Interview with The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman

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One year ago this weekend, The Weather Station released Ignorance, one of 2021’s most praised and far-reaching albums. Next month, Tamara Lindeman will release How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars, a new album out March 4 on Next Door Records.

How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is intended to be heard as a companion piece to Ignorance. These are songs written at the same time that connect emotionally and deal with many of the same themes: disconnection and conflict, love, birds, and climate feelings. Recorded live in just three days, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is achingly intimate; full of breath, silence, and detail.  

Ignorance was a significant release for The Weather Station. It marked a noticeable shift in sound and received rave reviews around the globe, appearing on many end-of-year lists, including my own. Lindeman was taken somewhat by surprise.

“So much has changed. Yeah, it’s been amazing, honestly. I really feel like I’ve been living a dream. I didn’t even know I could dream of all of this happening. It’s so exceeded my expectations and yeah, it’s truly amazing. And I’m really honoured by the response to that record.”

We are chatting via Zoom days before The Weather Station goes back on the road and Tamara tells me about some of the “pinch me” moments since Ignorance was released 12 months ago.

“I mean, so many, like FaceTiming with Elton John. That was insane. Playing on Jimmy Kimmel. The New York Times profile, I mean, there’s so many that I haven’t even absorbed everything that happened myself. I feel like I need to make a scrapbook and look at it five years from now to really understand what happened.”

Not long after completing Ignorance, Lindeman decided to make a separate album on her own terms, fronting the money herself and not notifying the labels. She assembled a new band, and communicated a new ethos; the music should feel ungrounded, with space, silence, and sensitivity above all else. On this record, there are no drums, no percussion; in the absence of rhythm, time stretches and becomes elastic. With Christine Bougie on guitar and lap steel, Karen Ng on saxophone and clarinet, Ben Whiteley on upright bass, Ryan Driver on piano, flute, and vocals, and Tania Gill on Wurlitzer, rhodes, and pianet, the band comprising some of the best players in the Toronto jazz and improvisation scene. 

“When I wrote Ignorance, it was just a winter of songwriting and these songs were all written or at least started at that same time. And some of them I thought maybe were on Ignorance. And we tried recording one and you know, like songs switched records, but I think as I was writing, at some point, I just started to realize I was writing two different things. Like I was writing a record and then I was writing this other batch of songs that I thought were just for me, you know? And sometimes it was almost like a relaxation, you know, where I’d have a little song and I’d be like, oh, that’s something that’s not a song for the record, but I’m going to finish it anyways, just for myself, just so I know it’s done because I’ve learned too that a lot of my songs, there’s like something that compels me to write the song. And if I don’t finish the song, which is very common for me, that thing will just show up in the next song and the next song and the next song until I finish the song. So I felt that these songs, even though I couldn’t see them on the record, I was like, they want to exist. So I’m going to let them exist. And then, yeah, at a certain point I was like, maybe they’re ballads, that were just kind of came to mind. And I was like, they’re my ballads. So I just kind of put them aside. And then when I finished Ignorance and it was done, I started thinking about these songs that I had in my notebook and just feeling a real sense of not wanting to forget them and not wanting them to be lost and wanting to make sure they were recorded in some way. And that’s when I started to conceive of this idea of just recording them and just having them be in existence and not really having a plan for what happens after that.”

How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars was recorded live off the floor at Toronto’s Canterbury Music Studios from March 10-12, 2020. With Jean Martin co-producing, Lindeman sang and played piano live while the band improvised their accompaniment. When the band entered the studio, Covid-19 was a news item, not front of mind, but just three days later, everything had changed. I ask Lindeman if the significance behind her lyrics has changed over the last 2 years since the pandemic began.

“There’s a couple of these songs that have changed in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated like Endless Time, the refrain of it being the end of an endless time and walking and going to buy groceries, being this exotic thing. I recorded it on March 12th, 2020, and you know, four days later it was like, it came true. Like it was insane. I felt very disoriented because that song was just stuck in my head. And I was walking down the street and people were recoiling from me and everything was closed. And then Stars. That song that I mentioned 2020, that was really weird because I was thinking of that new years as being very pivotal to me in terms of climate, that’s like a date that’s been stated in climate pledges and climate accords. And then of course it hasn’t happened. And 2020 to me means a decade till 2030, which is this other deadline that we’re not meeting. You know, like to me, I feel a sense of dread with every new number on the calendar. So that to me was the significance of now it’s 2020. But then when I’ve sung that song live a couple of times every time I say it’ll be 2020 tomorrow night, people kind of like nervously laugh or there’s like a gasp because 2020 is this like huge dividing point now in all of our lives that we’ll never be able to forget. And it’s just so funny that it’s the first time I put a year or a date into a song. And then it happened to be that date, like a very auspicious, intense date. So that’s really changed things for me.”

After a period of prolific songwriting, Lindeman admits lockdown didn’t necessarily mean more time for songwriting.

“It was a quiet time for me in terms of music, writing music,” she says. “I didn’t write much music, but I wrote a lot of other things. I felt like I got pulled into other creative directions for most of that time. But this year, I’ve had a lot more time and I wish it was different, but it’s hard when something hasn’t been released, it feels unfinished. You know, there’s like the work is not done. And I think I’m not the only artist that feels a bit trapped until it’s out, you know, I can’t quite move on. And I think I’m finally, like, since Ignorance came out, especially because this record is like all a part of that, I feel like I finally was able to open the door again and the songs are coming again.”

Watch the full interview below:

HOW IS IT THAT I SHOULD LOOK AT THE STARS TRACKLIST:

  • 1. Marsh
  • 2. Endless Time
  • 3. Taught
  • 4. Ignorance
  • 5. To Talk About
  • 6. Stars
  • 7. Song
  • 8. Sway
  • 9. Sleight of Hand
  • 10. Loving You
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