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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Heartbreak Hero

Sonia Stanger
Published Thursday April 14, 07:09 pm
A bionic musician conquers adversity with up-tempo fun

Christa Couture
The Bassment
Wednesday 20

Christa Couture is no stranger to heartbreak. Having lost a leg to cancer at age 13 and suffered the deaths of her two infant sons in separate circumstances, the award-winning singer/ songwriter has been through more in her 37 years than most people go through in a lifetime. But if you think loss defines this cyborg powerhouse, think again.

Couture sets off this week on a cross-Canada tour of her fourth full-length album, Long Time Leaving, and audiences should prepare to be charmed by her sweet melodies and powerful writerly voice. Her often autobiographical work is rooted in storytelling and emotion, but it’s also deeply communal. As she puts it, “Grief can be a kind of exile.” But by channeling that grief into her music and inviting her audience in, she narrows the void between her experience and theirs.

“Dealing with some of those bigger losses in my life — being seen and being heard and then hearing other people’s stories in exchange — has been so supportive, so helpful,” Couture says.

And the richness of her lyrics and the unflinching vulnerability with which she delivers them certainly has a way of making the listener feel seen, and known.

Connection and community seemingly pervade everything Couture does. The album cover for Long Time Leaving was a collaborative effort between three female visual artists: photographer Jen Squires, collage artist Catherine Mellinger and designer Joi Arcand, who did the layout and handwriting. The product is a gorgeous composite image that reflects the many eyes and hands through which it has passed, and the complexity of the album’s contents.

After all Couture’s been through, the breakup of her marriage, which is largely the subject of her new album, was a kind of reprieve in that “it felt so normal.” So much so, in fact, that the album’s working title was Ordinary Heartbreak.

“As much as it sort of is, in its simplest form, a breakup album, it’s also about the time it can take for change to happen and the time it can take to make a decision,” she says.

One thing Couture is sure of is that she wanted to have fun with this album, and it shows. Couture and producer Steve Dawson have engineered what she calls “a sort of celebration of heartache.”

“[Long Time Leaving is] musically very up-tempo and upbeat, and we had a lot of fun making it,” she says.

Complexity is something  Couture embraces, even cultivates. The give and take between celebration and heartache, the murkiness of loss and grief, and the surprising moments of joy in a life that’s been difficult (to say the least) are at the heart of Couture’s music, and it makes her fans love her fiercely. In 2014, she successfully raised over $25,000 through crowdfunding to purchase a truly badass microprocessor knee for her prosthetic leg.

While some might mistakenly think a prosthetic leg would hold her back, she agrees it’s a kind of superpower.

“I’m really, really lucky,” says Couture. “In all these ways I’ve had bad luck, but this was good luck. That I have this to show for it is really special.”

How does Christa Couture keep going after all she’s been through? She says her hardships have fostered a kind of “gentleness and acceptance” in her life.

“When I’m in the hard spot, I don’t feel like I’m doing something impressive,” she said. “I just feel like I’m trying to get by. I’m not an exceptional person, but I think I am a resilient person.”

Christa Couture plays Saskatoon’s The Bassment on April 20th. Her new album, Long Time Leaving, is available April 15th from Black Hen Music.

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