This is a milestone year for the Good Lovelies. The “harmony trio”, as they are often referred, are celebrating a decade together.
It was on December 15th, 2006, following a combined Christmas performance at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel, that Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough, and Sue Passmore, at the time solo artists, made the decision to continue working together.
Kerri Ough spoke with Apt613 from what she described as “a very foggy Newfoundland” to talk about the ten years, a special Christmas video, and the forthcoming 10th Anniversary Christmas Tour.
Apt613: Well done on ten years.
Kerri Ough: It’s funny to think of it as being 10 years. There’s a well known music publicist that has said more than once that one given in music is that bands break up. For him to congratulate us on 10 years together was quite a nice feeling.
Might one of the reasons that you are still together be that you share all aspects of your activities? You share royalties equally, for instance.
We decided early on without having any mentor, or expert to tell us, that we wanted to do this together. All aspects of it. We just approached it as being equal for everything. And as for royalties, if you’re asking the other band members to have to play a song for potentially the rest of their lives, then they should share in that.
If I wrote a song that was really good, but didn’t have a band to play it with, then I’d be sitting in a room with a good song. Nothing more. We always wanted to rise up together.
When you made the decision to work together following your Gladstone performance, had you agreed on the harmony trio sound?
Not at all. It was really a happy accident. Sue has a jazz background. Caroline was country, and I was choir and pop. The harmony trio swing sound suited the three of us. We’re always exploring, but there’s no planning as far as the overall sound of the band.
So with that varied background, how did you write for the first album?
With our first record, we brought whatever songs we were working on, individually, at the time. We paired up with two producers, and the five of us came to this happy place with the songs that we brought. Listening to it you can hear jazz, and some country in the record. And people responded to the upbeat swing.
What would you say are highlights of the ten years?
A few immediately come to mind.
We did two tours of Australia. We started on the east coast, and traveled to the west. We weren’t known, so we were playing to complete strangers. But as we moved across the country, things snowballed. Word about us traveled, especially thanks to ABC, their equivalent of our CBC. It was very special. And the audiences were very appreciative.
A few years ago, we did a three week tour of Alaska in February. That was a highlight. It didn’t feel like the States. It didn’t feel like Canada. It was a world of its own. Somewhere in between the two. I don’t think I would have ever had that experience outside of music.
And the Dawson City Music Festival, where we officially became friends of Fred Penner. It was like going to camp. All the performers were on this small plane, including Fred Penner and the fellows from Elliott Brood. We flew up to Dawson, and it was so much fun. And, of course, the midnight sun was unreal. It was so beautiful.
We’ve been very fortunate to have had so much support in Canada. Ontario and Alberta have always been particularly receptive to our music and our performances. We appreciate the support we have received throughout Canada.
Good Lovelies 10th Anniversary Christmas Tour announced today! Link to tickets in profile. . Belleville, ON: Empire Theatre – Nov 24 . Ottawa ON: National Arts Centre – Nov 25 . Detroit, MI: Noel Night – Dec 3 . Regina, SK: Artesian – Dec 6 . Saskatoon, SK: Broadway Theatre – Dec 7 . . Winnipeg, MB: West End Cultural Centre – Dec 9 . Toronto, ON: Harbourfront Centre – Dec 10 . Toronto, ON: Harbourfront Centre – Dec 11 . Guelph, ON: Dublin St United Church – Dec 14 . Midland, ON: Midland Cultural Centre – Dec 15 . London, ON: Aeolian Hall – Dec 16 . La Salette, ON: La Salette Church – Dec 17 . Cobourg, ON: Trinity United Church – Dec 18 . Photo by @jeni_glass Hair and makeup by @colourchameleon and Nina Rosekat #GL10Years
How does the songwriting work if you are spread across the country? You are in Newfoundland. Sue, until recently, was in Victoria. Caroline is in Toronto. Do you use the internet, or do you plan to meet for songwriting sessions?
We use email and Dropbox in a casual way to let the others know that we’re working on songs. We send voice messages, and share mp3s by email, to get opinions, and to share work that may need a bit of love.
And then when we are working on an album, we’ll each bring our best 4 songs to work on. Meeting gets us to the next level.
We had a nice opportunity to meet recently outside Halifax before a show in PEI. We were able to get a babysitter for the infants – the other two have young ones. It is so wonderful when we can find the time to be together. We haven’t been able to spend time together to say, “this is what I’m working on.” It is so rare, but so effective. So the three of us were in this lovely studio without the babysitter or the engineer. Just the three of us for four hours. Having coffee and chips with time to focus. It was a gift. I’m in awe of working parents, and how they get things done.
Do you have favourite songwriters?
I usually think in the terms of albums. Bon Iver has beautiful, choral songs that appeal to my choral background. I admire lyricists. Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, definitely. The lyrics and melodies they sing. I’d like that to be coming out of me. There’s the soundscapes of Jenn Grant. Amelia Curran. And Joel Plaskett. He’s such a prolific writer that a lot of Canadian artists look to. I don’t know how he can write as much as he does. He has great lyrics, and fun cliches. Great rock tunes, and great folk. I’d love to be as prolific as he is.
Are these who you listen to?
I have a crazy CD collection. I’m not a vinyl or mp3 person. My husband and I are CD collectors. We buy new releases and discover music. I’m pretty proud of our collection. I have every trio of women that you have ever heard of. I love listening to my Canadian colleagues. Elliott Brood. Jill Barber. Catherine MacLellan. It’s a lot harder finding CDs but we have a good store in St Johns – Fred’s Records. They have an east coast wall, and a west coast wall in the shop with a description of each CD. I’m lucky to have that shop.
Is there a song that you wish you’d written?
It’s usually a lyric that I hear and wish I wrote. A lyric that has been written so beautifully. Leonard Cohen has written songs with lyrics that break my heart.
As far as a song, there’s an Okkervil River song that I wish I’d written – Calling and Not Calling My Ex. I love that song so much. I wish that whole story came out of me.
How has the music industry changed in the past 10 years?
Social media has definitely made a huge difference. We don’t have to run around putting up printed posters everywhere to promote ourselves. We just add something to Facebook. And people are able to talk to us on Twitter.
And iTunes means that we can sell our music around the world. We have a large number of fans in Japan, and we’ve never been there.
You no longer have to live in LA or New York or Toronto to be in the industry. I can live in Newfoundland, and have fans in Japan. The music is getting out there thanks to the connected world that we live in.
There is so much music out there. We feel very lucky. We could be playing 200 shows a year, and there would still be more that we could do. Places we just haven’t been to.
You are making a special Christmas video with fan participation.
We putting together a video that features video clips from past Christmases. We’re asking fans to contribute to it. It celebrates the time of year but also the ten years that we’ve been together. We’re celebrating with our fans by making something that is meaningful to us and our fans. We’re excited to see what people send in.
What can we expect when you play Ottawa on your tour?
We’ll have two additional band members on keyboards and bass – our Merry Men. We’ll play seasonal tunes, winter themed songs, and originals. We write a lot of wintery songs just because of where we live. There are two sets, and lots of stories. We just want our audience to take a load of their feet, enjoy the music, and have fun. We’re looking forward to the tour, and being in Ottawa.
The Good Lovelies play the NAC on Friday, November 25th. Tickets start at $29, and are available online.