FROM the edge of the Arctic Circle to outback Queensland, award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Rose Cousins is excited about taking her music to new places.
On the eve of the first of two Aussie tours in the next four months — the latter of which will bring her to the Port Fairy Folk Festival in March — Cousins (pictured) said coming to Australia had long been on her “to do” list.
“I’ve always wanted to go,” she said. “Sometimes it’s refreshing to be in a new place and have no one know who you are. To go to a new place and have the opportunity to play for new people will be great.
“I just got home after being on the road (in North America) for seven weeks.
“I don’t think I have a single piece of clothing that’s appropriate (for the Australian summer).
“I just got back from Iqaluit, in Nunavut territory (in Canada), which is basically in the Arctic.
“So I’m getting as extreme as I can by doing the Arctic and then Australia.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been up there (to Iqaluit). It’s certainly not on the regular tour route. The landscape is beautiful.”
Along with playing in remote Canada at the Alianait Festival, Cousins returned to Boston, which she called her “second home”.
It’s where she recorded her 2012 album We Have Made A Spark, an emotional record that blends country-tinged meditations with stark piano ballads and which won her the Juno Award in April for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year — Solo.
Winning a Juno — Canada’s equivalent of an ARIA or Grammy — was a shock, Cousins said.
“It was amazing,” she laughed. “It was a real kick to get nominated in February. But to win was a really special moment. It’s one of those things where you couldn’t plan to do it. You think ‘one day, that would be pretty cool’.”
It’s fitting then that the album that won Cousins her first Juno was recorded in Boston — it was the city that helped convince her to become a musician.
“The music I was listening to happened to be coming out of the north-east (of the US) and the job I had at the time (about 10 years) had some travel with it so I used that to go (to Boston),” Cousins said.
“A lot of the people and music I was influenced by when I was becoming a musician myself led me down to Boston. I was at the stage when I was trying to figure out whether (being a musician) was something viable for me.
“So I looked at the websites, I saw when people were playing, I went to the clubs to see the music and check it out and be in the presence of people I was inspired by.
“I left an EP at a club and the owner got back to me nine months later and asked me to come and play at a free fund-raiser festival.
“Boston is not known as an industry town but it’s known historically for folk music.
“There’s a club, Club Passim, which was originally Club 47, and a lot of folk legends like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, a lot of amazing folk singers get their start there.
“It’s rich in folk music and songwriting. That’s the scene I fell in with (about 10 years ago) — everyone supports each other. It feels like good luck that I fell in with people who are doing this at this particular time.”
Many of those were folk musicians she liked — Deb Talan of The Weepies, Rose Polenzani, Kris Delmhorst, and Jennifer Kimball. Now those people are not only her friends, but many played on or contributed to We Have Made A Spark.
“I literally may have met every single person I would have dreamt of meeting and they ended up being my friends. It still tickles me.”
Cousins will perform at the 2014 Port Fairy Folk Festival.