2019 was something of a breakout moment for Canadian songwriter Charlotte Cornfield. That year saw Charlotte release her debut album, The Shape Of Your Name, a record that would receive widespread acclaim, culminating in the album being longlisted for the coveted Polaris Prize. The Shape of Your Name was the epitome of a solo record, Charlotte writing alone, playing almost everything and producing it gradually over several years. While we often think of solo endeavours as personal and representative of a songwriter, for Charlotte the process felt somewhat inauthentic, the product of an upbringing in a DIY scene, which left her craving for collaboration and community. After spending 2020, like so many, alone with her own thoughts and instruments, Charlotte made the decision to do things differently this time. Charlotte did what came naturally to her, finding like-minded musicians, a recording studio and getting back to playing live music with a band. The result is her fantastic new album, Highs in the Minuses, which is set for release at the end of the month as a joint endeavour between Double Double Whammy and Polyvinyl.
One of music’s great clichés dictates that solo records are the place for lyrical explorations, yet in Charlotte’s case her move towards musical fullness has done nothing to dilute her ability to move you One of music’s great clichés dictates that solo records are the place for lyrical explorations, yet in Charlotte’s case her move towards musical fullness has done nothing to dilute her ability to move you with her words. There’s a certain crispness to Charlotte’s delivery throughout, the process of constant revision and editing, Charlotte joking she was, “raised under a red pen”, by her mother who was an editor by trade. The result is a deeply relatable and honest songwriter, in the mould of Bill Callahan or Patti Smith, the sort of wordsmith who can strike you down with a single lyric that crushes your heart or sends tears of joy rolling down your cheek. There’s something autobiographical about the way Charlotte writes, the songs playing out like flashbacks of a life being led, with each moment set to its own miniature soundtrack, like the folk-rock musical that, if you’re like me, you never knew you wanted. This is a record littered with highlights, from the Big Thief like crunch of Pac-Man through to the driving strut of Headlines and the fantastic Rufus Wainwright-like ballad Drunk For You, recorded after the band had gone home and Charlotte found herself alone at the grand piano as the tape kept rolling on. At its core Highs in the Minuses bristles not just with emotion, but a winning sense of humanity, the messy corner, gently celebrated highs and constant questioning of the world around you, experiences that connect us together and make for a soundtrack so thoroughly worth hearing.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Charlotte Cornfield?
I am a songwriter and musician from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I have been putting out music under my name for about 13 years. My new album “Highs in the Minuses” is coming out on Oct. 29, 2021 via Polyvinyl and Double Double Whammy
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
The first solo show I ever played was in Montreal, at an event called Strictly Acoustic. I remember being scared shitless, and feeling very vulnerable. I had performed a ton in the past but never on my own like that. It was an exhilarating experience to share my songs in that way, and I made friends at that show who I’m close with to this day.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I started playing music when I was a small child, and it’s always been the creative outlet for me that feels most natural. I also love writing, and I feel like songwriting is a perfect marriage of the two. I feel very lucky to have found something I was passionate about at such a young age, and it feels like it’s been with me forever, and always will be.
FTR: What can people expect from the Charlotte Cornfield live show?
A genuine and emotional and musical time!! Haha, it’s a tough question. Some rocking, some mellow moments, some heartwrenching ballads, some unpredictable stage banter.
FTR: What’s next Charlotte Cornfield?
I’m really looking forward to releasing the album and getting to play some shows again! For me the human connection is such an important part of what draws me to songwriting, so that aspect I can’t wait for. And I’m working on songs for an eventual next record. That always seems to be the vibe.
They Listen To…
Dorothea Paas – Anything Can’t Happen
The Magnetic Fields – I Don’t Want to Get Over You
Donny Hathaway – Jealous Guy (Live)
Neil Young – See The Sky About to Rain (Live at Massey Hall 1971)
Elyse Weinberg – It’s Alright to Linger