place" St. John's. "It was far due time to bring my work home and really share it, rather than just give a concert," says Curran, who raves about the St. John's musicians and engineers. She recorded parts of the album in an abandoned CBC building, its studio left behind.
She is indeed mulling over the idea of living again in the capital of Newfoundland. The thinking fits in with her notions of cloudy pasts, presents and futures. Restlessness is a muse for Curran's graceful, intimate lyricism. "I spend a lot of my life tripping myself up and landing in the places I have room to be creative," she says. "Never quite knowing where you are or what's happening next raises a lot of questions in an inquiring mind."
Amelia Curran plays Vancouver's Roundhouse, Nov. 10; Victoria's Solstice Café, Nov. 11; Saskatoon's The Neighbour's Dog, Nov. 12; Winnipeg's West End Cultural Centre, Nov. 13 and 14; Kingston's Grad Club, Nov. 20 and 21; Calgary's Gateway Bar, Nov. 27; Edmonton's Avenue Theatre, Nov. 28; and St. John's Cochrane Street United Church, Dec. 10.