Blossoming west-coast folk duo tackle growth and change on their debut studio album Runaways.
Talent doesn’t begin and end on the Avalon. There are artisans of all sorts honing their craft across the island, proving that creative drive and passion doesn’t live and die by a zip code.
Rising folk duo Bridget Swift and Dahlia Waller are two of the more promising music prospects on The Rock. Having performed alongside Juno nominees Fortunate Ones, entertaining the masses at Burlington’s The Gathering and banking first place at the Statoil Newfound Talent Contest, the pair kicked off August with the release of their debut album Runways.
The duo caught up with The Herald to talk eight years of friendship and music, growing as artists and individuals and the vibrant arts scene of western Newfoundland.
How does it feel to finally have this album out there? Is there a nervousness or some butterflies before a big release like this?
Bridget: I mean there’s always nervousness when you’re going to perform or going to expose something or be vulnerable in terms of showing the world something new. But since the album has been in the making for so long I think we’re just so ready for it to come out. We’re really excited to get it out.
Take me through the early days and the start of this partnership. I understand it all sort of comes from a love of the arts and performing.
Bridget: I had been writing for a while, writing songs as a child and just performing around my family. And when me and Dahlia met we pretty quickly became best friends.
Dahlia: Bridget wanted me to be a part of a band with her and her cousin. I used to play bass guitar. That didn’t really work out. And then I told her I can actually sing, maybe I should try singing?
Bridget: It all really started when I invited her to come along with me to a Mr. H Presents Make Music Happen conference which I’d been going to for a couple of years. It’s basically a thing where high school or junior high kids all go to the school and write music and get mentored by actual songwriters from Newfoundland. She came along with me and we ended up writing our first song together and from then on we just kept doing shows and open stages and made something out of that. It grew from there.
I think it probably goes without saying, but how much more comfortable and in your skin do you guys feel as a duo and as artists today in contrast with those earliest performances?
Dahlia: I think when we first started performing, especially me, I was very very, very shy and we barely talked at all, just a lot of giggling. Going from song to giggle, like we barely even spoke. Now we’re getting there. We still have to work on stage banter, but we’re coming along I think.
From Paul Heppleston to your collaboration and work with Steve Maloney on the new album, you’ve had the chance to work with some fantastic people. How embraced have you felt by the local music community?
Dahlia: Definitely embraced. I think we’d have to mention Mr. H as the predominant one because he opened up so many opportunities. Even with Steve (Maloney), we met Steve at a Mr. H conference and he wanted to do an album out of that experience. Paul Heppleston has helped create so many opportunities … So many open stages for youth who wouldn’t have any other chance to perform basically.
Bridget: The music community in Newfoundland is incredible. The arts community is incredible in Corner Brook and the rest of Newfoundland and they have helped a lot.
What’s your take on the music scene and culture on the west coast? It doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves.
Bridget: I think there’s definitely a lot more going on here than a lot of people give it credit for. There is a really great art and music community here. We’ve met so many great musicians and people that have helped us through everything. It definitely deserves more credit.
Dahlia: The youth here is so talented. In terms of music, dance and every artform, it’s very cultured and rich.
Bridget: In Corner Brook, I don’t know what it is about the youth here, but it’s so art centered, really arts centered. For our release show we have our band that is composed of people all our age and they’re just all so talented and it’s really great working with everyone here.
Now that this long process of putting the album out there is over, what are some takeaways from this or some things that might have surprised you?
Dahlia: I think maybe learning more about how an album is made. As simple as that is just the way that you record a song and the music that we listen to every day, getting a little more insight.
Bridget: Also the amount of time that it takes … It was amazing just getting the songs back and just hearing these new things and how they came along. Songs that went from just recordings that we sent them before recording to just voice recordings to these songs that are finished on an album. It’s been really interesting to watch that process and be a part of that process.
How did you approach your debut album Runaways from a songwriting point of view? Did you have an idea of what you’d like the record to be or did you take a song by song approach?
Bridget: So the album is kind of a collection of songs that we’ve been writing and working on over the years and it’s basically our favourite ones that we put together to make the album. I don’t think we realized as we were putting the album together but I do think recently we’ve realized something.
We both just graduated high school and there’s some overarching themes of growing up or moving on, starting new chapters in your life. And I think that is kind of a theme for the album in general and for the tours we’re doing this summer. That’s definitely a big theme.
Dahlia: When we were writing the songs we didn’t think it was going to come to one big central theme but as a writer you write about what’s going on in your life. We were graduating high school, moving on and stuff. So a lot of the songs do have those messages.
With all that said, do you guys have a blueprint moving forward with how you’d like to see the band? It’s sure to be a time of pretty big changes for you both.
Bridget: Well next year we’re both staying in Corner Brook for our first year at university and both going to Grenfell. We hope to keep doing shows and keep writing music and possibly work on a new single or something. We do have lots of songs that we’ve written since we recorded the album. After that I think we’re probably planning on moving away from Corner Brook, going our separate ways. But I think as long as we’re in the same place we will keep writing, keep doing shows. I think we’ll always keep performing.
For tour dates and more on Bridget & Dahlia and Runaways visit bridgetdahlia.com and their official social medias