Sarah MacDougall will release her new single, “Empire,” on July 6. (Submitted)

Whitehorse singer Sarah MacDougall’s new record sounds like scenery

‘Just getting out of town slightly, you can see a lot of beauty’

Sarah MacDougall wanted her new record to sound like a view. It seems abstract, but it’s actually a pretty concrete idea when you hear her out.

“Last time I played Atlin they took us up in the helicopters and when we were over the glacier and Atlin Lake, that’s the moment I was like ‘OK, I want to make a record that sounds like this,’“ the Whitehorse-based singer told the News on July 5. “That’s the idea of it and the glue that holds it together.”

“It” is All the Hours I Have Left to Tell You Anything, MacDougall’s fourth studio album, and it succeeds, she said, in capturing that sense of something immense that she felt in the air over Atlin.

The nine songs on the record have a similar sweeping style — one that uses big drums, strings, synthesizers, and lush, layered vocals to give the songs a sound that MacDougall describes as epic.

“I think the main thing was I wanted to be epic and intimate at the same time,” she said. “And the way to do that was to have big drums and big bass and kind of put the voice at the centre.”

While she had this idea in mind, she said nothing was forced on to the songs. They just went where they wanted to go under the production of Marcus Paquin.

MacDougall, whose first album came out in 2009, had always wanted to work with the Montreal-based musician and producer behind records by Stars, The National, and Arcade Fire.

After a Skype session “to make sure that we liked each other as people”, she travelled to Montreal to record, with a backing band that included bassist Anna Ruddick (who plays with former Constantines frontman Bry Webb) and Wintersleep dummer Loel Campbell.

MacDougall was working from demos she’d recorded in Los Angeles, but in Montreal, she said they spent a lot of time working on the rhythms of the songs, building them up into the sound on All the Hours.

Her last record, 2015’s Grand Canyon, which won a Western Canadian Music Award, had a few songs with that same sound. And while it was a natural step to take it even further on this record, MacDougall said she doesn’t see it as a big step.

This record may be sonically bigger and more poppy, but MacDougall said it still sounds like her.

“I always had this philosophy with my songwriting, that the beauty of being the singer-songwriter is that you change your band, you can change your sound, but you’re always writing your own songs.”

“They are all my songs and it’s always my voice and my lyrics and the way I write is the focus so, for me, it’s completely natural and I don’t really see it as a big step or anything.”

If there is a theme, she said it’s found in the sound. Lyrically, there’s no intentional cohesion other than the things she’s been thinking about in the last couple years. That includes everything from life and death, to love and aging, to trying to stay present in a world full of an overwhelming amount of information and insanity.

That attempt to stay present may be part of the reason landscape initially inspired the music on All the Hours. It often does, said MacDougall, who has lived in Whitehorse since 2010.

“It’s hard not to be inspired by the landscape here,” she said. Anytime she needs to reconnect and think about things, she said she goes out into nature. Here, it’s easy to do. A short drive will take you away from everything, and a walk up the clay cliffs downtown gives you a nice place to sit and just look at things.

“Just getting out of town slightly, you can see a lot of beauty,” she said.

MacDougall will be completely disconnected when her first single, “Empire,” is released.

In a kind of coming-full-circle sense, she’ll be performing a lot of the new songs for the first time when she plays at the 2018 Atlin Music Festival from July 6 to 8 (“It’s kind of strange to be in a place that’s totally off the grid when a single comes out,” she said).

The record will follow in the fall, and MacDougall, who had taken a break from touring last year, will go back on the road to promote it.

Details of that tour will be posted online at sarahmacdougall.com. “Empire”can be found online (including on Spotify and iTunes) beginning July 6.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

ArtsMusic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read