VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Loreena McKennitt Reflects On Her 30-Year Career
Loreena McKennitt looked back at her amazing career celebrating the 30th anniversary of her 1991 album The Visit in her new uInterview.
“It’s always a sobering exercise when one looks back in their life no matter what you do I think,” McKennitt told uInterview Founder Erik Meers. “Certainly with the trajectory of my career it’s been fascinating in some ways. It’s not always comfortable, but let’s say, to see what I was thinking of, what were the things that were on my mind and why, how I expressed those themes in the recording itself.”
The 64-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter reflected on the creation of The Visit and its 2021 rerecording. “There are things that I probably would like to try to do over again, you know there’s all of that, but I think it is an interesting exercise in terms of measuring where you’ve traveled from and where you are now and going to,” she said. “And so for the most part it’s been quite gratifying. And I think one of the greatest parts is that when we’ve been working on this project, and the past year we’ve been able to work with people who were in situ with me for The Visit in 1991.”
“I had started out making my first recording in 1985, and I had spent five, six years building my career brick by brick,” she recalled. In the early days of her career, McKennitt created her own tour across Canada and set up distribution herself directly through small retailers and specialty distributors.
“So as a result of the success of my third recording ‘Parallel Dreams’ in 1989, this caught the attention of various major record companies here in Canada,” she explained. So she called The Visit “a crossover.”
“I remember a moment when I did a showcase in Toronto and it was for the regular news, you know, the media, the radio, and the re-tellers,” she said, “and I realized that night, when I came away that my life was about to change. Up until that time, I had been ferreting away as this relatively new, local individual with her little career, and that things were about to make a shift.”
The Visit, like a lot of McKenitt’s work, is inspired by Celtic culture. “I had been traveling to Ireland since about 1981, so by the time 1991 arrived … I’d seen a decade of changes,” she said, “so when I was writing a piece like ‘The Old Ways’ I was, what was on my mind was, I’m seeing a transition of a culture, I’m seeing some of those old traditions perhaps fade away or diminished in some way. And I was reflecting a bit on the loss of that.”
Another piece of the songwriter’s inspiration came from working at the Shakespeare theater in Ontario. “Gravitating to some of Shakespeare’s works, which had a Celtic connection because in Cymbeline it has that connection, I thought that would be a good piece to set to music.” she said.
“I would love to say that the recording of the pieces are much more methodically developed and assembled. They end up being this really eclectic hodgepodge,” she added, laughing, “but when I’m working I try to establish a title very early on and the songs need to always relate to that title. So, they’re like spokes on an umbrella.”
Even decades later, McKennitt says producing music is “still this kind of hodgepodge experience.”
“What’s different is that I have more resources, let’s say financial resources, to bring in a wider array of musicians, and instruments and I have a much wider palette of colors and textures to work with,” she said. “And we’ve recorded at Peter Gabriel studios and Real World since about ’94. And have been privileged enough to tap into his Rolodex of contacts and people. So that probably is the most distinctive factor. That I was able to go from drawing upon a small very, very accomplished group of people, to a larger very accomplished group of artists.
“But from the standpoint — I will often go into the studio not having everything written. And that is very unnerving because you have to commit to this time, and you’ve got a big financial gun to your head. And I mean I think even with The Book Of Secrets, I was already in the studio recording some pieces, but I was still working on ‘The Mummers’ Dance,’ which went on to be a considerable hit.”
“And that has not changed, and I think that’s partially or largely because most of my time is not functioning as an artist. I manage my own career, I’ve never had a manager, and some would say I’m unmanagable,” she added, laughing.
The Visit: The Definitive Edition is available now.
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