Erin Kay's "Silver and Gold" folds the listener, almost immediately, into the resonate spaces of its wild heart. Lyrical hands placed on shoulders that are sagging from burden find sweet relief in listening ears late at night, on the other end of the line. We are reminded how human it is for us all to fall apart, just when it begins to feel like the dam inside of us might burst. "Holding You Tonight" opens the album on a note of reassurance and sets the emotional tone for the beautiful musical canvas that is to follow. "I hear the train whistle through the telephone tonight, it creeps in beneath your voice from your side of the line, you tell me you've been smoking, drinking the hard stuff and how life is weighing on you, it's all a little much." But "it's all right," Erin sings, "we all get down, we all get blue, I am holding you tonight, close your eyes, I'm right beside you." We've all been on both ends of that late night phone call at some point in our lives. Sometimes the reassure-er, other times the reassured. Music offers us so many different things. The emotions that songs conjure up for us are not always easy to verbalize. I like to think that some things are just "felt experiences" more than anything else. Songs make you feel, not forcefully, per se, but subtly. They tug at your sleeve, at your heart, often to remind you of something that you've always known to be true about yourself, about the world. With each song on "Silver and Gold," Erin unfolds the lines of sorrow, of resurfacing, and traces, by hand, by memory, the difficult and beautiful paths that lie ahead. Some, bursting with a quiet kind of joy, an unseen light, others marked by the long and tested dark nights of the soul. "Silver and Gold" is a heartfelt, been-there-and-back-again kind of album. A reassurance, after all of the debris of life's many storms have been cleared away, that one is more than enough.
AHC: What first drew you to music and what was your early musical environment like growing up? Were there pivotal songs for you then that just floored you the moment you heard them? Which musicians, throughout the years, have you learned the most from? Or writers, artists, filmmakers, teachers/mentors etc?
Erin: The Piano is what first drew me to music. My parents bought us an old upright piano and I fell in love with the instrument and the sound. I begged for piano lessons and they eventually put me into the Royal Conservatory piano program. I remember always having songs in my head. Melodies rang through my brain most of the day and I loved to sing. I have a distinct memory around age 8, of leaving the rocky mountains after a camping trip with my family and my dad put on the tape (cassette’s were still the thing to listen to) “Night Swimming” by R.E.M. one of his favourite bands. I remember looking into the rear view mirror at the mountains and crying because I was so moved by the song and how it fit so perfectly into a moment. I love that about songs. There is always a perfect one for each moment. I grew up mostly playing classical music and listening to classic rock and heavy metal until I found Joni Mitchell. I discovered her album “Blue” and was completely floored. Just a woman and her instrument creating these incredible timeless masterpieces.
AHC: Do you remember the first song that you ever wrote or played? Or that first moment when you picked up a pen and realized that you could create whole worlds just by putting it to paper?
Erin: I remember the first song I ever wrote being around age 6. It went something like “Bubble Bubble float away, pop when you want to.” I haven’t thought about that in years, haha. I started writing music because I remember feeling a lot of strong emotions all the time. I had a lot of turmoil and fighting going on at home and music was an escape for me. That is why I love being a music mentor at The Sarah Mclachlan School of music now, because I get to work with at risk youth that are going through a lot of what I went through and music is this amazing escape from reality. It truly saved my life.
AHC: What do you think makes for a good song? As you're writing and composing, is there a sudden moment when you know you've found the right mix, that perfect angle of light, so to speak?
Erin: I believe the best songs are the ones where the artist is brave enough to tell the truth. I strive to do that in my own music. I’m not sure If I have achieved that yet. I think it is easy to fluff things up a bit and not speak the whole truth. I also always love a catchy hook that you can sing along to.
AHC: You've said about your new album, Silver and Gold, that a large part of its making for you has been about, in part, connecting to your story. I think that is such an important element of the work that often we might take for granted. We aren't always reconciled necessarily with our own stories, or with all of the messy, multi-roomed parts of them. Sometimes we hide a lot even from ourselves. Could you talk about the creative and I imagine cathartic process of this journey for you and your hopes for where this beautiful work lands with the listeners?
Erin: I really had to travel back and face my past, especially to pen the song “Silver & Gold.” I honestly wrote the music and lyrics for the song in about 10 minutes, but the concept and the emotion of the song I had been writing for years, through my own experiences. Some days I question if maybe I shared too much, I become self conscious about my truths. Just when I start to feel those feelings, I receive an email from a women that tells me all about how her sister is in the depths of an extremely abusive relationship and doesn’t see a way out. She told me she showed her sister my song, “Silver and Gold”, and shared my story with her. She said her sister bawled watching the song on youtube and that it gave her some hope and strength. I guess, as a songwriter, that is all I can hope for. That my music is going to make a difference in someone’s life somehow.
AHC: To reconcile, work with, infuse with our own inner, undiminished (although battle worn) stores of light, is hard, grief laden work. Often women's stories around abuse and trauma are silenced or drowned out in our toxic culture, which is why movements like the one you're involved in are so, so important. Could you tell people a little bit about your initiative 'I Am Enough', and your message or words of encouragement to women out there who are feeling like they are not enough right now?
Erin: The idea started with a concert idea. I wanted to have an event that supported women’s shelters. The event would showcase female identifying women. The concept grew and really took off. I was thinking of what to call it and the words I AM ENOUGH just kept coming to me. I was going through a really difficult breakup with an amazing person and was feeling lost. I was about to become a single mother again and was really faced with that question. Am I enough? I trusted the right charity would come to me and I connected with an organization called “Women United,” a branch of the United Way. The charity supports at-risk girls from junior high through high school and gives them supports like nutrition, counseling, tutoring etcetera, to help them complete high school. I realized that it really does start with our youth, If these young women can feel like they are enough at a young age, then maybe they won’t need womens shelters, maybe they won’t stand for abusive partners and they will find success and strength early on. Everytime you purchase the song “Silver and Gold” proceeds go towards Women United.
AHC: The cover of your album seems to embody empowerment and acceptance of one's own life, head held high, into the light, eyes closed, a sense of both having arrived and survived. Can you tell us how the idea for this incredible cover art unfolded?
Erin: I told my very creative friend that it would be cool to paint my face silver and gold. Then they all just ran with it! A woman named Emily Maxine took the photograph, Meagan Vandruten (Swear by the Moon) did the makeup, and Kendel Vreeling did the graphic design portion. I just shared my story with them and they all just really got it.
AHC: What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town? On-tour, on-the-road?
Erin: I have had many great musical experiences. I have three favorites. The first was singing on main stage at Edmonton Folk Festival a couple years ago. The second would be just the other weekend, singing with my grandma and my daughter around the piano. She loves music and it was a special moment to have my daughter there as well. The third would be singing background vocals for Foy Vance at The Canmore Folk music festival in Canada. I had listened to him for years and loved his stuff so singing together on main stage was a real treat for me.
AHC: What is next on the horizon for you?
Erin: I am also excited to announce that I have officially partnered with Women United and we are putting on the 2nd annual I Am Enough benefit concert and it is growing. Maybe it can be around the world. My hopes are to have the I Am Enough Benefit Concert happen all across Canada, as Women United is a worldwide organization. I am working with a very talented videographer to create a powerful music video shining light on domestic violence and a woman overcoming those challenges for the song “Silver and Gold.” There is a European tour in the works and I have already started the beginning stages of the next album. I just want to keep creating music for fans and supporters.
To purchase a copy of Silver and Gold please visit www.erinkaymusic.com/
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