July 27, 2010

An Interview with Chantal Kreviazuk

Singer/songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk is set to release her fifth and latest studio LP, Plain Jane, next month as a deluxe edition on iTunes. Originally issued in her native Canada last fall, the album received neither a proper release nor much publicity in the States. As Kreviazuk explains, “It’s a lot for me to do a Canadian promotion with my family and then go out and also promote it in the U.S.”

In addition to the music she's written and recorded for her own albums, she's earned a reputation as a much-sought-after composer and collaborator for other artists as well, having worked with the likes of Faith Hill, Mandy Moore, Kelly Clarkson, and Carrie Underwood on their respective projects. Asked how she approaches songwriting and if when she's composing does she have an intended artist in mind, she says, “Every way you can imagine songs getting written, that’s how I write them. It’s a plethora of reasons and strategies. I’m a song peddler now to a certain degree.”

You’ve had a lot of success in the past with song placement in television and film. Are you optimistic about getting your music heard today and going into the future?

I’m optimistic, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think you do a painting and then stare at it on the wall. You do your thing and you hope for the best. And you hope you have the right team around you that’s going to try to get your music out there to people. Sometimes songs are not discovered until years later. Who knows? I don’t like to think about it all the time.

Music is always changing, too. There’s always been a shadow and someone in the limelight. And there are only one or two spots for that big place. That’s obviously a strike of lightning for whoever’s there. I think it would be naturally negative to be constantly obsessing, really, with whether the music’s getting heard or who’s hearing it or how they’re hearing it. So you try to hire a team around you that is genuinely passionate about what you do and [that] is genuinely trying to seek out ways for your music to be heard. That’s all I can do.

You’ve always seemed to have a pragmatic approach to songwriting. You’re not a celebrity trying to score the latest hit; you’re more of a craftsman.

Yeah, I’m not really trying to hit you over the head and wear a bubble dress and play the piano and make you think that that makes me any more of a human being or insightful or genuine or worth looking at. I think what I’m doing is more therapeutic. It’s meant more to be part of the landscape of life. It’s not meant to be the sun or the star. It’s just not. That’s how I am comfortable as a soul. I also don’t believe that I’m comfortable with the idea, quite generally, that any one human being is more important than another. To be that ambitious and desire having that much spotlight on yourself, you do believe that you have something worth showing that everyone else does not. And that’s just not who I am. My music is coming out of me because the person I am is trying to say to everybody else, “We’re all equal.” That’s not to say people like a Madonna or someone else, that they don’t think that deep down, but they’re projecting that they want to come out of the shadows more than other people.

And I think that in the real world where people really struggle, life is generally a shadow and they’re trying to find a ray of sunshine. Life is hard and it actually, for me, is a little bit of a difficult pill to swallow when I see that others are escaping into someone else’s sunshine. I actually find that dark. Or that they are watching someone, idolizing, thinking, God I wish I could be them up there right now. Because I know a lot of the “thems” and they ’re not any happier than those who are coming out of the shadows. I seek out the shadows. I seek out trying to have insight into people’s suffering. I seek out my own empathy for life and for others. That’s what sort of makes me tick as a human being.

It’s like you would rather write a really good song than try to contrive a hit song.

Yeah, and I even try to bring that humanness into every [recording] session. You can always hear the angst and the dissonance and the yearning in my music. That’s never, ever allowed to go anywhere. I wish we could revolutionize pop music a little bit and have yearning and awareness and mindfulness in our songs again like we did in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I miss it… Now we work from a very technological point of view and a lot of it is lost. The deepest things out there in mainstream music are things like Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Sarah Bareilles’ “King of Anything.” Those are what would now be considered not really über-poppy. [Laughs] And those are poppy songs, man! Come on! It’s a different time.