Finding levity in music

Finding levity in the spiritual malaise of the past week has been an onerous task. “I was just at the Twin Towers this summer on Canada Day,” says singer Sarah Harmer about the events that unfolded in New York City not three hours before our conversation. “I think a lot of people’s hearts are being pulled right now.”

While the art forms we so often turn to for release may sound trite and feeble in light of those events, the reassuring warmth displayed on Sarah Harmer’s albums You Were Here and Songs for Clem has taken on new importance for many. “I guess music can still apply at times like this as a salve for pain,” says Harmer.

Since the release of You Were Here, a year and a half ago, Harmer has toured the United States on several occasions, including stints supporting the Cowboy Junkies and the Barenaked Ladies. In addition, she has played numerous solo shows and her song “Basement Apartment” has helped make her a household name across North America.

While Harmer enjoys playing for new audiences, touring has put plans for a follow-up album on the back burner. “I don’t mind playing the songs. It’s always new, but in a way they do seem like the past to me,” concedes Harmer. “It’s hard to be always pushing the one thing and not pushing the doors open on this new stuff, but I think I’ll just keep holding the lid on tightly until I have time to investigate the contents.”

In the meantime, anyone interested in hearing where Harmer is musically these days would do well to check out her song “1st Lady” on the two-disc Gas CD compilation, which brings together the talents of musicians and activists to raise funds for those who demonstrated at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Harmer’s contribution sees her playing all of the instruments, save for a little mandolin courtesy of Luke Doucet.

Her presence on the Gas CD may make people think of Harmer in terms of her politics rather than her music. “I don’t think of it too much like that. I just do what I am able to do,” says Harmer. “In the case of the Gas CD, you know, Chris [Brown, project organizer] is a real good friend of mine and someone I really respect. I was keen even just on a musical note. It just seemed instinctually to make sense.

“I have been trying to evolve more as a person who can walk my talk, you know, and expand my brain while balancing the real personal as well as mixing in ideas of fun,” Harmer adds.

“It’s so hard to know how to react when tragedy strikes,” says Harmer. “It’s hard to keep from grinning or something because it’s so surreal. I’m just glad I live here.”

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