Rheaume brings honest side out of hiding

“They didn’t hit my heart when I was singing them toward the end, and so I just wanted to be really in touch with myself,” Amanda Rheaume explains. “It was a conscious decision to be a bit more organic than Even When and choose richer tones – not the same electric guitar tone on every single song.”

- Sheila Busteed

posted June 22, 2007

Rheaume brings honest side out of hiding

     Amanda Rheaume is back, but for those who have been following this songwriter’s career to date, she may be hard to recognize.

     The blonde hair has been traded in for an edgy dark brown and fire engine red ’do. She’s left behind the Amanda Rheaume Band days and has reverted back to being a solo artist. And, as is evident by her new EP If You Never Live, a more mature Rheaume has emerged from the ashes of her last record to become a more organic and honest artist.

     “I really tried to capture more emotion and more mood and more vocal presence in this new CD,” says Rheaume. She adds that the extended touring cycle for her last record, Even When, caused her to lose a bit of the personal meaning of its songs.

     “They didn’t hit my heart when I was singing them toward the end, and so I just wanted to be really in touch with myself,” she explains. “It was a conscious decision to be a bit more organic than Even When and choose richer tones – not the same electric guitar tone on every single song.”

     While she does bring in a hired band for really big performances, like her upcoming show opening for The White Stripes at the Ottawa Bluesfest, she was motivated by the fact that the majority of her bookings are as a solo artist.

     “I really wanted to make sure that the songs could stand by themselves,” she says. She adds that, when the members of her band decided to go their separate ways about eight months ago, she was stuck with a bunch of material that she couldn’t play on her own.

     “I get booked as a solo act a lot, so I was like, ‘Oh my God! I have, like, three songs I can play,’” she continues. “So I really wanted to make sure that, with this album, I could play them by myself but then I could beef them up with a band and add parts after the fact and they’d be strong both ways.”

     Not only is the new album’s sound strikingly different from her last release, but the approach taken in the recording process was also unfamiliar to Rheaume. Teamed with producer Shawn Bradley, Rheaume laid down six tracks on If You Never Live at Bradley’s home studio in only 12 days.

     “It wasn’t on purpose to make it sound raw and organic. What was on purpose was to capture the moment and not think too much,” says Rheaume. “There was a stream of consciousness and flow and to me that’s more honest almost. A couple of the songs weren’t even written when we started recording.

     “It was scary because I was so used to working the other way and being so prepared,” she adds. “It was a really good thing for me to learn.”

     Going into the studio somewhat unprepared seems to have paid off for Rheaume because the end result, she says, are six beautifully crafted songs – all of which are personal.

     “‘Now I Know’ is about falling in love and finding a nice and stable relationship, opposed to running after all these shitty relationships that are bad for you. It’s kind of the first happy love song I ever wrote,” she says. “‘Alone’ is the other end of the spectrum and is about a past relationship that was bad.”

     Rheaume says the title track is the one she connects to the most. “I was thinking about where I was with music and my life and what was a main issue with me, so that song is about how, as a human, your fear and yourself are the only two things that hold you back from doing what you want to do – ever.”