Sometimes life gets in the way of making music. This has been the case for Sara MacDonald, frontwoman of Whitehorse folk-rock act The August Arrival, who has three young kids to take care of and doesn’t always get a lot of time to devote to her music.
“Life just got a little bit busy,” she says. “I’ve been writing the whole time, but it’s nice to be putting out something a little more public.”
MacDonald had been playing some newly written music with her friend Erica Mah, another well-known local musician, who suggested she reach out to producer Jordy Walker of Stackwall Sound to see about recording some of her songs.
They started out doing one song and, because she enjoyed the process and realized how much she had missed recording music, MacDonald decided to record a few more songs for a studio release. The EP, titled All Blue and Gold, was released on Bandcamp and all streaming platforms on March 5, a couple weeks ahead of when MacDonald had originally planned.
“It was just a little bit of a push from some good friends to make it happen.”
Typically, MacDonald does her songwriting late at night in her kitchen, once her kids are in bed and her house is quiet. Songwriting is an outlet MacDonald uses to process the things that are happening in the world, so this past year has provided plenty of opportunities to do that.
“I can be in a heavier space when I start a song, but by the end it’s resolved,” she says. “It’s a total coping mechanism for me and it’s very therapeutic.”
The title All Blue and Gold was inspired by the way songwriting makes MacDonald feel, as she often feels “blue” at the start of her writing process, but “gold” by the end. She can feel when there’s a song to be written, but doesn’t know exactly how it will take shape until she actually sits down to write it. When she gets this feeling, it’s imperative for her to take the time as soon as possible to get it out.
“If I don’t make the space for it that window sometimes closes and it becomes a bit more effort,” she says. “But it just kind of comes. I try not to overthink it.”
MacDonald applied for a Yukon Sound Recording Grant. When her application was accepted, she felt more of a push to actually put something out for people to hear. Calling it a “vote of confidence,” she says the grant gave her the confidence and encouragement she needed to know that her music could resonate with listeners.
The credits for All Blue and Gold, in addition to MacDonald on guitar and vocals and Walker taking the production credit as well as contributing drums, bass, electric guitars, accordion, zither and vocals, include Erica Mah and Bethan Davies on guest vocals, Darcy McCord on cello, Tara Martin on drums and Micah Smith on bass.
Macdonald says the atmosphere while making the album was relaxed and enjoyable. She says working with Walker was a highlight, as the two were on the same page and collaborated well.
“We had a similar vision for all the songs,” she says. “It felt quite easy and natural.”
Though MacDonald sometimes struggles with impostor syndrome, she was happy to find herself in a very supportive environment while working with admirable local musicians on her EP. She was able to take inspiration from them and feel more confident in her own abilities, especially seeing how much fun everyone was having.
“There’s a lot of positive self-talk that needs to happen when I’m not in my kitchen alone,” she says. “I think it’s something everyone has to work through.”
All Blue and Gold is The August Arrival’s first release since 2011’s Skyline Goodbyes. Now that she has broken the silence and released something new, MacDonald has found an itch to keep recording, and hopes to release a full-length album in the near future.
“I know I have material to make another album,” she says. “With festivals and shows, it’s a little up in the air, but I know an album is realistic and doable.”
MacDonald has a refreshing approach to making music that shows when she speaks about it. She doesn’t feel the need to be driven by strict deadlines; just enjoying making music with friends and releasing her emotions through her songs is what it’s about. She hopes her music will speak to others as well, but doesn’t want to rely solely on outside praise for validation.
“Everyone is doing it because they enjoy it,” she says. “Music is a very healing thing and it’s nice to be around people who share that same passion for it.”
To listen to All Blue and Gold and keep up with The August Arrival, visit theaugustarrival.com.