Another Country is FADER's showcase of the folk, country and bluegrass artists that often go unsung around these parts, with an emphasis on new approaches to a classic American sound.
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When she was a child, Tamara Lindeman went to over sixty auditions before landing her first paid role as an actress. She tosses off this piece of information casually while speaking to me on the phone from her apartment in Toronto, and I’m struck by how understated and sincere her brand of toughness feels — and how much it reminds me of her music. Listening to The Weather Station, the fourth and most recent in a string of beautifully crafted albums released under her folk/rock project of the same name, feels like an immersion in that same vulnerable resilience, the kind born as much from struggle as it is ingrained in spirit.
Though she’s soft-spoken by nature, Lindeman has long used performance and the stage as a means of transcending her own shyness. When she saw that a fellow classmate was getting booked for acting roles, she thought it looked like a good way to get out of going to class. “I got into acting in part because I was really struggling with school. I couldn’t make any friends,” she says. “I think my introversion actually served me well in that industry because I just worked really hard, and I kept my head down. Compared to some of the other kids that were hammy attention seekers, I just wanted to get it right.”
She’s brought that same purposeful work ethic to The Weather Station’s music, revising her lyrics repeatedly until each line hits with writerly precision. For her newest material, however, Lindeman made a deliberate decision to preserve some of the spontaneity of her first drafts. “I often will write something that’s really pure and comes from my subconscious and has this completeness to it, and then I’ll edit it to make it make more sense and then make it worse,” she says. “It’s like chasing a ghost around a room.” She decided to take a different approach and allow her lyrics to retain some of their mystery. “I was like, I really want to leave some rough edges in here and be okay with it.”
The result is an eruption of irregular rhythms and breathless imagery previously unheard in her work. On emotionally frantic rockers like “Kept It All to Myself,” she spits unfiltered confessions like “sometimes I loved you unadulterated purely / untouched by doubt or by my memory / sometimes I loved you in a shadowed way, windscreen clearing but still streaked with grey” in a tempo that’s as insistent as a regretful memory.
“I feel like a lot of people that end up [actually] putting in the crazy amount of time and work and energy that it takes to become an interesting artist are the people who have spent a lot of time alone in their room.”
Her gift for effortlessly connecting natural scenes to inner emotions may come from her upbringing in rural Ontario. Her parents were loosely part of the back-to-the-land idealism of the seventies and moved to the country, where they planted a small forest’s worth of trees. As a child Lindeman spent most of her time playing alone in the woods, and she credits the experience with helping cultivate her independence. On the merits of introversion, she says, “I feel like a lot of people that end up putting in the crazy amount of time and work and energy that it takes to become an interesting artist are the people who have spent a lot of time alone in their room.”
The Weather Station itself feels like a new level of independence for Lindeman. It’s the first time she’s self-produced since her 2009 debut The Line, which was a comparatively sparse traditional folk album — the new record sees her directing a personalized symphony of atmospheric strings and churning guitars to augment her vocals. Though she loosened the reins of control over her lyric writing process, Lindeman felt it was crucial that she be personally responsible for giving the album exactly the textures and melodies she imagined. “I decided to empower myself to be the primary decision-maker of what the record was going to sound like, who was going to play on it, who was going to work on it,” she said. “I did that because I just had a really clear vision for the record.”
“I just felt like I didn’t have time to entertain my fear.”
The burst of confidence that allowed her to take full control over her album was hard-earned, arriving only after a period of intense worry that left her barely able to function. “I got kind of overrun by anxiety,” she says. “When I look back on that time, I wasn’t myself. It was really scary actually… I just didn’t have access to my normal brain.” But she overcame her sense of dread, conjuring a new energy and propelling her to make The Weather Station's most ambitious music to date. “When I came out of it I was sort of radicalized,” she says. “I just felt like I didn’t have time to entertain my fear.”