Local songwriter releases debut album

Last year Lara Lewis took some time off rocks to focus on rock.

Now the Whitehorse-based geologist/songwriter is gearing up to release her first full-length album, Lov Lavatic, on Thursday, Oct. 19 at The Old Fire Hall.

“It conflicts with winefest,” Lewis laughs. Her release party takes place on the same night as the Rendezvous Rotary Club Wine and Food Festival. “So I’m forcing my friends to choose between their love of wine and their love of me.”

For Lewis, born in Yellowknife, the path to the record was a circuitous one. She studied classical piano for over a decade before walking away from music while she was in university. It was 10 years before she started playing again. Lewis says credit for that goes to the Yukon.

When she moved to the territory in 2000, she says it seemed like everyone she met was making music. She looked around thought, I could do that. Lewis started playing again, got involved with other musicians, and forgot her classical training in favour of a less structured approach to music.

“When you’re brought up in that environment of perfection and exactness… you don’t learn to use your ears as well,” she says, noting that she’s happy for the foundation classical gave her in terms of theory.

“For me, writing music, and learning other people’s songs, and loosening up when I was playing, and not worrying so much about making mistakes was kind of a different avenue to explore.”

Though Lewis has been playing consistently since those days, she stuck to making at-home demos until last year – her first trip into the studio as a solo artist.

She says it took her a while to get to a point where she felt confident enough about her songwriting to record a full album.

In 2013, while working her current job as a geologist with the Yukon Government, she applied for a deferred eight-month leave for 2016, and set a goal for herself – have that confidence by the time the leave rolls around.

When she applied for and received a professional recording grant from the Film and Sound Commission in 2016, she enlisted the help of local producer Jordy Walker. Lewis credits Walker with giving her record some of its sound.

Lov Lavatic focuses on the volatility of relationships and she says the starting point for all her songs was the drum machine she bought a couple years ago.

“I had melodic riffs that I captured and recorded as I was piecing things together, Frankenstein-style, and songs started to emerge,” she says of the eclectic mix of blues, rock and more mellow tunes that came out of the process.

“Jordy really helped me with turning the songs into real songs. (He’d ask) ‘Where is your chorus? This isn’t a song,’” she says. “He was great in making me examine the songs and figure out how to make them more palatable. He did all the arranging.”

Her songs changed as she learned in the studio about adding textures, transitions and layers to different sections. As well, using a Rhodes instead of a stand-up piano altered the sonic palette of the songs.

The recording experience may influence the next record as well. Lewis says Walker’s guitar lines inspired her to buy an electric guitar – one she’ll spend some time getting to know this winter.

Contributing musicians include Daniel Bouck (bass), Danette Readman (electric guitar), Graeme Peters (drums) and Jordy Walker (producer) on electric guitar.

Lewis will tour northern B.C. in support of the record next year. In the meantime, tickets for the release party are $20 each and are available through the Yukon Arts Centre.

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