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- Posted on Jun 24th 2010 4:30PM by Jason MacNeil
What can't be disputed though is that together the four ladies making up roots/country band Ladies of the Canyon have found a natural home for their harmonies.
"We learned a lot about self-confidence in being who we want to be and sounding how we want to sound," vocalist/bassist Anna Ruddick says. "When you're starting out a lot of people you work with tell you to do one thing or the other thing, to try to focus on being radio-friendly with your sound choices. But we really just did what we wanted to do, it was being passionate about our music and being self-confident and hopefully people will like it. We're not trying to please everybody."
The foursome, who released their debut album 'Haunted Woman' on June 1, got their start performing in various bands around Montreal. Ruddick played in a jazz group weekly at Grumpy's Bar where singer/guitarist Maia Davies tended bar. From there friendships developed with singer/guitarist Jasmine Bleile and singer Senja Sargeant.
"We became fast friends right away, we would go to Jasmine's house every Friday night and drink wine, writing songs in her living room," Ruddick says. "We all ended up in each other's band and it turned into a band with the four of us, so that was it."
After joining forces though they were still left without a name, something required on the eve of their first gig.
"Maia just went through her record collection looking for a Bob Dylan title or a Bob Dylan lyric and Ladies of the Canyon (the title of Joni Mitchell's 1970 album) fell into her lap off the shelf," Ruddick says.
The name might also be influenced by acts like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, both of whom represented the "Laurel Canyon '70s hippie songwriting commune mentality" Ruddick says the band are huge fans of.
"We got a lot of influence from their songwriting and in terms of harmonies, especially the Eagles," she says. "The Eagles' harmonies were very influential on us. Basically that's the thing we're going for in this band. I think we're a little bit of a throwback band in those respects."
After signing with Warner, Ladies of the Canyon set about making their debut, landing Colin Cripps (Kathleen Edwards) as producer, spending a month "in a big house on Lake Ontario" and playing the material live off the floor.
"It was the most fun we ever had," Ruddick says. "Our record is all life, there's no autotune, it's just us playing and having a great time and putting our songs forward in the way we wanted to do it."
The band also felt working with Cripps was a huge advantage.
"He's an incredible producer and he got the best out of us," Ruddick says. "He brought incredible insight, he made us incredibly comfortable and he was able to draw out the musicianship that was needed at the right time. We couldn't have asked to work with anyone better. He's the Ladies of the Canyon whisperer."
At 12 tracks, Haunted Woman seems to resemble of bit of the Dixie Chicks' 'Home' with touches of Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. This is especially true on the tender title track, 'Hard to Find Love' and 'Forget Me.' But the album has its bubbly, poppy moments starting with the lead single 'Follow Me Down,' one of the last songs the group wrote before hitting the studio.
"That is a song Senja wrote just for herself really," Ruddick says. "She went through a hard time and she wanted to write a song of hope. She just met her boyfriend she's with right now. One day he was out of the house and she decided, 'I want to write a song to show him how much hope he's given me and how much I love him.' One afternoon in a couple of hours she wrote that song."
The harmonies are what make the whole record work, something Ruddick says comes almost instinctually.
"The harmonies you can tell by just how the song sounds like," she says. "We write in pairs, not a lot together. A lot of the songs are writing individually or in paris and then we bring them to the band and spend the afternoon arranging them and writing harmonies. If it's feeling good we stick with it."
But despite the ease of the harmonies, not every song was easily completed. Ruddick says 'Maybe Baby' was one that took a while to perfect.
"When we originally recorded it, it was very poppy, sort of against the grain of the folksy/country thing we do," she says. "But we really loved that song, it's an amazing, incredible song Senja wrote but we wanted to fit that in with everything else. Colin really helped with that, changing the guitar sound, the tempo, the key and worked with it. Senja was tired of singing it, she felt it was too kitschy and poppy but the rest of us were really passionate about the song. It's great and people really relate to it."
Ladies of the Canyon will tour behind the album with Canadian summer folk festivals being a key component.
"We tour a lot in the winter so we're looking forward to touring this summer," Ruddick says. "Canada has harsh winters and vans breaking down in the summer are much easier. We love the festivals, we get to see and meet so many other bands."
And Ruddick says they're already writing for the next album.
"I just started writing a lot on the road," she says. "I spent three days in Winnipeg and wrote a couple of songs there and then went down to the hotel lobby and performed them for everybody. It was awesome."