It’s been a while since we last heard from Sarah Harmer, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been staying busy. Between her 2006 release, I’m A Mountain, and her 2010 release, Oh Little Fire, the Canadian singer/songwriter and activist has taken a leading role in a land preservation cause in her home country. Though that project is still ongoing, Harmer has hit the road to tour in support of Oh Little Fire, and she will perform at Workplay on Wednesday, October 13. Recently, we spoke to Harmer by phone from her tour stop in Denver.BW: Sarah, thanks for your time today. We are really enjoying Oh Little Fire. Did the material for the album come to you in a short, creative burst or had the songs been lying around for some time in various stages of completion?
SH: A little of both. “One Match” and “New Loneliness” were songs I wrote in one quick sitting and then “Careless” and “The Thief” and a few others took a long time. I had the melodies firmly entrenched in my mind, but the lyrics took a long time to find their way into the melodies.
BW: Do songs continue to evolve and change even after you bring them into a recording studio?
SH: Things definitely come up that I don’t expect. The song “New Loneliness” got into more spooky territory when we recorded it. I had a slightly different idea of how it would sound. By nature of experimenting in the studio with different keyboards and electric guitars, it does reveal itself sometimes in unexpected ways.
BW: With a flood of music available to the public now via iTunes, Youtube, satellite radio and other outlets, how do you find new music and discover other artists?
SH: I think sometimes when there’s a glut of things it’s hard to know where the value is. It’s always best when I find music through word-of-mouth and through tastemakers. In Canada, the CBC – our national radio – has a lot of programs. There’s a great show called The Drive and they play really obscure but high-quality stuff. So it’s really helpful when you can have a place that helps you whittle down from the massive amount of music. I think that’s still really important. It’s tough with the loss of record stores because that was always such a good place to go and have some help toward what music you might be drawn to.
BW: If you will, talk about your activities away from music, especially in the time between your last two album releases.
SH: When I came off the road after I’m A Mountain, I thought I was going to take six months off and start working on another record. But I have really been working on a campaign to protect this land where I grew up in Ontario in the middle of a biosphere reserve. It’s an ecologically-important and internationally-recognized area, but it’s under threat from a transnational company to blast a massive, open-pit mine in the top of the watershed. That has been compelling and we are heading into a hearing in October, so I still have one foot in that and it means a lot to me.Sarah Harmer will perform with Clare Burson at Workplay on Wednesday, October 13. Tickets to the 8 p.m. all-ages show are $15 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com or by calling (205) 380-4082.