Christa Couture’s new, Steve Dawson–produced Long Time Leaving could best be described as bouncy, which might come as a surprise to those aware of the former Vancouverite’s unflinching ability to confront personal tragedy. The kickoff track, “The Slaughter”, adds Beatle-esque touches to an indie-rock template, while “If I Still Love You” is the kind of California-dreaming pop that would have seemed quite out of place on efforts like 2008’s The Wedding Singer and the Undertaker or 2012’s The Living Record.
Those albums packed a hard-won emotional punch thanks to Couture’s ability to mourn and transcend heartbreak—including the loss of her two children in infancy, and the cancer that claimed her left leg when she was just 13. On first hearing, Long Time Leaving seems lightweight in comparison.
The darkness is still there, however. It’s just taken a more familiar form.
“I thought I was making maybe kind of a fun record, and I had a lot of fun making it,” Couture notes, on the line from her Toronto home. “I wanted to make—and did make, I think—an upbeat album. I wanted to make something that, like, wouldn’t make people cry, and that wouldn’t make me cry. But there’s still that tone of what’s going on in the background.”
And what was going on in the background, she reveals, was the end of her marriage. But, hey, we’ve all been there, no?
Couture laughs. “You know, when I was first recording it, the working title was A Normal Heartache,” she says. “Compared to the losses I was writing about on the last couple of albums, all that seemed pretty normal. Like, this is something everyone goes through, but not everyone has gone through some of the other things I’ve been talking about.”
What hasn’t changed for the Edmonton-born Couture is her determination to meet her troubles head-on, and share them with a similarly blunt determination. Her joys, too, are fodder for songs. Long Time Leaving finds Couture embracing, post-divorce, a more fluid definition of sexuality—although that, too, isn’t without its rough patches.
“I feel like the worst queer, because I’m constantly crushing on straight girls and gay boys,” she says with another laugh. “But I’m glad you noticed that. Yeah, there’s a she and a he that I’m lusting after in ‘The Slaughter’, and in ‘That Little Part of My Heart’ I play with pronouns and genders as well. Coming out of my last relationship, which was monogamous and hetero, I was going ‘Okay, how do I identify, and what am I pursuing, and what am I interested in? What’s going on with the rest of me right now?’
“I like the identity of gender fluidity,” she continues. “I mean, I identify as a cis female, but I have trans friends and gender-queer friends, and so I support that exploration, and support not having to be one or the other. And I like being able to use that, too—just being part of that provocation and part of that exploration.”
There are things, however, that Couture will not reveal in song—although it’s hard to imagine what they might be.
“I think sometimes people interpret me as a totally open book,” she contends. “But I’m not. I’m very deliberate, when it comes to the albums, about which songs I’m choosing to put on there and which songs I choose to leave out and what stories I’m going to tell. And as much as they’re all true stories—I can’t seem to make shit up—they’re edited. I am still creating a piece and stitching things together. So I feel very open—and I am open about most things—but that doesn’t mean that I’m without secrets.”