DSC09017Kenna Burima is no stranger to the alleyways and basements that make up the Calgary scene. From her time in seminal pop explorers, Woodpigeon, to her forward-thinking contributions in avant-garde project, Foon Yap and the Roar; from her grinding keys in garage revivalists, the Pygmies, to her driving presence in the Brenda Vaqueros, Burima represents a distinct Calgary artist archetype, one that knows few boundaries and is constantly imagining new frontiers to conquer. Last marked a first in Burima’s storied career: she released her debut solo album (though, not without a little help from her friends) at the Ironwood Stage & Grill, boldly venturing into new terrain.

BeatRoute: This album marks you first solo release. What’s it like venturing out on your own after so many notable projects?

Kenna Burima: It’s terrifying. There was a time when I thought songwriters were all just overly sensitive. But, I’ve discovered it’s one thing to perform other people’s music and then completely another to perform my own songs. I think because I do – like many songwriters – write from a personal and sometimes dark place that sometimes I have to disassociate from what I’m singing and forget that they’re my words. I remember when I got the first rough mixes back from Lorrie Matheson, who recorded and engineered the album, and my first thought was, “Oh shit, this album is a series of snapshots of my inner psyche and it’s frightening.”

BeatRoute: Despite this being an officially solo release, you’ve invited musicians from across the scene, in a variety of genres, to contribute to the album. What about the Calgary scene fosters such collaboration? What did the guests bring to the songs that helped transform them?

KB: I think that though Calgary has a great scene: it’s a small one when we look at the pool of musicians in other centres like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. It can actually be a real advantage because you have to look outside the little communities that orbit around certain genres and bring together musicians and instruments that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be seen on stage. I’m not saying that I think I’m doing anything revolutionary by having an electric guitar and bass clarinet share musical space.

I had very specific intent in picking the musicians I wanted to work with: I needed a group that had roughly the same musical language as me so that when I attempted to communicate what I wanted, I didn’t have to translate for various musical levels or experience… It came down to that I wanted musicians that I could trust to bring it at every musical moment but still being completely themselves and unique. It made for an organic and happily messy process.

BeatRoute: You’re known for your ability to move lightly between genres as disparate as classical music, jazz, folk, garage and pop. How did you approach your solo album with such a diverse background? How did you tie everything together into a cohesive whole?

KB: Believe me, I have tried so many times to write a rock song, a great gritty, organ punk song, but other shit just keeps coming out. When I first started writing songs, there was definitely this element of “trying,” or making it sound like “something.” When I realized that it was more fun to cease the over-analyzing and just follow wherever the inspiration goes, it meant that instead of it sounding forced, it was natural. I also found that all those disparate elements peaked out and mixed and came together in ways that meant more and sounded authentic. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that I will never be as good as those I look up to, but I can be the best at being me, as fucked up and raw as it should be.

By Sebastian Buzzalino

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