Canadian Country music has succumbed to the same ebbs and flows of trends as Nashville before it, seeing its chart toppers become what today is known as Pop Country. However, there is a Saskatchewan Country artist who stands to buck the current trend.
Corinne Newton, who calls Central Butte - a remote farming community of less than four-hundred residents in the South Central region - home, released her latest EP in March. Entitled "Real Life Reality", the five track release comes with an earthy acoustic guitar lead sound and a rich-yet-slightly muddy bass backbone that is reminiscent of Country from the '90s, pre-the Pop Country trend that creeped in to Nashville as the '90s gave way to the 2000s.
The connotations of a pre-2000s era do not end with the welcomed folksier sound, as the eponymous track and lead single from the EP, Real Life Reality, deals with themes of disconnecting from social media; a subject matter that feels ever prescient in our current day and age. Readers will, undoubtedly, be familiar with how this topic is normally handled - with a kind of doomsayer tone - yet that's far from the case here; the titular single is upbeat, both musically and lyrically, and has a catchy rhythm that you could easily find yourself toe-tapping along to.
To find out more about Corinne and Real Life Reality, I caught up with the Central Butte singer/songwriter by e-mail:
Cover art for Real Life Reality
MARK: Corinne, thanks for joining us. First of all, your new single Real Life Reality deals with something very present to all of us at the moment, which is disconnecting from the disinformation found on social media. What was the driving force for you to write about this? And what message do you want listeners to take away from that?
CORINNE: As relevant as this song is right now, I actually wrote it a couple years ago, before the pandemic. Just as I say in the song “scrolling through my Facebook feed, can’t believe half the things I read” that’s exactly what I was doing. And it’s not getting any better...probably worse, if anything, and people are becoming more divided. No matter what your view is on anything, you can find information on the internet to back it up. There’s a lot that is wrong with that and it brings out a lot of negativity, which is so unhealthy. The easiest way to get away from it is to set your device down and look up at what’s in front of you. It’s a beautiful province we live in...and it’s all real.
M: I've asked musicians from the big urban centres, such as Saskatoon and Regina, recently what it's been like to record and release music during our new age of pandemic-induced health restrictions, but I haven't yet got the rural and remote viewpoint on this. What was it like as a musician from somewhere as small and as rural as Central Butte to record, release and promote this new EP during this time?
C: The pandemic is actually a big reason why this EP got recorded. With no hockey to run the kids to or other extra-curricular activities, the time was there. I actually hadn’t planned on doing any recording, but Michael Beaudry had just built a recording studio (Sonar Records) this winter - just down the road in Tugaske - and I had the time and the songs, so it just worked out. As far as releasing the music, social media is such a great platform. Which is ironic that the song Real Life Reality is all about leaving social media behind. Like anything though, I guess there’s a place for it. The key is not allowing it to consume you. The biggest challenge for me being out on the farm is the lack of good internet. We max our month out in a week, if we make it that long. When I did the video for the single Real Life Reality, I had to make sure it was while we had good internet to upload it otherwise it takes hours. And live videos are hard because you just don’t know if the internet will handle it. So I’d say that’s definitely the biggest challenge for me.
M: We very seldom get to cover musicians and bands from communities smaller than a thousand residents, so I'd love to ask you what it's like not just releasing music but promoting it out from such a small centre?
C: I’ve always been in a small town, so it’s just the way it is for me. You learn to get really good at DIY – the fact that I was raised on a farm and we currently farm is a huge benefit in that aspect (farmers are really good at DIY!). I was pretty fortunate for this EP in that Mike (Beaudry) has a beautiful studio set up in Tugaske now (only 20 minutes away) and he is such a great musician that he did the drums/bass/electric guitar. Another neighbour, Glenna Switzer, is a remarkable piano/keyboard player, so she also added her talents to the album. And being from a small town, the support that the community gives is amazing. It definitely doesn’t have to be a disadvantage to be in a small center. You just have to see that the glass is half full. And, as far as promoting, I guess the pandemic has maybe levelled the playing field a bit; so whether you’re 2-hours away from the city or right in the center, everyone is working from home. I just don’t have to make that 2-hour drive.
Thanks, Corinne, for taking the time to chat with me.
Real Life Reality is out now and available to stream on all major platforms. Signed physical CD versions are available for purchase at Saskatoon's Collector's Edge Comics and Games.