Home on the range

Alt-coun­try songstress Neko Case shines

Richmond Hill Post - - Music - by Ron John­son

Amer­i­can songstress Neko Case just keeps get­ting bet­ter. The alt-coun­try star is head­lin­ing Massey Hall this month as part of the Cana­dian Mu­sic Week fes­ti­val on the heels of her first much-de­served Grammy Award nom­i­na­tion for her stun­ning new al­bum The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

“It was grat­i­fy­ing, for sure,” says Case, of her nom­i­na­tion. “I was very touched.”

But it wasn’t easy. Case made the record while strug­gling through a well-doc­u­mented de­pres­sion as a re­sult of a num­ber of fam­ily tragedies in a short pe­riod of time.

“De­pres­sion is su­per-mo­not­o­nous,” says Case. “It was a lengthy grind. Later as I started to come out of it there were sparks here and there that would be­come more fre­quent.”

De­spite the rather long and wind­ing road the al­bum took, the process may have helped her make sense of things and move on.

“At the time I couldn’t tell, but in hind­sight, forc­ing my­self to fo­cus (even though I don’t re­call the par­tic­u­lars well) was a good, pro­pel­ling ex­er­cise, for sure,” she ex­plains.

An­other source of com­fort and con­tin­ued in­spi­ra­tion is Neko Cases’s Ver­mont farm.

“I lived here as a kid for a time. It’s the only place I ever felt like I fit in when I was lit­tle. The people were so kind. I al­ways wanted to come back,” she says.

“Plus, I’m a for­est lover, so I wanted to live on a farm but be in the woods, too. It’s the best de­ci­sion I ever made.”

Cur­rently the farm is pop­u­lated by Case and a num­ber of barn­yard friends.

“It’s a late spring, I just heard the peep­ers for the first time this morn­ing! I missed them!” she says. “My horse is named Nor­man. He’s a fuzzy (and cur­rently re­ally sheddy) peach. I’ve lost a few chick­ens, which sucks, but other than that, the critters are happy and spring is here!”

Eas­ily con­sid­ered one of the most tal­ented singer­song­writ­ers in re­cent mem­ory, Cases’s new al­bum, her eighth, has vaulted her to ever-greater ac­claim. But Case, who has an un­easy re­la­tion­ship with fame, is pretty con­tent right where she is at present.

When asked what suc­cess looks like to her, she replies: “Right now, this very minute, I call the shots but with tal­ented, trusted friends to ad­vise me. I have cre­ative con­trol and I can go to the gro­cery store!”

It isn’t that she doesn’t love her fans. She just needs bal­ance.

“Luck­ily I’m not so fa­mous that I can’t go to the drug­store and buy em­bar­rass­ing prod­ucts with­out end­ing up in the tabloids,” says Case. “I’ve known a few people in that game though, and I wouldn’t wish it on any­one. I’m here to be a mu­si­cian, but I re­ally do want to make the au­di­ence happy, too. I think both sides can ben­e­fit. I like to keep my­self as ac­ces­si­ble as I can to show people mak­ing art and mu­sic is to­tally doable and pos­i­tive. I like to ac­knowl­edge that it’s their Satur­day night, too, not just mine, you know? I like try­ing to break the glass cur­tain. I am very pri­vate, how­ever.”

Case also says she has a soft spot for Toronto and her song “Rag­time” was in­spired by it.

“In a way it's a bit of a love song to it,” she says. “I love to visit my friends [in Toronto] and eat! I also love walk­ing around there. It’s a great city as far as neigh­bor­hoods to ram­ble through.”

Case plays Massey Hall on May 9.

Neko Case is in town this month for a show at Massey Hall

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