The coronavirus pandemic can’t stop Christa Couture. Aside from her gig as 106.5 ELMNT FM’s midday host, she is an award-winning performer and recording artist, non-fiction writer, and an advocate for Native Women in the Arts. She is also proudly Indigenous (mixed Cree and Scandinavian), queer, disabled, and a mom.
In March she was getting ready for a record release party for her new EP, Safe Harbour, featuring 18 brilliant minutes of tender piano pop. It’s her first entirely piano-based project, written in her Toronto home, and recorded with Canadian singer-songwriter and producer Jim Bryson at his studio, Fixed Hinge, in Stittsville, just outside of Ottawa.
We caught up with Christa at her home where she’s staying put during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month you were set to perform at your record release party, then the pandemic happened. How did that impact you?
I was disappointed because when you write new songs you want to get up on a stage and share them with people. I love being in a studio with other musicians but the heart of music is being in a room sharing it in person. I was lucky that at this point in my life I’m not solely relying on shows for income. I see so many musicians who are losing tours and shows, and it’s really stressful for them because that’s their full-time job.
You have a broadcasting gig now as the midday host on 106.5 ELMNT FM Radio in Toronto. How’s that going?
I’m lucky that I’m able to
work from home and keep busy. It’s been pretty smooth – a different routine. I’m really enjoying being a radio host. It was a big shift in some ways, not the clear path I thought I was on, but I had done some contributing for CBC over the years, and at Accessible Media I briefly hosted their morning show. What I discovered is that I love talking into a microphone. I get my ya-ya’s out! With radio you don’t see the audience, but I still feel a connection.
Since we can’t see you perform live right now, tell us more about your newest recording, the six-song EP titled Safe Harbour.
This new EP is my first totally piano-based project. My songs on piano have a different feel than my songs on guitar. They’re a bit quirkier. The songs came together at a time when I was stepping back from music and counting my blessings. In 2017 I had a daughter, and the songs came from looking at what’s around me. My past work is very autobiographical, with a focus on myself and my past experiences. This time I wrote about other people’s stories and things I was seeing and imagining.
You recorded Safe Harbour with Jim Bryson. He’s worked with Kathleen Edwards, Little Scream, The Skydiggers and Kalle Mattson. How did your collaboration with him come to be.
I had the opportunity to write a song with
Jim Bryson in 2018 for an APTN show called Amplify. We had such a good time I decided I wanted to record my new EP with him.
You’ve been through a lot — childhood cancer that led to the amputation of your left leg, and the tragic deaths of your two infant sons. You’ve written about it in your debut non-fiction book How To Lose Everything, soon to be published by Douglas & McIntyre.
Yes, I have a book coming out in September and I’ve shifted my focus to that. My next live event is a literary festival in August at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Arts in B.C., and I have a few other literary events in the fall. I thought I’d have the spring and summer to say, hey here’s my new music, and then in the fall, hey here’s my new book, but I’ll have to find a way to weave the two together.
What have you’ve learned through this pandemic situation?
I’ve learned how to make bread! I made it for the first time in my life. I’m learning how much I enjoy cooking and how to stretch myself in the kitchen. I’m also learning how to observe my neighbourhood in a new way. Each day I go for a walk around the block and I notice something different, whether it’s the colour of a mailbox or something else I haven’t seen before. I’ve been enjoying my daughter and my partner, and feeling grateful for being safe and sound.