With the release of her latest album Natural Conclusion this past February, Prince Edward Island native Rose Cousins effectively broke a lingering five-year lay-off since the release of her Juno Award winning album We Have Made A Spark.
Cousins didn’t completely eschew the spotlight for the last five years, however. In addition to the seemingly endless touring commitments that brought her throughout the United States and Europe, she released a collection of musical odds and ends, Stray Birds, in 2014, while also contributing songs to Grey’s Anatomy (2015’s “Let The Light Come In”) and Saving Hope (“Rain”).
Along the way, We Have Made A Spark earned the praise of USA Today, NPR Music and Oprah Magazine, while also winning a Canadian Folk Music Award and securing a nomination for the Polaris Music Prize.
Rather than using the time between studio albums to focus exclusively on rushing a new album to market in order to capitalize on the momentum she had earned, Cousins took a step back of sorts, choosing to set aside her active touring schedule in order to connect with a myriad of artists, writers and producers in Ireland, Toronto, Los Angeles, Boston, and Nashville.
The goal was to uncover new ways to write songs, discovering new sounds and new personalities along the way. It was a journey that she says was essential to the making of Natural Conclusion.
“The five years between albums wasn’t idle time for me,” Cousins affirms. “I tried to take some time off from touring, to both afford myself the opportunity to hit the reset button, and to focus on creating things rather than just the next show. It’s tough to describe what it takes to be on tour; there are so many moving parts. You’re often making decisions six or 12 months ahead, without necessarily taking into consideration that you need to take some time for yourself along the way or how you’re going to feel once that time arrives. Once I became cognizant of just how much I overdid it with promoting We Have Made A Spark, having hit limits and thresholds I didn’t think I would ever reach, it emphasized the need for me to take care of myself, physically and mentally.”
As she travelled the world pursuing new and established songwriting partnerships, working alongside Canada’s Jann Arden, Andrew Combs and acclaimed American singer-songwriter Lori McKenna among others, Cousins says her eyes were opened to the world in a whole new way.
“Once I pushed through my initial fears of writing with others, I became totally engrossed in meeting new people and excited about the prospects that could come from those situations. To go into those sessions and come out with something we crafted over the course of a number of hours was an amazing feeling.”
Helping bring Natural Conclusion to life was Grammy Award winning producer Joe Henry. While Henry is an accomplished musician in his own right, having released more than a dozen studio efforts, including a 2016 collaboration with Billy Bragg on Shine A Light, the musician has made an equally impressive reputation for himself in the realm of production.
Henry’s name can be found on records from Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, actor Hugh Laurie, Bonnie Raitt, jazz great Allen Toussaint and others.
Cousins shares that she and Henry initially met in 2012 at the Edmonton Folk Festival and would subsequently connect whenever she found herself in Los Angeles.
“Over coffee, Joe and I would engage in these long conversations about nothing in particular, but as our friendship grew, it felt like getting him involved with the making of a record was the right thing to do. Looking back on those conversations, I’m pretty sure we were probably vetting one another. Ultimately though, I knew he was the guy that would understand these songs. Joe is the kind of producer that wants to ensure the music gets taken care of the way it should be.”
Not only are the songs featured on Natural Conclusion among the strongest of her career, the album also reveals a vulnerability that not all artists would be as comfortable casting out into the open.
Cousins acknowledges it’s all part of the job, however, and that delivering anything less would have felt disingenuous.
“I’ve been very lucky that the record has been going over well with audiences. It’s a hearty listen; I’m just grateful that people are taking the time to dive in,” she says.
What: Rose Cousins
When: Friday April 7, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $29. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com/music