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TUNING IN: Combining unique sounds, songs for mosaic 'Like Coming Home' album

Sarah McInnis, Rebecca Fairless, Ellen Torrie and Kimberly Matheson, the four songwriters, singers and instrumentalists that collaborated to create "Like Coming Home," their new album that will celebrate its release with a concert May 12 at the Al Whittle Theatre in Wolfville. - photo by John Robichaud
Sarah McInnis, Rebecca Fairless, Ellen Torrie and Kimberly Matheson, the four songwriters, singers and instrumentalists that collaborated to create

Album release show on May 12 at Al Whittle Theatre in Wolfville

WOLFVILLE – When Kimberly Matheson heard Rebecca Fairless sing “Like Coming Home” at a house concert, she knew she had to make an album with her.

And it was around the same time that Matheson was again inspired after hearing songwriters Ellen Torrie and Sarah McInnis sing at other music events in Wolfville, and knew she wanted to make an album with them too.

Before she knew what was happening, Matheson felt herself propose the idea to Torrie at their choir practice – “do you want to make an album together?” – and received an immediate yes. The album is now named for that same song Matheson first heard Fairless singing.

"They sing, and I cry - in a good way. I knew they were good, but the depth of songwriting that came out of this project blew me away," said Matheson. - photo by John Robichaud
"They sing, and I cry - in a good way. I knew they were good, but the depth of songwriting that came out of this project blew me away," said Matheson. - photo by John Robichaud

“Like Coming Home is a mosaic – it’s all our respective styles coming together, and it’s beautiful,” said Matheson.


“She was in right away”: Matheson

Matheson has been producing albums for last five years with her production company, Ruby Throated Records, and found herself without a project for a year.

After meeting future collaborators Torrie and Fairless through her church choir and McInnis at another music event, Matheson felt constantly inspired each time she heard them perform.

But it wasn’t until weeks later that she thought about how inspiring it would be to record an album with them.

“I think it was after choir practice when I blurted that out to Ellen – ‘do you want to record an album together, and can we get Sarah and Rebecca in on this too?’ – and she was in right away,” said Matheson.

McInnis and Fairless signed on shortly after, and the four women began going through their songwriting catalogues deciding which to bring to the table.

The album is a compilation of their works, featuring three songs from each artist.

“They sing, and I cry – in a good way. I knew they were good, but the depth of songwriting that came out of this project blew me away,” said Matheson.


The making of the album

The recording process began in December, when Torrie kicked things off with her set of songs. Working with Scott and Ryan Hupman of the well-loved Hupman Brothers band and recording duo, along with Mike Caroll on drums, each track was recorded and passed along to the other three women, who’d have a listen at home and come to the studio ready to harmonize.

Some harmonies were improvised, while others were planned, with each musician coming at the process from different perspectives. These various approaches made recording each song a unique experience, according to Torrie.

“The process was so much more elaborate, complex and fun than I’d anticipated,” said Torrie.

“This really opened a musical door for me as a musician and songwriter,” agreed Fairless, who said coming at the project from a mutual respect for music ensured that no matter how different their respective musical styles, they all felt safe knowing their songs were in good hands.

“Ellen and I are choir nerds, so we’d just show up and throw three-part harmonies all over the place.”


Sticking it out for that perfect take

The album was recorded live off the floor, with guitar and bass contributed by the Hupmans, drums by Caroll, and everything else by Matheson, Torrie, McInnis and Fairless.

They all wanted to capture that authentic, raw sound folk music is so loved for, but knew it could come with a serious drawback – burning out.

“There were times when I’d forget how the song went, having played it eight times in a row,” laughed McInnis.

"You push a little harder, and a feeling hovers over everyone. That feeling of, 'yeah, we just nailed it - that was it, that was the take,'" said McInnis, on getting that final cut of a song. photo by John Robichaud
"You push a little harder, and a feeling hovers over everyone. That feeling of, 'yeah, we just nailed it - that was it, that was the take,'" said McInnis, on getting that final cut of a song. photo by John Robichaud

“But then, you push a little harder, and a feeling hovers over everyone. That feeling of, ‘yeah, we just nailed it – that was it, that was the take.’”

Matheson arranged the final cuts into the album’s track list, which kicks off with Torrie’s “Sugar,” and ends with Fairless’s title track, “Like Coming Home”.

“Every song was great, but this song just resonated with all of us. We could have put it together so many ways, but this is what felt right,” said Matheson.


Right time to showcase women songwriters

The album’s release show will be May 12 at the Al Whittle in Wolfville, where the audience will be treated to the album’s full track list.

With concerts and festivals often featuring male-dominated lineups, the women are looking forward to celebrating female songwriting while playing for an audience wanting that too.

“With the Me Too movement happening, this really is the time to showcase women in music,” said Matheson, a point with which the three others agreed, with McInnis adding the album held space for female songwriting – something that made her feel extremely empowered.

For Fairless, it’s all about seeing more than one woman on a stage and all playing instruments, proving women can do whatever they want, including becoming skilled musicians.

And for Torrie, it’s about appreciating good songwriting, even when the song isn’t the loudest in the room.

“We’re so used to environments that love loud, blaring music that there’s not many spaces for music telling a softer, simpler story. These songs will really be listened to, rather than being heard like background noise,” she said.

For more information, see the album release event page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/205798130022274/.

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