Jennifer Castle is a Toronto born singer and songwriter. She spent some time living in Vancouver and London, England before returning to her birthplace to launch her music career at open mic nights around the city.
In May 2018, Castle released her fifth album, Angels of Death. The album explores themes of writing, time travel, spectral visitations, as well as ordinary everyday occurrences. Jennifer wrote and recorded the album in a 19th-century church, close to the shores of Lake Erie, near the area where her family lived for a time. While there, her loved ones and her experience an array of stresses, struggles, and growth. The aftermath of those changes are the inspiration behind this album.
Angels of Death was produced by Jennifer Castle and Jeff McMurrich, with the core band comprised of Paul Mortimer (lead guitar), David Clarke (acoustic guitar), Jonathan Adjemain (organ/piano), Mike Smith (bass), Robbie Gordon (drums), and Castle on guitar and vocals. Most of the album was recorded live in the church near Lake Erie, over one weekend.
With an arching theme of death throughout her album, I was curious to find out about the background story and why she felt strong enough to put her thoughts down on paper.
On a rain filled day in Ottawa, I find myself talking on the phone to Jennifer about her latest adventure.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Congratulations on your new album, Angels of Death. How are you feeling just a few days away from the start of your North American Tour?
Jennifer Castle: I’m feeling pretty good. It’s been a slow start as I’ve got a handful of dates this summer and then it really starts to pick up this September. I’m in Toronto and I’ve started rehearsals again and it’s definitely amazing to be playing music again. It’s getting me pretty excited to be playing music everyday as I don’t always have the opportunity to do that. I’m feeling pretty lucky.
Are you touring with the same people you recorded the album with?
A lot of them, yeah, so I’m pretty lucky in that way.
You recorded this album in a church near the shores of Lake Erie, where your family once lived. What brought you back to that place?
One of the players on the record, Dave Clarke, owns the church so we were able to get it and use it. It’s been converted to a living/studio space and it’s been our playground to work with.
I still live in Elgin County and the church is still there in Elgin County, but I was raised in Orangeville… I went to high school in that area… that’s where I’m from. I’m kind of still discovering Elgin County.
Was there anything in Elgin County that shaped the themes in your album?
The writing kind of took shape naturally, so I wanted to follow those threads and see where they go. I’ve alway taken cues from the natural world so in that case… usually anywhere I am kind of ends up infiltrating whatever I was working on or writing at the time.
I think that the church and (surroundings) all kind of infiltrated the sound, the echo, the reverb. I think it really did inspire the performance, but thematically, the songs came from inside my brain. They were thoughts that happened in all places where I was (reflecting) and thinking.
One of the elements of death is how unexpected it can be and it’s really intriguing to me.
There’s an overarching theme of mortality in your music. Did something happen to you that influenced this album? Or was it your musings on past experiences?
I certainly have been the type of character that has been thinking about it since the news was broken to me as a child that death is actual and factual, as well as that it’s mythical, that we have so many cultural musings about it… One of the elements of death is how unexpected it can be and it’s really intriguing to me… when we have to play the cards we’re dealt and the cards aren’t what we thought were coming, and they drastically change any course you’re on.
Death is an actual thing and it can also be a conceptual thing, as it comes and sweeps a hand and all the things on your table can go… it can be just like a phone call or an afternoon that changes everything, and that can be such an interesting concept as a writer. Just this… this trump card that you can’t get around and you can’t plan for these things. It’s just intriguing and it’s food for thought which piqued my interest as a writer.
Do you find you’ve made any headway dealing with mortality, since you’ve found out about it as a child?
I think I’m in general peace with it. It certainly doesn’t trouble me. It’s just fascinating as a writer. I’m entering my midlife and it’s nice to make a little bit of peace with that and you don’t get as many guarantees as you get a little bit older. I’ve confronted it at that moment and I feel I’ve moved on, and I’m at peace with it.
How have discussed mortality with your own child?
My perspective… when talking to my son about it… is that you have to be fairly creative (and) fairly soothing. You might not actually give yourself that perspective when you think about it on your own, but I know I began to articulate it more when my son was asking me these very earnest questions and saying things like: “I thought you’d always be here.” Having tender conversations with my child was an important part of this record. It actually had me thinking out loud and talking about it. Something funny about having kids is that it ends up making us… confront our fears.
Jennifer will be up our way on Saturday August 18 for Arboretum’s Bon-Fire festival at Rideau Pines Farm (5714 Fourth Line Rd, North Gower). Go to arboretumfestival.com for tickets and info.