After more than a decade of touring the globe, California songwriter Corinne West put her guitar down, moved to Austria, and spent more than a year working on visual art. Instead of taking her away from music, the break served to bring her deeper into the creative territory she's mined on four well-received collections of original music. In 2013, she returned to the Bay Area, making a seemingly effortless transition back to where she left off: forming new collaborations with top players, showcasing at the recent FAR-West Conference, and writing a new batch of songs for what will be her fifth recording, TROUBLE NO MORE. Amidst a crowd-funding campaign to support the new work, Corinne discussed her time away from, and joyful return to, a life immersed in making music.
Q: After a long run of touring and living abroad, you're back living and creating in the Bay Area. How is it to be back and how is it shaping your current work?
CW: I am quite happy to be back in California, (although I do miss Austria.) My current body of songs have been deeply influenced by the year I spent in the Alpine mountains, and my experiences leading up to that time. Returning to America provided distance and space to reflect on what it meant in my life to be away from home, and what it means to have a true home away from home… which lead to the fertile ground of contemplating the meaning of home in the first place.
Q: Tell me about your break? Did you plan it consciously or did it just evolve?
CW: In 2011, after 10 years of full-time touring, and on the back-end of a two-year duo project, I took a sabbatical from music completely and lived in a village in the Alpine mountains in Austria for 13 months. I had been moving at such a fast clip that I began to lack a connection to what I was doing and saying and feeling during performances. All the pieces were moving, yet somehow on a soul level, I wasn’t there. It was time to recalibrate and figure out what held meaning for me, and the only way to really address this was to flip the switch, and pull the entire plug out of the wall. When I stepped away from my identity as a musician it got very very quiet. In the middle of that silence I had the powerful and often difficult experience of looking myself in the eye and asking myself what it means to me to create for a living, why am I doing this - and what am I doing.
Q: You practice multiple art forms (visual media, etc). Is there a typical rhythm to your days creating?
CW: I am finally at a place in my life where the mediums I work in are all informing one another. If I am working on mono prints, I am infusing the work with the music I am listening to or writing. In making the new record TROUBLE NO MORE, I will be creating the artwork for the CD lending a visual reference for some of the sonic landscapes in the music. It’s all one energy with different outlets or manifestations. So to answer your question, every day holds one facet or another of creation, and the rhythm of the day is a blend of letting it unfold, and keeping in time with the tasks at hand.
Q How was writing this collection different (or similar) to your past projects? Do you have an idea of what the songs will be about/what rhythms, etc, when you start or are you a fairly organic writer? Why did you choose Redwood Canyon to write this collection?
CW TROUBLE NO MORE has her own character for certain. Some of her songs were written in 2011 as co-writes. Then there was a huge sabbatical from music and a 13-month life in a foreign land. Then a return to music, and a return to songs that have been existing in limbo for a year. In addition, there are pieces that were written very recently, so there is an arc to the record, of time, and change. I would say this is the most intimate and directly autobiographical record I will have offered. At the same time there is a mythic cycle underneath the pieces — the vulnerability of unity, the pain of leaving familiar ground and love, the loneliness of a desolate heart, and the diamonds gathered (for the sharing) for taking a journey into the unknown. Universal principals through one person’s experiences. It’s everywhere… I just happen to be someone who writes and sings about it.
The songs were written in the redwoods in Marin county. This California canyon is majestic, and has an abundant history of songwriting and music, a bit like Laurel Canyon. It just seems to be in the air — when one sits to listen and write it out.
I would have to say, yes, I am a fairly organic writer in that I don’t have a formal process at all. Being quiet and undistracted is vital. I feel the creative process once “in” it, is quite hypnotic and trance-like. I am also a hypnotherapist, and I use self-hypnosis to inform my writing. I like to go deep inside and see what can be brought to the outside.
Q:Tell us more about what you have planned for the recording. Are dates set, studios booked? Where do you see yourself a year from now?
CW: TROUBLE NO MORE will be recorded in Berkeley. It is my hope that the recording will be wrapped by the end of December. There are some wonderful players lined up for the tunes. This is my 5th studio record, and I have never embarked on crowd-funding, but this time, it’s needed. We have been focused on the campaign so that we can get in the studio and get these songs out into the world.
Where do I see myself a year from now? Shoot… hopefully smiling at the day with my hands deep in the next batch of fresh music.
For more information visit http://www.corinnewest.com/
For more information visit http://www.corinnewest.com/