Days of Michelle McAdorey’s Future Past

Michelle McAdorey - Gordon Hawkins
Image by Gordon Hawkins

Nicholas Friesen @Nicholastronaut June 6, 2016

It took a while for her future to arrive, but the wait was worth it when last fall Michelle McAdorey released Into Her Future, a gorgeous and lush nine-song LP. The former Crash Vegas singer/songwriter put her solo career on hold when two events coincided – the release of her second solo disc, 2003’s Love Don’t Change, and the birth of her son.

“I just wanted to experience motherhood and let it change me somewhat,” McAdorey says over the phone from her home in Toronto. She notes that the break between records wasn’t intentional, and that she had been writing non-stop over the years. “I’d been trying to make moves toward trying to make a new record through different avenues, then everything just kind of came together with (producer/Blue Rodeo’s) Greg Keelor. We took our time making that record because we wanted to take our time.”

Recorded at Lost Cause, Keelor’s farmhouse studio, sporadically over two and a half years, the album is filled with sounds captured live and lyrics beautifully sung. McAdorey says that getting away to the farm was essential to find out what the record needed to be.

“It’s amazing because when you go there it’s isolated and you’re really in that world of making music, but it’s almost like there’s some kind of force drawing you back because you have to get all your supplies and get the people out there, so there’s a kind of momentum that you have to rally. We tried to get at least a few days of work in there in fits and starts.”

The process afforded her the opportunity to collaborate with friends new and old, and McAdorey notes that the most important thing was finding the right person for each song.

“I had very clear ideas about the songs, and then of course working with Greg because I trust him, and I’m welcoming his ideas and suggestions,” McAdorey says. “When you’re working with people, I think you’re working with them because you know, to a degree, some of the work they do, yet you also might want something very specific, so it’s always a bit of both, at least it was on this record.

“I think that one of the things from the outset of this record was going for this ‘band’ sound, this lush sound, thinking about records made in the early or mid ‘70s and going for a kind of sonic picture, which would mean we were going for a band sound because we wanted to see these songs have the kinds of arrangements and voicings we were hearing as a band. There’s different stages of just getting the material to a place where you start recording it. Sometimes we were all together and sometimes there was just overdubbing that would happen.”

It also doesn’t hurt that she and Keelor go way back. He helped to form the basis of what would become Crash Vegas, the band McAdorey fronted from 1988-96.

“We’ve known each other so long, but this is the first time we’ve made a record like this together where I’m calling him the producer,” she says. “We’ve written material, we started Crash Vegas together, but there’s a long period of time between then and now. There’s something familiar, but it’s hard to name what that is. We’re really good friends and we really respect each other so much, so there’s definitely trust there.”

One song that jumps out is “Culvert Jack.” Clocking in at seven minutes, it’s clearly the centrepiece of the record, a Land of Talk-ish brooder that is as beautiful as it is bleak.

“I think that in terms of this record, it illustrates this kind of thing that had been in my head, this chasing the British Isles rock that was influencing the writing and recording,” she says of the song, noting that lyrics actually originated with poetry from her great uncle. “He had been living in the Ottawa valley region of Ontario, laying railway tracks and culvert. So he’d written these cool stories, and I loved his writing, so I adapted it.

“As for the length – it just seemed to be what the song was doing. I loved how the band was playing. Some of my favourite records have songs like that, and I just love listening to music, instead of thinking that a song should be a certain length.”

Sometimes the hardest part about releasing a new record is letting go of those songs that have been marinating for so long, some of which, in McAdorey’s case, have been over a decade.

“It’s weird how something can just live in your head and you don’t even know what it is, and it’s so grounding to play these songs for people,” she says. “There’s a point at which you’re searching for something, but the way that you become so close to the work you’re doing in good and bad ways, it’s amazing to finally just let it go. Then maybe you can hear it one day without those same kinds of ears that are tuning into the subtlest things which can also drive you crazy.”

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