It might be telling that Ruth Moody has named her first full-length solo album The Garden when she doesn’t even have time to dig one of her own.
The Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter and founding member of the Wailin’ Jennys could have taken time off to work the soil during her group’s hiatus, but instead she turned right back to her guitar and the road.
“It’s a good challenge, and a way to grow as a musician,” she says from her parents’ home in Victoria, resting after a 20-hour van ride from the States. “It’s beneficial to do something new, to learn different skills and step out of my comfort zone.”
Produced by Juno nominee David Travers-Smith, with appearances by Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, k.d. lang), Luke Doucet, Crooked Still and the Wailin’ Jennys, The Garden has come about during bandmate Nicky Mehta’s pregnancy and maternity leave from the group.
Released in April 2010, it picked up a Juno nomination for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year, as well as a pile of glowing reviews worldwide.
She’s taken it on the road across North America, with Adam Dobres (guitar), Adrian Dolan of the Bills (fiddle, viola, mandolin and accordion) and bassist Gilles Fournier as her backup band.
“It’s definitely a different experience for me,” she notes. “With the Jennys, I had time to tune while Nicky or Heather (Masse) told a story, but with me as the sole focus there’s no down time. There’s only one singer-songwriter, just one musical flavour, so it takes a lot more concentration. But that’s good for me because I’m trying to be more in the moment, and find a place in the performance where I’m not thinking about it so much.”
Being “in the moment” is a theme that Moody not only applies to her onstage performance but in the lyrics to a few of the songs on her album as well.
“Mindfulness is definitely one of them; accepting what is and not struggling so much against the grain of life. The Garden itself is a song about taking cues from nature, recognizing that nature knows what to do and doesn’t think about it. It was also taken from (a quote from) Voltaire’s Candide, that you have to cultivate your garden.
“We’re so obsessed with controlling the outcome of everything, but we need to be a bit more accepting of things. We have a responsibility to do that, to make our corner of the world as beautiful as we can.”
Moody’s tour will take her across Canada, back into the States (where she’ll perform in some Christmas concerts), and then to the U.K., where she’ll play as part of the Celtic Connections Transatlantic Sessions tour.
The work continues, with the Jennys picking up again in a year or so. Moody concedes that the constant chaos of her life doesn’t necessarily reflect her philosophical beliefs.
“I guess that’s why I had to write a song called The Garden,” she says with a laugh. “Because I actually don’t have one of my own, and I do dream of it. I’m trying to accept that this is what is happening right now, and for the foreseeable future. I really am a workaholic, and in the future I might have to make a conscious decision to not work, just garden.”
– Tom Murray