As one listens to Suzanne Jarvie’s sound on her new record In The Clear, it’s hard to imagine it was only in 2014 that this Toronto wife, mother of four and lawyer, found the courage to record her debut album, Spiral Road, produced by Hugh Christopher Brown.
Spiral Road documents the painful journey after her oldest son tripped and fell down a spiral staircase, lapsing into a coma in 2011. “It was a bomb,” Suzanne recalls. “I couldn’t breathe. The doctors said he wouldn’t live, but he did.” The miracle of her son’s survival changed Jarvie’s life. While her son was still at the hospital, she began an intense period of songwriting, never having written anything much prior. “It was powerful and strange.”
Spiral Road garnered rave reviews from the US, Canada, and Europe, comparisons to Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, and a 2015 nomination from the Independent Music Awards for “Best Concept Album”. No Depression described Jarvie’s voice as “seraphim-pure, reaching out and lifting your spirit often without permission.”
Jarvie’s sophomore record In the Clear, released on January 22, 2019, picks up where Spiral Road left off – delving deeper into the aftermath of her son’s brain injury – and going beyond it. The tunes tunnel into feelings and impressions that are the essence of Suzanne’s artistry, luminous rabbit holes that merge mysticism with reflections on life’s ups and downs that fans of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan or Lucinda Williams would appreciate. Producer Hugh Christopher Brown keeps the music steeped in mostly acoustic sound, and the mix of dobro, mandolin, guitar, violin and bass.
In the Clear and Spiral Road are poetic journeys that anyone who has dealt with a family tragedy can relate to. “In The Clear is a reverie – where the songs reflect on motherhood, the feminine, addiction, death, dreams of freedom and peace. There is even a song about rape (The Core). The title track has a melancholy irony; In The Clear is where I always want to be. Instead, it is this ephemeral state that never lasts. So, I try to enjoy the peaceful moments completely, knowing that more challenges are on the horizon.”
Some songs are deeply inspired by science fiction. “I find the weird visionary parables to be so idiosyncratic. They give me permission to be highly individualized in my songs. Obscure is okay… trance-like imaginings are okay. ‘Carpenter Bay’ is a journey through neurons and psychopharmacology. But it’s also about realizing you’ve been holding on to an illusion, that at some point a terrible loss will be undone. You want that so badly. It’s very sad. Then you realize the false hope and you give in, or give up maybe. I know my lyrics can be inscrutable, but they mean something real. I don’t think you have to understand everything. It could just be that a melodic line or poetic phrase resonates and moves someone and that’s amazing. The ideas aren’t concrete, and sometimes I have to rush and grab them before they decay. But it’s why I thank John Wyndham, Tolkien and Roddenberry, etc. in my liner notes. Gotta keep weird alive man!”
Suzanne will play Brickworks Market October 5th, Hugh's Room in Toronto on November 16th and will be touring the Netherlands as part of Hidden Christmas starting December 12th.