Ever the activist, Amelia Curran lets art imitate lift with her captivating new album Watershed.
When you’re discussing Amelia Curran – artist, advocate, activist –resorting to tags, labels and titles may come as convenient, but it doesn’t quite do justice to a woman who has made it the better part of her personal and professional life to defy industry standards of normal.
With her most recent record Watershed, Curran fully embraces the role of boisterous flag-bearer of causes near and dear to her and so many others. It is a direction she points to with the utmost confidence, knowing that the bulk of her artistic career up until this point has broken ground and opened up for the possibility to stand up and speak out.
“It’s the first time I’m really on theme with an album,” Curran said. “Before there would be a few songs about openness or confession or whatever and I’d say ‘that’s the theme!’ But not really. Every album is just the collection of songs you’ve written the most recently. Kind of boring and technical but that’s true. I wrote this one with a clear focus on activism or activists who are people, not just disruptors, but human beings – about speaking out and about those times where enough is enough and we explode a little bit. It’s an activist record for sure and I mean every word of it.”
Curran has been a vocal advocate for mental health in recent years, championing the It’s Mental campaign in an effort to raise awareness on various mental health initiatives and help eradicate mental health related stigmas. Though that particular cause rests close to the heart of Curran, it is not the only issue that has the Juno winning songstress actively involved.
The arts community in Newfoundland and Labrador is admittedly in dire straits. Curran sees this as something of a reoccurring epidemic, one that the government seems intent to allow to limp on through future discussions.
“People think art investment is a handout. They don’t understand the economic impact of the arts. It’s something we fight once or twice a year on a municipal, provincial or federal level and in a way I’ve just accepted that this is an argument that I’m going to have to have for the rest of my life.
“I think it’s completely outrageous,” she adds of the working state of the arts in the province. “I think everyone needs to understand how much money this province is potentially losing by not investing further in the arts, or investing at all in some industries. I live here but I do not work here, not by any stretch of the imagination. I spend no money here. I spend all my money in Ontario because Ontario invests in me and it’s a lot of money and a lot of trickle down and go around and I think we’re missing out. I write a lot of letters and I try to get them to realize that we’re missing out. Even last week I got a letter from Mr. Mitchelmore saying they were proud supports of the arts industry and I think the word they missed was ‘proud,’ because I don’t think you should be proud of that amount of money. It’s barely an investment and they’re missing on opportunities for returns. The more I argued about it the more I start to think that maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is a losing battle.
“All these people in the culture industry, all these people that are on these flags that we’re waving around, ‘The home of Alan Doyle,’ or the home of this and that. Alan Doyle is not making his records here, he is not spending his money here. I have spoken to him about this and he would love to spend his money here. He’s Captain Newfoundland, he loves it here, and as do I and so many of my colleagues, but there is no infrastructure, no investment on an industry level. Unless we’re all Zita Cobb and we go do this ourselves I don’t know what is going to happen.”
The term Watershed is defined as an event or period marking a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs. This is quite appropriate and timely for Curran. With her sights firmly set on bringing about and implementing change, she hopes that the message that the arts community here at home is worth fighting for is one that is shouldered proudly by her fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
“You can make a record in St. John’s and lots of really good records are made in St. John’s. It’s like the economy of stubbornness, it’s the essential thing you have to do, make a record in our basements and that’s fine,” Curran said. “When Newfoundland and Labrador as a province are talking about investments and competitiveness in a market we are not even on the radar and we could be because we have the renewable resources of the talent and the people and you can’t invent that. We already have it, we already live here because we’re stunned I suppose, but we don’t work here.”
While the process may be a slow one, Curran and her fellow artists will continue to fight for a worthy investment to the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the meantime, Watershed and her recent songbook Relics and Tunes have firmly spotlighted Curran once again as an artist of immense talent, one who is at present firing on all cylinders. She’ll debut her latest work during two intimate performances at The Majestic Theatre this June.
“We’re going to do the Canadian tour, close it in St. John’s after we’ve gone and gotten really, really good,” Curran laughs. “We’ll come here and have a big party.”
As for Watershed itself, this is an important footnote in the next chapter of the professional life of Amelia Curran, one that is sure to warrant further study, and celebration, in short order.
“This is an activist piece,” Curran says in closing on the new record. “I am waving a flag, I’ve begun to wave a flag of this is what you can expect from me going forward.”
Tickets for Amelia Curran at The Majestic Theatre are available now at ameliacurran.com. Watershed is now available physically or digitally at local retailers.