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Canadian singer-songwriter Jenn Grant.Deedee Morris/Supplied

Late last year, Jenn Grant was on stage at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary with Blue Rodeo, crooning the band’s classic concert closer Lost Together. She delivered the despondent second verse in a torch-singer’s manner: “I stand before this faceless crowd and I wonder why I bother, so much controlled by so few ...”

It is a line about doubt and frustration, written by Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor at a low point early in the band’s career – if they were going nowhere, at least they had each other. The song is now a great Canadian singalong. Grant and Blue Rodeo performed it wearing matching denim shirts purchased from the Bay.

“I just remember thinking that this is one of the most special, joyous things I’d ever been a part of,” Grant says.

Her cross-country tour with Blue Rodeo is long over. The three-time Juno nominee and sublime indie-pop singer-songwriter is about to release her eighth studio album, Champagne Problems, out June 21. Grant finds herself thinking about those faceless crowds.

“Do you think people will care about the record?” she asks from her home in Lake Echo, N. S., where she lives with her musician-producer husband, Daniel Ledwell, and their two small children. “I’m a woman over 40. If they care, I think it would kind of be a miracle.”

Grant loped onto the scene in 2007 with the magical album Orchestra for the Moon and its hypnotic single Dreamer. The Prince Edward Island native was the chanteuse of the moment, with storybook freckles and red hair that Lucy Maud Montgomery would have high-fived and a soft, siren voice likened by one critic to brushstrokes on canvas.

Sixteen years later, Champagne Problems (a collaborative project written and recorded with a who’s who of Canadian indie artists) reveals Grant to be in top form still. Highlights include the album-opening Judy (with Kim Harris), the country-tinged Easy Come, Easy Go (with Basia Bulat), the funky Nobody’s Fool (with Aquakultre), the ballad Rattled by Your Love (with Joel Plaskett) and The Closing Down of the Summer, a bittersweet duet at sunset with Tim Baker about good things inevitably coming to an end.

Grant hears about the declining interest mid-career artists experience when they release new music. They have their loyal fanbase and they still sell concert tickets. Each album keeps things moving along as a career reaches its cruising altitude.

“People tell me that, but I don’t think that way,” Grant says. “I’m not sure who made the rules about being more significant or interesting as an artist if you’re brand new.”

Probably a man made that rule. Certainly, female artists are confronted with an ageism that is particularly harsh. You can hear it in their music.

Jenny Lewis’s recent single Puppy and a Truck, for example, begins with an acerbic confession: “My forties are kicking my ass and handing them to me in a margarita glass.” (Lewis, remember, sang “And you will wake up 45″ on her 2006 album Rabbit Fur Coat.) And the latest album from Jill Barber is Homemaker, with tracks that include Woman of My Own Dreams and Hell No. “One day I was headlining Massey Hall, and the next day I’m sweeping a messy hall,” Barber explained recently.

The subject is addressed on Champagne ProblemsOne Hit Wonders, a slinky-silky pop number co-written and performed with Halifax’s Ria Mae. It is a catchy takedown of the music industry’s treatment of women, with wry advice for the up-and-comers: “You don’t gotta have attitude, you gotta show your gratitude.”

The album, which she co-produced with her husband, could be described as country soul. Grant goes so far as to say it is disco country. “I don’t think that’s a genre, though.” (It is, invented by the 42-year-old Madonna on her 2000 album Music.)

Call it what you want, just don’t call it treading water. “I’m interested in challenging myself and taking risks,” Grant says. “I never want to settle in.”

There’s a good chance many of the partners on the album are of the same mind. Bulat, Plaskett, Hannah Georgas, Amy Millan, Afie Jurvanen, Dan Mangan and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew are all indie artists 39 years old or older.

Some of the cohort (including Millan and Georgas) will perform at Grant’s coming date at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on June 24. Think of the show of as a statement as much as an album-release concert.

“If I’m going to be putting stuff out, I want it to be better every time,” Grant says. “I want it to be interesting and I want it to to provoke people. That’s my purpose as an artist.”

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