Julie Doiron Day is June 7. Sure, the town that celebrates such festivities has less than 500 people in total population (Bruno, Saskatchewan), but Doiron’s popularity and standing extends far and wide in her native Canada. It’s when you get south of the border that she’s just now making her mark after years in the business. The last few years have been good for Doiron, she explains, and it’s just a matter of maintaing a work ethic — even when you feel like giving up completely.
Jagjaguwar is her Stateside label home, and her 2009 release I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day was a stunning lo-fi pop masterwork. Perhaps her best yet, Doiron strongly proclaimed that her best work was still to come and that her time of wondering how a tour would turn out are over. Since then, Doiron says her popularity has been shockingly consistent, and it’s something she’s quite grateful for.
Here in this SSv interview, Doiron tells us about her latest collaboration with longtime friends and musicians Dan Romano and Fred Squire as well as her insanely busy year. It’s a wonder she ever thought of laying it all down even just a few years ago. But that’s how it is in today’s musical climate.
SSv: Since it’s still fresh, how tuned into the Olympics were you?
Julie Doiron: Well, I watched a little bit. I watched the other Canada vs. U.S.A. game at one point — the one Canada lost. I watched that. But the rest, not so much. The rest I was hanging out with friends most of the time. [Laughs]
SSv: It’s been a year since I Can Wonder was released. Did you find the album to be what you hoped it would be? The response to be what you hoped?
Julie: Yeah, I’m really happy with that record. I think it turned out exactly like I want. I was really pleased with the response to the record. None of my records have ever done incredibly well in terms of a commercial sense, but I thought the response of good. Everyone who I knew that had it really seemed to like it. And my last two records have done better than anything I’ve ever put out except for maybe Love Tara by Eric’s Trip. That’s still the best response wise.
But when I recorded that record, I wanted it to be similar to what I was doing in my life at the time. We managed to achieve that, so yeah, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.
SSv: You said the the last couple albums have been the best. Why do you think that is at this stage in your career that you’ve been more successful?
Julie: I think it’s timing or something. For a long time, like the late-’90s to mid-’00s, I was kind of touring a lot all the time. I wasn’t selling that many records and there weren’t that many people at the shows. All of a sudden in the last two years, maybe since 2006, more and more people started coming to the shows and buying records. I’m forever shocked that it’s going so well right now. It’s kind of consistent now, whereas before I would do a tour and it would be amazing. Then I would do another tour and nobody would be there. Then I’d do a tour that would be pretty cool. Then another amazing one. But now it’s pretty consistent each time and I’m feeling pretty good about that.
I think that it has to do with the timing lately. More people know about it. I think it all came together, too, when Eric’s Trip started doing shows again. Eric’s Trip fans would come out and say, ‘I didn’t know you’ve been doing music all this time.’ They started coming to my shows. I think it just takes time sometime for things to work, especially in my case. [Laughs]
SSv: Are there points when you thought about putting it all away?
Julie: There were many times, I’d say about five years ago, where I was pretty much about to quit everything. I just wanted to stay home. I wanted to be with my kids. I didn’t want to be on the road. I just wanted to have a normal life and a normal family. It was so exhausting from trying and not knowing what to do differently. So yeah, I definitely went through a phase for a while when I thought of quitting.
But then I continued to write songs and I couldn’t seem to stop. Then I’d write a song every day in my mind anyways, and then I’d have an album’s worth of songs. Then you think, ‘Well, maybe I should record them.’ I tried to get jobs at one point and nobody would hire me. I was a touring musician, so nobody believed that I really wanted to quit. Therefore, no one would hire me. So I just kept touring. [Laughs] But I’m glad it worked out. I’m glad I didn’t quit.
SSv: Was that after Goodnight Nobody?
Julie: Yeah, it would have been between Goodnight Nobody and Woke Myself Up.
SSv: There is a span there between releases, so that explains a part of that time?
Julie: Yeah, I think Goodnight Nobody came out in 2004 and I had recorded it in 2003. Woke Myself Up didn’t come out until 2007, however, I recorded Woke Myself Up in September, 2005. It was just some complications with the label and the mix of the record, so they ended up pushing back the date for a long time. It may seem like some conscious decision to push back the date and wait a bit, but it was really logistics. But yeah, two years went by between Goodnight Nobody to Woke Myself Up and it was in that time that I wondered about quitting for sure.
“Dark Horse,” for example, was a song that I’d written that talks about just stopping altogether. That came out Woke Myself Up. But I’m glad I didn’t quit. Things are going really well. I have no issues with music as my career at this point.
SSv: The new collaboration with Daniel and Fred. Those are people you’ve obviously worked with before, but out of all the possible collaborations you could do and all the directions you could go, what made this trio the right one?
Julie: Sometimes things just happen spontaneously. Same thing with the Mt. Eerie collaboration [Lost Wisdom]. That was very spontaneous. The Daniel, Fred and Julie record, that was something Dan and I had been discussing over the summer. Dan took it upon himself to just make it happen. He took a train up to Sackville [New Brunswick] and worked on writing the songs the whole way. When he got to Sackville, he and Fred went in the garage and made arrangements. Fred Squire reworked some of the songs.
I had my kids with me at the house, so I was basically hanging out with my kids. So when they started recording, then they got me to sing on them. It was just a very spontaneous thing where I wasn’t really involved with the planning. I just happened to be there and it worked out great. Dan and Fred are really good friends of mine, so it was just a natural thing to do. I think the three of us together make it really special, so it works for the three of us.
SSv: How much are you able to support it?
Julie: I’m open to doing whatever for it. I notice that we have a two week tour coming up, so I guess we just try that for now. I’m going to be pretty busy this year and this will be my only window for that project. But I’d be willing to do it anytime when I have an availability. But I will be pretty busy. Gordon Downie [The Tragically Hip] just made a new solo record and it’s coming out in May. I’ll be playing guitar in that band all summer and fall, so I will be busy. But at least we have this two week tour.
SSv: What else keeps you so busy this year?
Julie: We leave for Japan in a couple days. Basically, I left my house January 7 and I did a month-long tour supporting this band called The Bowerbirds from North Carolina. There were three days in there that we picked to go from Winnipeg to Vancouver for Attack in Black. I drove the car back to Toronto from Atlanta and flew to Vancouver the next day and I’ve been here for almost two weeks now doing stuff for the Olympics. Now I leave to go to Japan for two weeks with Mt. Eerie.
Then I’m going to play in China for a week. Then I’ll be home finally for two weeks and I do the Daniel, Fred and Julie tour. Then I’ll start working with Gordon for his record. I haven’t seen that schedule yet and I’m sure there will be some breaks. But then I’ll be doing a tour back in the States in November or so.
But I want to do some recording during all this time for myself. I’m not sure when that can happen, but I have eight new songs already and I’m supposed to do a single, too, with this label, Flemish Eye. They’re out of Calgary. They’re doing a new singles project and mine is coming out in May. So I have to do that soon. I’m not sure how. [Laughs]
SSv: When you’re able to keep writing and even pushing through that arduous time, what do you learn about keeping the creative well flowing?
Julie: It definitely comes and goes in waves. You go through a dry spell where you don’t even know what you want to say. Then other times, it comes in spurts. Sometimes I have to hang tight and wait for it to come. Other times, I force myself to do it. I don’t know if I have actually learned anything about how to keep it flowing. I think it’s just life continuing to bring the proper inspiration I guess. So I’m just inspired by the things happening in my life and the people around me. I don’t know the secret. I just keep doing it. And I feel pretty lucky that I’m able to keep doing it.
*Photo by Aaron McKenzie Fraser