New album an awakening for Mother Mother singer

IN CONCERT

What: Mother Mother with Said the Whale
Where: Royal Theatre,805 Broughton St.
When: Monday Jan. 28 and Tuesday Jan. 29, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $57-$68.25 from rmts.bc.ca, by phone at 250-386-6121, or in person at the Royal McPherson box office
Note: Mother Mother also performs Friday in Courtenay at the Sid Williams Theatre, Saturday in Campbell River at the Tidemark Theatre and Jan. 30 in Nanaimo at the Port Theatre

Ryan Guldemond’s journey as a songwriter has been topsy-turvy to say the least. In recent years, the frontman for rockers Mother Mother has adopted a kitchen-sink approach to his craft, toying with songwriting sojourns in faraway locales in order to put his emotions into writing.

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Guldemond’s latest re-invention arrived Nov. 2 by way of Dance and Cry, the Vancouver band’s seventh record and first outing following the tumultuous process that was Mother Mother’s 2017 album, No Culture.

“I had the opposite experience writing Dance and Cry, in every respect. It was a joyful experience, whereas the previous album wasn’t — I was lacking confidence,” Guldemond said during a recent interview from a tour stop in Santa Ana, California.

“This time, I set a mandate that I wasn’t going to pursue an idea unless it had emotional potency. And if it didn’t serve my soul, I would abandon it. I trusted the songs I would encounter were going to hit me right in the chest.”

No Culture was an intensely personal effort that saw the singer-guitarist searching for inspiration on Quadra Island, at the property where Guldemond and his sister, Mother Mother singer-keyboardist Molly, were born and raised.

What emerged during those sessions, as Guldemond vowed to free himself from stimulants of any kind, would come together in Dance and Cry. “I think it’s a matter of what you put out is what you get back,” he said. “If you really believe something and set your intention, quite often that is what the universe dishes out for you.”

I Must Cry Out Loud, So Down, Back to Life, Bottom is a Rock — based on song titles alone, it’s evident Guldemond grappled with things on Dance and Cry.

His lyrics tell an even deeper story. As he nears 40, Guldemond is doing everything in his power to make amends. “I did one million stupid things, I said one billion foolish things,” he sings on the new song It’s Alright. “I’m not a monster, I’m a human. And I’ve made a few mistakes.”

Guldemond often turns a mirror on himself when he’s writing songs, and has learned to trust the cues. He travelled to Costa Rica to find inspiration for Dance and Cry, and wound up with plenty of material.

“Instead of going so far inward, I really relied on external elements to guide the process. Cityscape noises, bird songs, conversations with people — I would record these on my phone and take them to the studio, and build the music around them. Songs would give birth to themselves.

“It was akin to the early days, because things were pouring out. But it was different in that what was pouring out was more anecdotal and less allegorical — more honest, more vulnerable, less hidden by clever knots of wordplay and irony. Maybe that’s just a byproduct of getting a little older and discovering the stuff that matters is the stuff that feels true.”

The band, which also includes singer-keyboardist Jasmin Parkin, drummer Ali Siadat and bassist Mike Young, began its two-month tour in support of Dance and Cry in Phoenix, Arizona, on Jan. 12.

Mother Mother performs shows Friday in Courtenay at the Sid Williams Theatre and Saturday in Campbell River at the Tidemark Theatre before stopping at the Royal Theatre on Monday and Tuesday. The band also performs Jan. 30 in Nanaimo at the Port Theatre as part of its small-room run, the polar opposite to the arena tour that brought the group to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in 2017.

Guldemond, who has been touring with Mother Mother since 2005, finds moments of joy in both settings.

“In whatever room you’re in, you want to spill your gut. If it’s an arena, maybe that comes out in a different way than from a concert hall.”

He has spent the better part of two years getting unhealthy habits in check. The road can be a difficult place in which to make your living, especially with the emotional exhumation that occurs each night for the singer.

“You’ve got to get to the root of things. Bad habits often form by virtue of insecurity. A byproduct of that is egocentricity, which really takes you far away from yourself. It’s a process of getting the ego in check or out of the way so you can face your insecurities, resolve them as a means to go deeper, and become more authentic. That helps everything, whether it’s songwriting or relationships or the conversation you have with the teller at the grocery store.”

Having crossed a new bridge emotionally, he’s realizing things he did by muscle-memory for years feel new again. Self-analysis has brought his better side to the fore.

“Whenever one has a paradigm shift, or an awakening, or a re-emergence, the world all of a sudden is viewed in different colours. Things feel different, old songs have new meanings, relationships are reinvigorated. Certainly, I’m in that space subsequent to a growth spurt. I get to look at things through a new and clearer lens, for better or worse.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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