The first time Calla Kinglit recorded what would become the title track of her debut CD she was sitting in a cement house with a tin roof about two days down a dirt road in one of Cameroon’s rainforests.
“The little house had bars on the windows and a bunch of deadbolts along the back door and the crickets are screaming in the background of the track,” she said.
Though the crickets didn’t make it into the final cut, Kinglit’s first album was a chance for her to experiment with sounds in the recording studio and create the kind of “cinematic dark folk” she hopes will connect with listeners.
“I hope that people enjoy it and that people who are listening to it feel a connection to some element of it — whether it’s a song or a lyric or a theme,” she said.
After years of work, the album Dreamer’s Sea is being released April 5 with a CD release concert at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Kinglit said finishing her first album feels “surreal.”
“When it’s real it’s better than what could ever be in your head because it’s actually there.”
The 27-year-old said the album includes songs that were written when she was living in Cameroon as a researcher in 2011 and more recent pieces written while living in Whitehorse where she moved in 2013 to follow her family.
“In terms of the overall album, they’re all songs about a journey, whether it’s an internal journey or a physical outward journey so I feel like that ties it together.”
The majority of the album was recorded in Whitehorse, with the help of Jordy Walker who is its producer and the recording engineer.
Klingit said she’d been struggling to try and do all the work putting the album together herself but “failed, utterly failed” before the two started working together in 2016.
“It was a very long year before that of my trying to do it on my own but ultimately recognizing that it’s more fun to do it with people,” she said.
“Every person that we brought into the creative process has brought in things that I would never had thought of on my own or been able to manifest.”
Early on, Kinglit said she tried to create all the sounds on the album using only acoustic instruments. In some cases that meant taking a contact microphone stuck to a guitar and using that to create a percussive sound. Or striking a mandolin with a hammer to create another instrument altogether.
Though she would eventually decide to ease up on that rule, many of the sounds stuck around. The mandolin trick is a part of the song “God River Waltz.”
“We also invited musicians from Whitehorse to come into the studio and play and then also had a couple of musicians from Montreal and Toronto go into studios there or record at home and send us tracks,” she said.
“We didn’t give them a part to play. We said, ‘here’s the song, what do you hear?’ and then we would receive something back and work with it in the studio.”
Kinglit said some of the songs she will perform at this week’s show will be done as they appear on the album and others will be different arrangements.
“With all of the songs I recorded, I perform versions that are sometimes the same and sometimes completely different,” she said.
“It’s partially because it’s just more fun that way and partially because what we did in the studio is very unique to the tools, and instruments and time that we had around us.”
Even before she had a full length album to her credit, Kinglit has had success as one of the up-and-coming artists to watch.
She placed second in the 2015 Emerging Artist Music Mentorship Program, a nationwide competition with a field of over 300 entries from Canadian musicians.
She also performed at the Canada Walk of Fame inductee ceremony and artist showcase that year.
She has received mentorship from Canada’s Music Incubator.
But Klingit doesn’t appear fazed by any pressure that might be coming with her early success.
“I haven’t thought of it in those terms before, but I’ve had a lot of encouragement up until this point and I hadn’t even put out what at this point is my favourite/best piece of work. Also my kind of only work,” she said.
“So I’m excited because I finally get to share something that I’m very pleased with and proud of.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at email@example.com