Tamara Lindeman’s pensive, silvery songwriting as the Weather Station descends upon the listener like a cloud of light. Somewhere in the featherweight folk of her new third album, Loyalty, is a living, breathing human, but her wise, nimble voice tends to manifest like a spirit, all heady haze and unknowable emotion. On Loyalty, she continues to transfer the early-learned rhythms of her banjo-playing days into odd unassuming patterns finger-picked on acoustic guitar. She recorded the entire thing in a week at the abandoned Paris mansion La Frette, collaborating only with Afie Jurvane and producer Robbie Lackritz. Each of the husky, tender songs on Loyalty works like Mother Of Pearl; glimmering, cherished stories fortified by their calloused shells. The resulting vignettes are intimate and charming, but if they as much as teeter toward twee, her candid, ghostly voice drives them eternally back, toward their mystic dimensions.
Lindeman has fiddled with the idea of herself as a full-blown musician for just over a decade, but on Loyalty she’s fallen in her groove. Prior to the release of her new album via the storied North Carolina country-folk label Paradise Of Bachelors, I spoke to Lindeman about her shifting place within the music industry. She may be a veteran, but this album is something of a game-changer for the Weather Station, putting the project on the map in a completely new way. During the course of our conversation we talked about her backstory, the struggles that artists face during the act of creation, and the time she was on a Canadian TV show with Drake. Read our conversation below.
STEREOGUM: I originally came to your music through this collaboration you did with Will Stratton, which ended up being my favorite song on that record. And even though Loyalty is your third album, it will serve as an entry point for a lot of people, so I wanted to get your backstory. When did you first start making music, and especially, when did you start to focus on guitar?
LINDEMAN: It’s a bit of a long, backwards story. I started making music around 20. I actually started with recording software and recording music on my computer, even though I wasn’t really playing any instruments yet.
STEREOGUM: I read somewhere that you borrowed the software from your roommate who made hip-hop.
LINDEMAN: Yeah and she’s still doing it. She’s called Tasha The Amazon. I haven’t seen her in a long time, so we’ve kind of fallen out of touch, but we still have mutual friends. So it was kind of a backwards beginning. I learned banjo when I was 19 and that was my first stringed instrument, but I later transferred to guitar, which was obviously more convenient. I didn’t really start writing songs on guitar until about 23, 24. I approached the guitar like a banjo, and that’s why I wound up writing these songs in different ways. I’m just more comfortable with finger-picking. Eventually, there was this sort of a change: I had a band and we played around town. I was making this music on my computer and I put out a record like that. Then, for all the various reasons that band ended — people moved away, stuff changed — and I went through this moment where I had to just focus on being able to play alone. I just focused on the songs. My friend Danny Romano was a big part of that process.
STEREOGUM: Loyalty is your first album for the Paradise Of Bachelors label, which feels like an enormous co-sign to me. That was what prompted me to really delve into your music. Tell me how you got connected with those guys.
LINDEMAN: In a really lovely way! I’m not sure how they first got my music, but someone gave one of them a record two or three years ago. I also came down and played a show in North Carolina that year and Brendan [Greaves], one of the two guys who runs it, came out to that show. So that year they heard a record of mine and really liked it, and I remember I had this hourlong conversation with Chris, the other guy who runs it. He was just really curious about who I was and really interested in me — I was just blown away that he would care. They were only starting out at the time, and then somehow, a bunch of time went by and they kept in touch. Every once in a while we would sort of touch base and they’d ask what I was up to. When I finished this record I sent it to them and they wanted to put it out.
STEREOGUM: Do you feel like it’s a breakout album for you? Does it feel different from the other two?
LINDEMAN: Yes, very much so. My last full-length record, although it was mine, was only released in Canada. For me, that one was a huge step forward because it was released on a label, had press, and it was a very different situation than self-releasing a record. So that was really exciting but it was totally within Canada. Lots of people heard it in the States, but it wan’t released there. So Loyalty is a totally different ballgame, especially in terms of it being released in Europe, internationally and in the U.S. It does feel like a fresh start. A lot of people thought my last record [All Of It Was Mine] was my first record, and a lot of people will think this is my first record. I’m just going to keep making first records.[laughs]
STEREOGUM: How does it change things for you, knowing that it’s a new level? Do you feel different?
LINDEMAN: It’s hugely different. The biggest thing is having a manager, having a booking agent, having two labels — there’s so many more people involved with what I’m doing. Before, I really did feel like I was a person alone doing something. I was within my community, but I was on my own. Now all these people are involved and it’s a very different feeling. Also, I feel differently about how I want to play live, I feel that it has to be really good. It’s very different on the day-to-day level. The work of being a musician is very different. For the All Of It Was Mine tour, I toured that record with a very tiny guitar that didn’t have a pickup. That was the show [laughs]. Like thank you for coming to my show, I hope you brought your hearing aids because you’re going to need them. I’m not always going to be able to, but I’m trying to do more shows with the band obviously.
STEREOGUM: When I’m listening to the record I hear a strong sense of narrative, especially in regard to the female relationships. I kept returning to that idea and feeling that presence there. Was that something you intentionally focused on in your songwriting?
LINDEMAN: In comparison to many writers, yeah, I feel like I’m intentional. But there’s still sort of a level of mystery as to why things wind up being focused on or creep into the songs. I started writing songs and that topic kept coming up. I thought it was interesting, I feel like it’s something you don’t hear about in songs. Songs tend to be about romantic relationships, but friendships are just as interesting and complicated.
STEREOGUM: You don’t get to hear songs about female friendship that treat it with the same respect and wonder as romantic relationships.
LINDEMAN: I agree. I have this project that I haven’t really kept up called the Duets Project that focused on writing songs with other people. It hasn’t come to fruition yet, but one of the things that I wanted to do with that project was write songs with women. Songs that were like conversations between women, the conversations that women have as friends, as opposed to when they’re in love and it’s a romantic occurrence.
STEREOGUM: One of my favorite songs in the record — well, one of my favorite lines on the record period — is when you say on “Flood Plane”: “I don’t expect your love to be like mine/ I trust you to know your own mind/ Like I know mine.” I wonder if you could talk a little bit about writing that one.
LINDEMAN: I feel compelled to write a song when I have that one little thing that it feels like I could keep unpacking forever, when there are lots of layers to something. That line was one I wrote down in a book. It very rarely happens that I write a line down that I actually manage to write a song around, but I wrote that one down and made a song around it. Because “I don’t expect your love to be like mine” has so many layers. One is just what it is, I don’t expect anything from anyone. But it’s also about when you feel things very powerfully, as I do. It’s pretty confusing when you realize that the world doesn’t feel things as powerfully as you do. For me, that song emerged from a moment of feeling things extremely powerfully and being overwhelmed by emotion. To say: This is how I experience this feeling and I can’t expect anyone else to experience that, or understand, and that’s fine. It’s a nice sort of acceptance of my own overwhelming feelings, and also, a statement of trust.
STEREOGUM: I thought it was so very wise. When I fall in love, I’m overwhelmed in the way that you’re talking about. I do expect them to feel things like me, and it still surprises me when they can’t! I don’t have that initial acceptance you’re talking about here, so the line really stuck with me.
LINDEMAN: I actually had a really crazy experience with this song a few months ago. This woman asked me to play for her husband who was passing away. I used to be in this band Entire Cities that they really loved, and they often went to our shows, so me and the other guy in the band went and played some songs for them. They wanted us to keep on playing, and I wasn’t sure what to play, so I played that song because I think it feels beautiful and uplifting in the way a lot of music isn’t. So I played that song, and the sister of the young man sort of took me aside afterward and said the song meant so much to her in that moment. Which is how I felt too, when I wrote that. You don’t know how someone else is going to feel, but you can accept your own feelings the way they are.
STEREOGUM: What was it like to come to music after acting? I write about folk a lot, but I frequently cover hip-hop too, so in your case I kept thinking of Drake. You’re both from Toronto and you both started out acting — has anyone brought that up?
LINDEMAN: I actually met Drake when he was a teenager.
STEREOGUM: What was that like?
LINDEMAN: We did an episode of a TV show called Soul Food together. It was a black family drama on cable, and I was this young girl who was dating the kid on the show. It was kind of awful actually — it turned out that I was only dating him because he was black.
STEREOGUM: Was Drake the kid?
LINDEMAN: No, Drake was a friend of the kid or something. I can’t remember who he played actually. I just remember he was younger than me and he was just this really awkward teenager. I was like, “Oh that’s the guy on Degrassi!” Then seven years later somebody was like, “That kid from Degrassi is a rapper now.” I was like what? How? How did he do that?
STEREOGUM: That’s what we all want to know.
LINDEMAN: Like, how the fuck did he do that? It’s interesting though. I’ve listened to his music before. I like the beats. Honestly, it’s a crazy thing. Acting is just a really unusual field. I think people don’t really understand what it is, because when they think of acting they think of celebrities who have a lot of power and sort of agency in their lives and careers. You read an article about Cate Blanchett, and she’s truly herself and she’s choosing roles. I was a teenage actor, so I was doing what I was told basically. It’s really interesting work, and it’s rewarding financially, and I’m really grateful that I got to travel a lot. But it wasn’t me. I had no artistic interest in the roles I was a part of and that was something I rebelled against strongly when I became an adult. I can no longer have no part in my life. Acting is trying be someone else, and I really wanted to be myself, and I really wanted to express myself. So when I started making music, I did everything myself. I was very secretive about it. This is my thing, I put it under this name, the Weather Station.
STEREOGUM: Why did you choose that name the Weather Station?
LINDEMAN: The only reason I even chose a name is because I wanted to put my music on MySpace. In the beginning it was fun because I had this whole thing: I pretended in my MySpace bio that I was this person who lived in an abandoned weather station in the arctic [laughs]. At the time it was these weird atmospheric recordings with no vocals on them, so it made sense.
STEREOGUM: What is your favorite song on the record?
LINDEMAN: It depends on the day. I really like “Shy Women.” And I guess I like them all.
STEREOGUM: My overall favorite is probably “Life’s Work.” I like how it has this samba feel to it, and also how it’s like you know your life’s work can be hard and unrecognized and not this epic masterpiece.
LINDEMAN: I feel like that song is about everyone I know. I wanted to talk about all of the ingredients that sort of go into it, and the setbacks. I’m also really fond of that song actually. It was everything I felt about my brilliant friends who are geniuses, or even about myself: The work of trying to create something is in that song.
Stream Lindeman’s wise, tender record Loyalty in full via the New York Times.
The Weather Station North American tour dates:
05/08 Peterborough, ON @ Gordon Best Theatre
05/14 Toronto, ON @ The Great Hall
05/21 Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo
05/22 Wakefield, QC @ Black Sheep Inn
05/23 Thunder Bay, ON @ Crocks
05/25 Winnipeg, MB @ West End Cultural Centre
05/26 Regina, SK @ The Exchange
05/27 Saskatoon, SK @ Broadway Theatre
05/29 Edmonton, AB @ Royal Alberta Museum
05/30 Calgary, AB @ Central United Church
05/31 Cranbrook, BC @ The Key City Theatre
06/01 Nelson, BC @ Civic Theatre
06/03 Victoria, BC @ Alix Goolden Hall
06/04 Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre
06/05 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
06/06 Bellingham, WA @ The Green Frog
06/07 Portland, OR @ Alberta Rose Theatre
06/08 Eugene, OR @ Cozmic
06/10 San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
06/12 Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
06/13 Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
06/14 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
06/16 Austin, TX @ The Parish
06/17 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
06/18 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s
06/19 Birmingham, AL @ Workplay Theater
06/20 Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
06/21 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
06/23 Evanston, IL @ SPACE
06/24 Chicago, IL @ Double Door
07/10-12 Winnipeg, MB @ Winnipeg Folk Festival
07/14 Boston, MA @ Great Scott
07/15 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
07/16 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
07/17 Washington, DC @ DC9
07/18 Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
07/19 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
07/20 Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
07/22 Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
07/24-26 Guelph, ON @ Hillside Festival
07/31-08/02 Happy Valley, OR @ Pickathon
Loyalty is out 5/12 via Paradise Of Bachelors. Pre-order it here.