Music

With her exceptional sophomore release, Calgary roots artist Emily Triggs is amused in Middletown

If for some reason you wish to offer some advice, criticism or even flat-out distaste for Calgary singer-songwriter Emily Triggs and her music, please, by all means feel free.

She’s open to it.

In fact, she welcomes it. Nay, she craves it.

Because she finds it funny. It makes her laugh. And because she no longer cares.

Why would she?

The roots artist is so established, so stitched into the fabric of the city’s music scene that her confidence and amusement at people who would actually take the time to tell her how they felt — good or bad — honestly has no bearing on what she’s doing.

Be it with her now-dormant act Magnolia Buckskin, her pairing with esteemed (we use the term loosely) artist and producer Lorrie Matheson in The Rosellas, or her solo work, Triggs has shown she belongs and that she’s one of this city’s songwriting elite.

She furthers that case with her latest album Middletown, which she’ll release on Friday, Nov. 22 with a show at Festival Hall in Inglewood.

It is a pure, powerful and personal collection of songs served up on a folk-rock platter that recalls, vaguely, although aesthetically and artistically, other AB treasures such as Jane Hawley and Rae Spoon.

The latter may seem an obvious comparison considering both artists were produced by the aforementioned Matheson, but it also speaks to the symbiotic relationship between recorder and recordee, one that works so, so superbly.

“I love working with Lorrie, because in the end we get to where we want it to be,” Triggs says, over a half pint the Wild Rose Taproom.

“He’s a little bit more rock ’n’ roll than folk, and I’m definitely a little bit more folk than rock ’n’ roll, so there’s that push and pull in the studio that I like and he likes because then we come out with something that’s creative and different.

“With this album we were actually looking for a warmth, we were looking for something really grounded that reflected musically where I came from, and I think we were able to do that.”

They were. They did. It is. 

And Middletown stands as a pretty concise and solid statement all its own.

It benefits greatly by the incredible crop of local musicians who were welcomed into the proceedings, such as Matheson, Chris Dadge, Chris Byrne, Brooke Wylie, the Zadravec sisters Shaye and Sydney, along with Vancouver’s Paul Rigby. Triggs calls it a “cohesive little unit” that helped with the sound, the feel, the everything that makes Middletown the album it is.

“We wanted that, because it’s easier, it’s faster, but also it was because they had an understanding of where we were trying to go,” she says, noting the material, itself, was written in a relatively condensed period of time as compared with her debut When Guinevere Went Under.

“And these characters that we had in the studio were so amazing and so supportive. They wanted to know what we were trying to do, they’re not just hired to do it then leave. I felt they were invested and that, to me, is so amazing, and I’m so lucky …

“With those characters it couldn’t help but work out.”

But ultimately, the record is entirely, utterly and wonderfully Triggs — her voice, her words, her experiences, her ability to reach into her heart and soul and soothe it, smooth it into a compact emotional experience of where she was when she wrote the songs.

Thematically, she says, that was only revealed to her when the record was finished, and she was surprised when she went back and looked at the 10 completed tracks.

“The album looks like it’s about resilience and looks like it’s about hope,” she says. “Which makes sense.”

The exceptional title track, itself, comes from the fact that Triggs has spent the past few years commuting between her origins out east — due in part to her family still residing there — and her current home in YYC.

The rest of the songs, though, deal with with a variety of other topics and themes and, ultimately, very real parts of her — even if it’s slightly couched in metaphor. Album highlight,  Light You Up, for example, is about boxing, and the care about and need of each other for the fight (or relationship) to be successful and dynamic. I Finally Found You is slightly more obvious and about someone “pivotal” in her life who she used to play guitar with when she was a child and who, contrary to the title, she still hasn’t reconnected with but hopes to one day.

Triggs admits the album and subject matter was a little more difficult to share with her listeners in song, but has ultimately been more rewarding than anything else she’s done.

“Some of the songs I thought would be hard to put out, in regards to the topic or what they were talking about, weren’t hard to put out at all,” she says.

“I feel through doing the album, I know more and more it’s what I should be doing and I can’t wait to discover what I get to do next.”

So much so that she’s already looking forward to her third album, and perhaps baring a little more of her soul in her work

“The songs on this album, I don’t think I would have been able to put out on my first album, because they were so intimate,” she says.

“But now I’m able to do it and it’s liberating. I don’t care, I don’t care what people think, and it’s liberating.”

And, maybe a little funny.

Emily Triggs releases her new album Middletown Friday, Nov. 22 at Festival Hall.

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