Published Feb 04, 2019When Abigail Lapell went into the studio to record her new album Getaway, she faced a problem she hadn't before.
"Obviously it's a good problem to have," Lapell tells Exclaim! in an interview, "but I was really frustrated making this record. I just didn't know which songs to choose, and I liked all of them."
It was a far cry from the sessions that birthed her 2017 sophomore album Hide Nor Hair, which went on to win the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album of the Year. That time, she had just enough songs to make a record.
"I have a lot of songs now," Lapell explains. She even had to stop herself from writing new ones during a recent Banff Centre Artist's Residency, instead focusing on finishing what she already had. "I'm really happy with how the album worked out, but it's not a problem I've had in the past."
Getaway builds on Hide Nor Hair with wider sonic exploration, grander gestures and perhaps twice as many players — including a bucket list-fulfilling horn section. When she reflects on the album compared to her last two, she believes that she took more risks with Getaway, giving herself room to take chances. In one case, she experimented with a sense of rawness she'd never endeavoured to before.
"One of the songs, 'Down By the Water,' we just did with no click track and no isolation. It was just me and Dana [Sipos] who sing on that song. No headphones, in the room together, live off the floor. That was a nice moment and it was something that I insisted on."
Lapell is an artist who refers to her songs as "tunes," reminisces about the ambience in which they were written, and focuses on the impressionistic qualities of songwriting over the concrete.
"I like hearing interpretations, but it's puzzling to me. I love lyrics and songs, but I don't think about what they're about," she says. "I've been trying to think about it more lately. But I would never listen to a song and say, oh, this is about X. The way I write, I want it to be more impressionistic."
Even her eerie, synth-coloured "UFO Song," which serves as an exception to Lapell's emphasis on impressionism, moves into the metaphorical. There, she recounts the true story of a man she met in Saskatchewan and connects his supernatural experience to the sense she had while there.
"I just love this idea of being in the Prairies; it feels so wide open. That tune was originally called 'Prairie Skies' and, especially being a big city person, it feels like you're very exposed when you're there. I love that idea of terror from the skies."
Lapell appreciates the usefulness of metaphors as a place where convention can meet emotion — it complements her impressionistic style.
"I mine a lot of natural imagery. I find pastoral symbolism very evocative. I have been travelling a lot on tour, which particularly in Canada means a lot of rural spaces scattered with a few cities here and there. The songs are like these little postcards, in a sense."
Some of the collaborators on Getaway, such as Sipos, have been working with Lapell for years, while others — including Christine Bougie on lap steel and Dan Fortin on bass — join her for the first time on this record: "It felt like a nice combination of newer people and then folks that I've worked with for years."
Aside from her tour in support of Getaway, Lapell has plenty to look forward to.
"I bought a camper van last spring which was probably a huge mistake financially, but it's been a dream. I'm excited to take that on the road this summer."
And with oncoming summer festivals and an ever-growing trove of songs nipping at her heels, the future is bright: "I'm touring the album and then I'm going to make another record. I have songs for my next record already; I've been writing a lot, which is good."
Getaway is out February 1 via Coax Records.