The title to Alberta-born, B.C.-based musician Rae Spoon’s 10th album is a blunt one: Mental Health. The eight-track release is named, and themed, both for their own history, and the work they have done in various marginalized communities.
“I’ve always done a lot of artist workshops,” they say, adding that they regularly give presentations in these communities.
“And I work in a lot of communities that have a lot more mental health issues that are compounded by not being able to access healthcare as easily as other communities, especially transgender people like me.”
Despite its heavier overtones, Mental Health is a pop album, a bit of a departure from Spoon’s contributions to Canada’s body of folk music. The record is also a bit upbeat—the juxtaposition between sadness and musical pep is something of a calling card for the well-lauded singer-songwriter.
“I think that’s kind of my style, to try and have a pop spin. I’ve written an electronic album about grief. I think I like to bury the contents of the lyrics in the music a bit—just for variety and so the listener doesn’t only have slow tracks to listen to,” they say.
While writing the album, Spoon was trying to venture into newer musical territory, and create an album unlike anything they’ve done before. In all, they feel Mental Health is more “sonically different” than their previous work.
Since releasing the album, Spoon has also heard some “very nice stories” from people who have connected with it. It’s stirring up a bit of conversation, they say.
“Because it’s so stigmatized to talk about mental health stuff, you don’t know who’s dealing with things,” they say. “It’s kind of creating some conversations already that I don’t think I otherwise would have had. Maybe that’s my hope for it—is that it will create conversations for people.”
While Spoon’s work in the LGBTQ2S+ communities inspired the album to an extent, Mental Health is 100 percent their own experiences. Writing the music was a way to communicate their feelings, they say.
They began writing the album a few years ago while working in the LGBTQ2S+ communities. More recently, they applied for funding from various organizations, including the Canada Council for the Arts and a few local to B.C. Though Spoon had been writing it in their head for years, the album came together in a few weeks in April and May. This was somewhat by necessity, as a product of the grant deadlines.
Perhaps the hardest part of writing the album was procrastinating—it’s really easy to put off writing about mental health, they say.
“Once I got started, I realized I had a lot of things I wanted to talk about,” they say.
Spoon is already thinking about their next project—maybe an ambient vocal record—and hopes to keep pushing their musical envelope. The artist embarked on a Canadian tour in support of Mental Health—both the album and literally, in a way.
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