By: Gillian McClellan
For Canadian trio The Be Good Tanyas, 2012 marks the end of a four year long hiatus – and the start of a new learning curve. The group, formed in Vancouver in 1999, is set to release their newest album, entitled ‘A Collection (2000-2012),’ on July 17. The career retrospective boasts fan-favorites from their first three critically-acclaimed albums alongside two brand new tracks and newly mixed versions of both “Scattered Leaves” and “Song for R.”
From the start, these ladies have been effectively modernizing traditional folk music – reaching across genre lines to embrace enough country and bluegrass influences to satisfy a wide range of tastes. Their voices are raw and pure, and their instrumentation is undeniably captivating and beautiful. For those who are new to The Be Good Tanyas, as I admittedly am, this album will leave you with a dire thirst for more of their delicious harmonies and soulful lyrics. And fear not, long-time fans, for you too will surely rejoice at the sound of “Little Black Bear” and “Gospel Song.” ‘A Collection’ is a masterfully woven tribute to an exceedingly talented trio, with a satisfying taste of what’s to come. CMP recently spoke with group member Frazey Ford regarding the new album, her budding solo career and the future of the group.
ATF: How did you go about choosing tracks for “A Collection”?
FF: We set up lists, but it really just kind of popped up. It was pretty clear which ones people have been the most drawn to. The record label, everyone was just in line. We all were thinking the same thing in terms of the most popular songs.
ATF: Y’all are performing at a couple big festivals coming up, anywhere you’re particularly excited about playing?
FF: We’re playing in San Francisco in August at a big festival with Neil Young, Stevie Wonder and just a really great line-up. We’re all really excited about that.
ATF: Are there any differences between playing back in Canada and here in the States?
FF: Canada is somewhere between English culture and American culture, they’re a little more reserved but they still very much love music. In the states audiences are always the most, sort of, expressive of anywhere we play.
ATF: Now, you released your first solo album, “Obadiah,” last year, are you still touring on your own as well as with the Tanyas?
FF: I’ve taken a little break this summer and spring, partly because I’m working on a new solo album so I’m mostly doing the States with the Tanyas this summer and fall. But there’s a crossover, it’s almost not that separated because I play that material with the Tanyas, and part of the band is also in my solo band, so it’s almost more like a branching off.
ATF: You’ve all been in the business as a group for twelve years now, how has the whole process of songwriting, recording and performing changed for you in that time?
FF: It’s calmed down a lot, in the beginning it was all very overwhelming and exciting and scary, and now we’re more mature. I’m not as tortured of a soul [laughs] – or at least I can manage it better. We’re not surprised by the chaos and the fun. We have more appreciation for what it is.
ATF: I have to ask…The Be Good Tanyas are so uniquely named, how did that come about?
FF: It’s from a song that was written by a young, kind of brilliant song writer named Obo Martin. The song is basically about a gypsy character that didn’t want to go to school and didn’t want to do anything but play music. Despite what her parents wanted and society wanted she went on and played music, and I think we all went through that.
ATF: So you knew from a young age that you wanted to be musician?
FF: I think we’re all committed to this art for the rest of our lives. I didn’t ever think of myself as someone that would have it as my main career, I always thought I’d be doing other things to support it. We didn’t really know you could make a living at it. It still surprises us sometimes, we did it for the love of it, and we still do it for the love of it. Having that love of it first without having the expectation that it would do something for us, it still gives us a lot of freedom to do it because we love it.
ATF: What’s next for The Be Good Tanyas?
FF: We’re talking about doing a single in the next few weeks. I’m still focusing on writing for another solo album, but I imagine that there will be some new Be Good Tanyas coming. We’re taking our time – we took a big break and now we’re re-settling in and learning new stuff. Our thing has always been about a natural flow, we don’t really plan much and things just sort of happen by themselves.
…and it’s obviously working for them. You can pick up a copy “A Collection (2000-2012)” on July 17th, or catch the Tanyas touring throughout the U.S. this fall.