The Toronto singer-songwriter performs at the Go North Music Festival on Saturday

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It’s fair to say that the pandemic has left its mark on the ups in the downs.

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Toronto singer-songwriter Charlotte Cornfield began recording her fourth album during a residency at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity, which began March 1, 2020, but ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19. She would eventually complete Highs in the Minuses after returning to Montreal, her home at the time.

Leaving the mountains for a sea of ​​concrete would invariably leave a mark on the record. But not a scratch, insists Cornfield.

“It’s kind of a scrappy record, sounding live,” she said in an interview with Toronto’s Sault Star. “I’m really happy to have followed this path. But certainly, I think things would have turned out differently if there hadn’t been a pandemic.

Cornfield may have traveled to the other side of the country to work hard, but the echoes of Banff remained.

The album was recorded at Hotel2Tango, a 24-track analog recording studio in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood run by musician, sound engineer and record producer Howard Bilerman, a Banff Center “mentor”.

“I felt like I came full circle a bit,” Cornfield said.

Highs in the Minuses was released last October and features drummer Liam O’Neill of Suuns and Amy Millan of Broken Social Scene and Stars.

“(O’Neill) is just an explosive, metronomic, incredibly musical drummer, and I knew he had this whole sonic palette that would be amazing to access,” Cornfield said. “I was just kind of blessed to have him there.”

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That’s high praise from Cornfield, equally comfortable sitting behind the skins. Indeed, she studied jazz drums at Concordia University and played many instruments, including drums, on her debut album, Two Horses.

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“I don’t quite understand ‘micromanaging’ things that way,” Cornfield said. “I try to choose people who I know will do something cool and then go from there.”

Cornfield’s music has been compared to the work of artists currently considered “cool” – Courtney Barnett and Big Thief – and musicians whose hipness was first celebrated decades ago. The band and Bob Dylan come to mind.

For Cornfield, in his early thirties but familiar with the music of these legendary artists thanks in part to his parents’ record collection, the year an album was pressed isn’t what determines its value; it’s what’s on the vinyl that’s important.

“I’m really drawn to great songs in their raw form,” she said. “I think there’s some really good music being made now that involves a lot of digital manipulation and complicated technical stuff. And that’s really cool, but I feel like there’s this comeback at a time when it was like “Plug in the guitars, plug in the drums, put in some vocal mics and do it.”

“There’s an emotional expression there that I think is hard to capture any other way.”

She points to Big Thief, the Grammy-nominated American indie rock band, as a very current band that also very comfortably emits an “old school sound”.

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“I think it’s timeless,” Cornfield said. “It’s really about their songs and their synergy as a band. I’ve always been drawn to that expression, that mode of expression.

As with many singer-songwriters, the pandemic gave Cornfield valuable time to compose, the products of which she recorded in Montreal. She said she understands that not all of her peers are so lucky and that many creative minds are not so free.

“A lot of people had a different experience and felt creatively blocked, or had lost all their work and were just overwhelmed with stress,” Cornfield said. “I feel very lucky to have been able to call home in Toronto and just have the time and space to work. This mode comes quite naturally to me. So, I said, ‘If nothing else happens, then I’ll just write.’

“So it was quite productive and there was something about having time and space with really nothing else to do that I had never experienced before, because I have so much used to living in cities and feeling the constant hum.

“So this space really provided a very fruitful space to write.”

That’s not to say Cornfield hasn’t missed the camaraderie that often helps fuel songwriting, let alone seeing what his peers are up to via live broadcasts.

“There’s no such thing as face-to-face social gatherings,” she said. “I also really missed being able to walk down the street and see a show, which is one of the great things about living in Toronto.

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“But I also tried to embrace the calm as much as possible and stay in touch with people over the phone and take walks when I felt it was safe to do so.”

Cornfield is excited to play live again. She was able to do so thanks to a few US shows last November, before Omicron, and is now back on the road in that country, which includes a lineup spot at this weekend’s Go North Music Festival on Saint Island. -Joseph. Crown lands and royal castles are among the acts presented.

“It was such a joyful experience,” Cornfield said of performing live again. “It felt so good to be out there and the emotions were running high, and it felt like everyone was in the same boat, feeling really grateful to be at the shows again.

“I’ve been really lucky to have been able to play a band since (the US shows) and then have a lot of things to come.”

Cornfield said she believes a “new appreciation” for live music is blossoming.

“We’ve all been through what it’s like to live without her. So whoever shows up really, really wants to be there. It was so nice to play with that energy.

Cornfield said that “surprisingly” she didn’t suffer any rust or loss of confidence due to her downtime.

“It felt like it came back naturally,” she said. “I love being on the road but I’m not the kind of artist who does 100 dates a year. I love doing a steady stream of shows, but I also love being at home in my community. And I really like being in the studio too, and I also really like writing and having my time each day that I go to work on the writing.

“So I’m definitely not as much of a road warrior as a lot of other musicians. But that’s okay.”

The trip to Northern Ontario is a welcome concert.

“I’m really excited,” Cornfield said, adding that she hadn’t been to this part of the province since she was a kid.

“Everyone says, ‘This is so beautiful. “”

[email protected]

On Twitter: @JeffreyOugler

If you are going to

What: Go North Music Festival;

Where: Saint-Joseph Island;

When: Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening;

Tickets and additional information: https://www.gonorthmusicfestival.ca/

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