Crissi Cochrane Celebrates New Outlook With Album Release Party

Friday February 28th, 2020

Posted at 8:36pm

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Photo by: Heike Delmore.

Coming out of the darkness, a Windsor musician is taking her new collection of songs to the stage.

On Saturday, February 29th, Crissi Cochrane will be performing at Meteor (located at 138 University Avenue West) to celebrate her latest release, Heirloom. Kicking off at 9pm with opening act The Family Soul, the musician will also perform the 11 track album with a big band for one night only.

Written from 2013 to 2017, the collection of songs has been a long time in the making. Despite a lot happening since then, this gap worked out to Cochrane’s advantage.

“When I first started demoing Heirloom back in 2016, [husband/musician Mike Hargreaves and I] were living in a one-bedroom apartment with very thin walls,” she said. “I expected this album would rely on digital instruments and involve very few live musicians. But production took so long to begin in earnest that when everything finally settled, we were able to do a 180 and instead use almost entirely live musicians.”

While Cochrane previously put together a nine-part series detailing the delays, including waiting for grants, giving birth, moving and waterproofing her basement studio to name a few, the end result was something she finds hard to describe.

With her husband producing, the singer stretched her own boundaries by spotlighting something not as common in music today.

“This sonic palette of soul music with a small orchestra is a little unusual,” said Cochrane. “Most modern recordings rely heavily on digital instruments, with drums and beats often at the forefront of songs. Heirloom spotlights thick sections of melody and countermelody, horns and strings and back-up singers – all these warm, organic, raw voices. It almost feels like a throwback album;”

Featuring such warm melodies is no accident either. After looking more inward and being self-doubting on her last album, the artist feels this new record was built on a foundation of resilience, love and power.

Suffering from anxiety and depression while writing and touring behind 2014’s Little Sway, the tone came across on songs like Pretty Words, Nobody’s Bird and Look Away. It all came to a head in the fall of that year.

Sitting on a stalled train after a rough show, Cochrane remembers it vividly.

“It was a beautiful day,” she said. “We were by this idyllic little pond in the middle of the woods and I was just weeping silently into the window, ready to quit everything.”

From there, the musician played few shows for about a year and worked on better habits. This included exercise, healthier eating, drinking less and quitting smoking. The end result was improved mental health and what fuelled the songs on Heirloom.

It also helped Cochrane overcome some myths about being an artist.

“I think there is a romanticized idea of this ‘dark poet,’ a tortured, struggling artist, a wounded soul making something wise and powerful,” she said. “I came of age in the apex of emo music, so this self-destructive mindset was all around me and was deeply internalized. I thought I could use my misery to create better art, but I let in so much negativity that it threatened my ability to create anything at all. It took time, love and reprogramming to overcome.”

She especially feels the self-sabotaging behaviour was banished on Heirloom track Everything. Hanging off the lyric, “I don’t need to feel everything,” the artist views it as a meditation or mantra about finding happiness through staying centred and focusing on simple things.

Another hallmark of the album comes from a 14 piece rhythm section and orchestra. Using their basement studio however, this also presented its own set of challenges for Cochrane and Hargreaves.

With each instrument being tracked individually, the house had to be completely quiet for long periods of time. Although it might seem simple enough, having a one-year-old under the same roof made it much harder.

As a result, those involved either worked around the baby’s sleep schedule or else Cochrane would have to take her out of the house for a few hours. This meant the singer was absent for large parts of the recording process.

It’s one of many reasons she was happy Hargreaves produced her album.

“I perform solo almost all of the time, so when I’m writing songs, I’m only thinking of them as a guitar part and a vocal part,” said Cochrane. “My husband has been arranging for over ten years, so naturally I enlisted his help. Because we share a music collection and have a massive overlap in the music that inspires us, it was easy to trust him to build arrangements that complemented the songs.”

Hargreaves’ impact on the record didn’t end there either. Also known by his stage name Soul Brother Mike, Heirloom is the first original album to come from a dream of his, the Soul City Music Co-op.

Unifying them and their friends, the artist-led model allows skill sharing and collective bargaining power for all involved. Even though they only have six acts for now, more are set to join later this year: They also plan on hosting a free musicians’ seminar and Soul City Review.

Beyond working with artists they love, both want to show others the benefits.

“We wanted to spread the word about this model as a smart way for independent musicians to ally themselves, build community and create sustainable careers,” said Cochrane. “So far, we’ve put on a songwriters’ circle at Phog, been the subject of a short documentary, helped our artists apply for grant funding, create promotional materials like bios, resumes and created websites with beautiful merchandise for each artist.”

As for the release party concert, Cochrane will be joined by many of the same people who played on her album. This includes Hargreaves on bass, Ty Sharron on guitar, Mike Karloff on keys, Kelly Hoppe on saxophone, Sebastian Bachmeier on saxophone and clarinet, Austin Di Pietro on trumpet and Kaila Delarmente singing back-up vocals. Those who weren’t on the record but are fillin-in include Madeline Doornaert on back-up vocals, Taylor Unis on drums, and Keith Wilkinson on percussion.

Although having a backing band used to be challenging for her, the musician now enjoys the benefits that come with playing off of others.

“I had a quiet voice, a soft touch on the guitar and had a hard time learning how to make myself heard over bass and drums,” said Cochrane. “But now that I have more experience, more versatility in my singing, and now that I play electric guitar instead of acoustic, I’ve finally fallen in love with playing as a band. Sharing the spotlight with others means there’s less focus on me, so I can feel more relaxed, get out of my head more,, enjoy the amazing thing we’re doing and the connections we’re making between ourselves and the audience.”

Tickets for the February 29th show are exclusively on sale through Eventbrite. Given the fact the musicians backing Cochrane are also members of Hargreaves’ band, it only made sense for The Family Soul to be her opening act.

Being released the same day, Heirloom will be available on all major streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play. Physical copies are also set to be available at Dr. Disc Records (located at 471 Ouellette Avenue,) Sunrise Records at Devonshire Mall and by mail order around the world through Cochrane’s website.

In terms of album promotion, the musician plans on mainly using the internet and music videos. This includes her blog to take people behind the scenes of each song and feature those who played on the album.

Cochrane is also hoping to put out a limited run of the record on vinyl, something she needs a little more help with.

“Through a company called Qrates, I have launched a crowdfunding campaign to press Heirloom on vinyl,” she said. “I need to get 100 copies pre-ordered by March 8 to make it happen. The vinyl includes a digital download code. I could just buy up all the remaining copies myself, but I’m hoping that some dear readers and listeners will be so kind as to lift some of that financial burden from me, and pre-order a record! This is the only planned pressing of Heirloom on vinyl, so it’s a bit of a now-or-never situation.”

Given how personal the record is to Cochrane, the musician is hoping people take away some strength and motivation from the songs, finding their own mantra.

Having that connection with her listeners is something she still values.

“One of the greatest things about releasing music is the way it occupies rooms and moments and weaves itself into the stories of people all around the world, completely unbeknownst to me,” said Cochrane. “I love that. It’s a privilege when I get to hear from listeners who tell me how these songs have played a part in their lives or what meanings they found in these words. Honestly, if there’s a musician, artist, creator or community member whose contributions you enjoy, please go out of your way to tell them! It means the world to us to know that we are seen and heard.” That little gesture always makes my day.”

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