Rose Cousins Previews 'Stray Birds' EP Track by Track

Rose Cousins Previews 'Stray Birds' EP Track by Track
On September 2, folk singer-songwriter Rose Cousins will release a new EP, titled Stray Birds. We've already previewed her cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" from the set, but Cousins has now divulged more info on the release, which was apparently inspired by taking time off.

"2012 and 2013 were insane," Cousins tells Exclaim! from her home in Halifax. "This year was supposed to be more restful, though I'm realizing that I'm shitty at that."

After releasing her critically acclaimed folk pop tour de force We Have Made a Spark in 2012 — which went on to win a Juno for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year - Solo in 2013 — Rose Cousins had the busiest two years of her professional life.

Ten days into a self-imposed break in March this year, Cousins broke her left elbow while walking down a dark, icy driveway carrying a bag of beer. "I wasn't even drunk and the beer wasn't even for me," quips Cousins. "And none of the beer broke. I believe it was a message from the universe: you better fucking chill out."

So chill out she did, using the down time to pursue her non-musical hobby: photography. Taking a dark room course at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Cousins created the print of a hand holding a bird that graces the cover of her new EP, Stray Birds.

Recorded in just two days with some familiar players from We Have Made a Spark (guitarist Duke Levine, Charlie Rose on banjo and pedal steel and Spark producer Zachariah Hickman on bass), along with guitarist Kevin Barry, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes on fiddle and Cousins on piano, Stray Birds marks a mellower, more intimate departure from We Have Made a Spark. It's an unfussy, sparse little record, and four out of its six tracks are covers.

"There's a different way I can open up when I sing covers," says Cousins. "There's a little bit less worry — I would like to apply that to my own songs."

As previously reported, Cousins will follow up the EP's release with an extensive North American tour that will find her hitting cities across Canada both as an opening act for Jann Arden and as headliner. When she dips through the U.S., she'll also act as opener for Anais Mitchell. Find the complete schedule after her song previews below.

"If You Could Read My Mind" (Gordon Lightfoot):

In June I sang "If You Could Read My Mind" at an awards ceremony where Gordon Lightfoot was receiving a lifetime achievement award. He got up and made a speech and said my name and afterwards I ran backstage and accosted him to get a picture taken with him; I recorded it a few weeks later.

"Shake" (Lori McKenna):

"Shake" is by Lori McKenna, a really good friend from Boston. It's on her latest record, Massachusetts [Cousins sang backup on the album]. In 2012, she sent me a demo version of the song so I could learn harmonies to sing with her at the Edmonton Folk Festival and I lost my mind because the song is so good. It's one of those songs I wish I'd written.

"Stray Birds":

I wrote "Stray Birds" on an airplane after the 2013 Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto, without an instrument, which is rare for me. Its instrumentation (fiddle and banjo) was influenced by an old-timey Appalachian bluegrass fusion band called the Stray Birds from Lancaster, PA. They were my favourite find at the conference.

"What's Love Got To Do With It?" (Terry Britten & Graham Lyle):

I was at the gym one day and that song came on. I came home and learned it and made Jennah Barry sing it with me at a concert here. It's fun to get people to sing along with it at the end.

"Farmer's Wife":

I grew up on a farm and observed my own mother in the role of a farmer's wife and my sister is also a farmer's wife. It was hanging out with her that I was reminded of what my mother must have endured. I wanted to write an ode to say I saw those things that nobody saw: the sacrifices that people make for other people that are selfless. The chorus is simply: love. Motherhood is not something that I aspire to, you know? But I have a deep, deep respect for people that do.

"Tired Eyes" (Mark Erelli):

My friend Mark Erelli turned 40 in July and we had a big surprise birthday for him and we were each supposed to learn a couple [of his songs] and sing them for him. "Tired Eyes" is one of the ones I chose. I just think it's a really sweet song.

Tour dates:

09/04 Victoria, BC - Royal Theatre *
09/06 Vancouver, BC - Orpheum *
09/08 Edmonton, AB - Jubilee *
09/09 Calgary, AB - Jubilee *
09/11 Saskatoon, SK - TCU Place *
09/12 Regina, SK - Conexus Centre *
09/13 Winnipeg, MB - Centennial Concert Hall *
09/24 Nashville, TN - Bluebird Cafe 
09/27 Wolfville, NS - Deep Roots Festival
10/02 Lewiston, ME - Bates College
10/04 Troy, NY - House Show
10/05 Tarrytown, NY - Ackerman Hall Christ Church
10/06 New York, NY - Rockwood Music Hall
10/08 Philadelphia, PA - Tin Angel ^
10/09 Hamden, CT - The Outer Space ^
10/10 Providence, RI - Columbus Theatre ^
10/11 Boston, MA - Club Passim
10/12 North Hampton, MA - Iron Horse Music Hall ^
10/16 Toronto, ON - Dakota Tavern
10/17 Toronto, ON - Dakota Tavern
10/18 Wakefield, OC - Black Sheep Inn
10/19 Wakefield, OC - Black Sheep Inn
11/01 Truro, NS - Marigold Theatre
11/03 Halifax, NS - The Carleton
11/04 Halifax, NS - The Carleton
11/05 Halifax, NS - The Carleton
11/06 Mount Stewart, PEI - Trailside Cafe
11/07 Mount Stewart, PEI - Trailside Cafe
11/08 Mount Stewart, PEI - Trailside Cafe
11/14 Brownfield, ME - Stone Mountain Arts Centre
12/13 Toronto, ON - Massey Hall
12/18 Boston, MA - Club Passim 
12/19 Boston, MA - Club Passim

* with Jann Arden
^ with Anais Mitchell
% with Barra MacNeils