Scaling up a mountain, either on-foot or in a vehicle, can feel as if you’re teetering between this world and the next. That’s what chamber-folk storyteller Raine Hamilton experienced, at least, as she began ruminating on “the beauty of the potential of being incarnate on the earth ─ of being a being on the earth,” she says.
Her song “Try” concentrates this idea into four minutes, a sensory experience of awakening from what feels like a life-long slumber. This song “showed up knocking,” Hamilton tells Audiofemme. “Sometimes, the experience of being an artist is being this steward of these pieces. I take that invitation so seriously. I think it’s a sacred thing. I notice it is a very transportive experience to sing this one. It’s like it helps me tip between the worlds a little bit. That’s one of my favorite experiences art affords.”
“Is this the place where we lay down our burdens/Where all of our slates are made clear,” flutters Hamilton. Strings float like wayward souls around her voice, and a serenity seems to sprout at her feet.
As demonstrated in the accompanying visual, premiering below, life’s impermanence takes centerstage, accentuated with a collection of fresh-from-the-kiln pottery decorating the venue. Shot in a studio space in Winnipeg, Hamilton’s hometown, the video (directed and edited by Julie Epp) is as much a celebration of this present life as the inevitable passing over. “All the pottery we see is fragile. It is made directly from the earth, out of clay,” Hamilton explains. “I wanted that quality of pottery because of its impermanence. And it is really embodying the metaphor ─ the courage to take earthly form. That is such an important metaphor for the whole record.”
Hamilton adds, “What I notice when I sing this song, it’s telling an archetypal story, something that is true for so many people, which is that it’s hard to leave. Even people who I would expect to be the most comfortable, they are sometimes revealed to struggle with that.”
“Try” is the latest link in an ongoing chain of singles, to eventually culminate in a full-length record called Brave Land. The follow-up to 2018’s Night Sky, it’s a companion piece and balance beam of two of life’s most vital elements: earth and air. For now, Hamilton rests in the present and takes it one day at a time ─ even though she has already mapped out what’s coming next. “I want to really be able to offer the record in an intentional way. It’s so important to me to create as many opportunities as possible to connect,” she remarks.
The process around the new music has been transformational, you could say. “I spent so much time sitting in the songs. There are a couple categories I think that I organize the album into. One is lessons from the mountains, and my main takeaways are the idea of reaching and the teachings of being an earthbound being and a spiritual being at once. To me, that’s what the mountains are showing; they are of the earth and they connect and reach so beautifully to this other world. I want to be like and live like them.”
Then, it’s the courage born out of leaping into earthly existence. “There’s a lot we don’t know about that experience. That’s part of this situation of being a person,” she says. “We are so strong and so ancient in our wisdom to do this. Making a record and making art are the best.”
With long-standing collaborators Quintin Bart (double bass) and Natanielle Felicitas (cello), Hamilton co-composed the string parts to the whole record “in real time, present with each other in the space,” she offers. “We really have created a creative trust to allow each other into that process. It is so rewarding. One of my favorite things about being alive is getting to go deep with stuff like that.”
“We’ve been doing that for years and years now, and our pathways are just getting more well-worn,” she adds. “We can get in faster, and then, there are new places we can explore.”