“A great drag queen once told me that if you can’t hide it, accessorize it,” says Christa Couture with a warm laugh.
Wise words, indeed, and ones the Vancouver-based singer-songwriter (originally from Edmonton) appears to have taken to heart with her newly adorned prosthetic leg. Couture, whose left leg was amputated above the knee during her teen years after a battle with cancer, never really hid the fact that she was an amputee, but it wasn’t something she put on display either. Earlier in her career, she didn’t want to be known as “the girl with one leg,” but a friend helped shift her perspective and embrace it. In fact, she now calls her made-over prosthesis her “new favourite
“People used to just ask me, oh, what happened? Are you hurt? Why are you limping? And people were uncomfortable. Now people come up just to tell me it’s beautiful,” says Couture, whose prosthesis is wrapped in a vibrant floral-printed fabric. “They want to know how it got made; they want to take a picture because their cousin’s an amputee. Every day I have some sort of interaction around it that is only positive, and I didn’t expect that. … Now I’m really comfortable with it, but in my twenties I really struggled. It took me a long time to be OK in this body, in my one-legged body, and to be able to switch it and celebrate it.”
The ability to put a positive spin on a difficult situation has become something of a hallmark for Couture, whose life has seen no shortage of heartache and loss—all of which has been channelled into her music. Her first album, Fell Out of Oz, reflected on her struggle with cancer, while its successors—The Wedding Singer and the Undertaker (2008) and The Living Record (2012)—grappled with the loss of her two young children. Her new album, Long Time Leaving, deals another loss in her life, and it’s a type that’s well-travelled territory in music.
“The breakup album is sort of a songwriter cliché,” acknowledges Couture, who went through a separation and eventual divorce following The Living Record. “I didn’t want it to be cliché, and I didn’t want it to be sad … God knows I love the sad breakup albums, where you just light a candle and sit in your living room and listen to that album. But I didn’t want to make that: I wanted to make something that was upbeat and uptempo and that I would have fun making, and that would be fun to listen to.”
To that end, Long Time Leaving (which was produced with the help of Steve Dawson), is more about resilience and endurance than it is about dwelling on heartbreak and sorrow. Couture points out that the theme of loss hasn’t left her work by any means, but a breakup reflects a different kind of loss—albeit still a difficult one—than what she’s experienced in the past. But despite it being born from the end of a relationship, Long Time Leaving certainly fulfils Couture’s goal of making a breakup record that defies the usual tropes: multifaceted melodies ranging from some Nashville-inspired twang to pop-tinged beats provide the backdrop for clever lyrics and creative storytelling, such as the musical-theatre inspired track “Zookeeper,” which compares a couple receiving counselling to caged animals ready to pounce on one another.
“I wanted to make something that would be a bit of a reprieve for me and that would just be fun to make,” Couture notes. “It’s not going to make me cry, it’s not going to make the audience cry, and I hadn’t really done that before. So as far as doing something different, it was at least going to be different for me.”