Songbird: the debut album from Layla Claire Photo: Sian Richards

Songbird: the debut album from Layla Claire

Jenna Simeonov

Canadians Layla Claire and Marie-Ève Scarfone are set to release their debut album together, Songbird. It’s a broad-reaching collection of songs, beautiful picks by Wolf, Debussy, Brahms, Argento, Britten, and plenty more. The album is officially released on ATMA Classique on June 2, 2017, but Canadians are in luck: Songbird is available for free streaming on CBC until May 26.

We spoke with Claire about recording her first album, choosing “songs that we loved”, and the artist’s responsibility to “cut through the noise” in tough times.

How did you choose the songs for your first album? What do you think they have in common?

Because this was our own love project we were really free to change repertoire as we went. Marie-Eve and I started with a list of songs but during the rehearsal process we let some fall away and added others organically. We were after a cohesive sound garden — songs that we loved and thought worked well together, rather than a collection built around a specific theme.

Did you find anything surprising about the recording process, compared to a live performance?

We had the chance to run the program for voice students and faculty at l’Université de Montréal, (where Marie-Eve and I used to study together), which turned out to be very valuable. I tried to replicate the feeling of singing to an intimate audience while recording in an empty hall.

How did you find the post-recording process? Do you have any advice for singers who find it difficult to listen to recordings of themselves singing?

I think it’s hard for everyone to listen to themselves objectively. Some days I’d listen to our first edits and think it was all crap and then the next time I’d listen I’d think, hey, it’s pretty good! Of course you think, ooh, I could do that better, but when you’ve got a limited budget and time, you can only give everything a couple of takes. You have to accept that it’s a snapshot in time and let it go.

In your album notes, you talk about recording this album in tough political times, while you were pregnant - how do you find the head space to focus on things like music and singing, when there seem to be large, universal issues overshadowing the arts?

I believe it is my job as an artist is to cut through the noise and remind us that life is too beautiful and precious to let base negativity be the resounding voice. We are capable of creating incredible beauty - the sophisticated marriage of poetry and song being the example we had to offer.

Starting June 2, Songbird is available on iTunes or from ATMA Classique.

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