If there was one phrase that could be used to sum up the kind of year that 2017 has been for Saint John folk duo Tomato/Tomato, it would be “Go big or go home.”
Perhaps more appropriate, however, would be to say that Tomato/Tomato members Lisa and John McLaggan are going big and going home. This Thursday night, the group will return to Saint John’s Imperial Theatre Stage with their first Maritime Christmas show. Along for the ride are very special guests Heather Rankin and Dave Gunning.
Speaking in advance of their performance, Tomato/Tomato’s Lisa McLaggan looks back on the year with a justified sense of wonder, and an equal-sized helping of gratitude.
As you look back on the last 12 months and all the places you’ve gone and shows you’ve played, does it all seem a little surreal?
2017 has been amazing on so many levels. It’s not only been our busiest year ever, but we’ve had the opportunity to bring our music to far flung places like Australia and the U.K.
You’ve worked hard for the in-roads you’ve made and the success you’ve earned, though. Is it gratifying to see the fruits of your labour coming to life?
You always kind of hope your star is rising, but you just take it day by day and show by show. We’ve definitely been a good kind of busy over the last year, but none of it would be possible without the amazing network of support we have surrounding us. Our jobs are different and unconventional but it’s a lifestyle that works for us.
Your daughter has been accompanying you on your worldwide travels. Is she officially the coolest kid with the coolest parents in her class?
We definitely think she’s the coolest, but we are also pretty biased about that. [laughs] It takes a lot for anyone – adult or child – to leave the comforts of home behind for any extended period of time, but she has definitely been a trooper. It’s really all she’s known throughout her life so far, as we’ve been working musicians since she was born. Really though, we just consider ourselves lucky to be in a position to be able to provide her with these travel experiences. It is certainly our hope that she will appreciate them even more when she grows up.
Your upcoming show at the Imperial Theatre is in support of Pinecones and Cinnamon, the group’s first holiday-themed record. Had this project been in the works for quite some time?
It has been a bucket list item for quite some time. We love the holidays and had talked about doing a Christmas record for a little while. We actually started writing it last Christmas, and had the songs completed by the time the holidays ended, with the exception of the song “Avalanche,” which we finished a few months later.
One of the most endearing aspects of the record is the fact that you took the initiative to write the bulk of the material rather than solely relying on the list of traditional songs that everyone and their cat has seemingly performed.
I truly don’t think John ever considered not writing half the songs on the record. It just wasn’t an option for him. We wanted to give people some traditional favourites but also give people some original material that we can only dream could maybe become some of their holiday favourites. We would love to become a small part of people’s holiday tradition. It’s the time of year where people are reflective, but it’s also an emotional time for a lot of people. We can’t look at all we’ve done as a group without an over-arching sense of gratitude. We want to spread joy and love everywhere we go, and play some awesome music along the way.
What does the New Year hold for the band?
We are going to be releasing our third full-length effort, which we recorded earlier this year at Bomb Shelter Studio in Nashville.
In terms of the creative process, was it exciting to bust out of the home studio where you cut your first two records?
We are evolving as a band, both musically and lyrically. One of the big reasons we decided to make this record in Nashville was to benefit from voices and ideas from outside of the band. Before we went into the studio, we had to send demos of the material that the band was going to perform, but we actually went so far as to send bare bones sketches of the songs so that we didn’t influence their direction one way or another. We wanted their ideas and feedback to help us make a record that excited everyone involved.