On her new album Place Holder (officially out Nov. 10), Edmonton roots-rocker Vissia channels her fierce energy and experience into a nine-song collection that sees her taking control of her sound and career. Having tested the waters earlier this year with the EP You Should Be Sleeping, Vissia emerges fully formed on Place Holder with sexy, blues-based offerings and intimate ballads that have drawn comparisons to Alabama Shakes and Neko Case.
Place Holder is also the first release on her label, Hurry Hard Records, and it shows the fruits of her close collaboration with co-producer Emily Bachynski, who also directed the video for the first single, “Mountaineer.” Mixing was handled by Sam Kassirer, whom Vissia sought out because of his work with American singer/songwriter Josh Ritter.
In taking the reins with Place Holder, Vissia was determined to break from her past, mainly her work as part of the Vissia Sisters, whose decade together included recognition via Canadian Country Music Association and Canadian Folk Music Award nominations, on top of playing the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and touring Japan.
In 2011, Vissia embarked on her solo career, initially under her full name Alex Vissia, sharing stages with Lindi Ortega, Whitehorse, Skydiggers and others, gradually building a reputation as a dynamic writer and live performer. By 2016, she had distilled her musical vision down to the songs on Place Holder, and its labour-of-love vibe is palpable on first listen.
Vissia launches Place Holder in Toronto on Nov. 10 at The Burdock, with further tour dates in eastern Canada slated until the end of the month. For more info go to vissiamusic.com.
What makes Place Holder stand apart from your previous work?
Place Holder is a more developed and thoughtful body of work compared to my previous releases. I think this is because it was recorded and produced over a more extended period. I had the opportunity to live with most of the songs for a time and wear them in at live shows, which helped me feel more confident about the choices we made in the studio than I had on my last two recordings.
What song on the album do you feel best captures your current musical vision?
I think that vision ebbs and flows a lot. I like digging in with the full band on the grittier songs (“Mountaineer,”“Night Romancer”), but I also like playing songs that have more breathing room and less going on (“Macondo,”“The Kind of Good”). I’ve been settling into a sound that meets rock and folk in the middle… usually what I try to do is go where the song needs to go rather than try to push and pull it to places that feel forced.
What motivated you to start your label, and what have been the most significant challenges?
My partner, Nich Davies, and I had been casually talking about starting up a record label for years. It’s fun to talk about possibilities and dream up ideas, but it’s another to jump in and make the necessary changes that come with owning a business like a label. I’ve primarily been running my own “label” since putting out my first record, so establishing Hurry Hard Records has been about digging in more when it comes to laying out long-term plans and goals, and having a clear vision for my artistic career. The organization is something I have always had to work on, so that’s been a challenge with incorporating more moving pieces.
What's been the most significant change in your life in the past year?
The biggest change in the past year has been going from having any kind of day job to only playing music and freelancing. I play in multiple projects – including a few cover/party bands and three original bands – I pick up the odd sound tech or session gig, and I freelance as a graphic designer. It’s been great to have that kind of freedom with my schedule so I can dedicate as much time as I can to running the label and my career. There are times when it’s challenging to keep enough paid work flowing, but I try to focus on the whole picture and remind myself that things are moving forward, even on those days when it feels like I’m just treading water.
If you could fix anything about the music business, what would it be?
No matter what business a person is in, there will always be things to complain or gripe about – if that’s what you want to do. I’ve been working on becoming more aware of where I direct my thoughts and energy, so I try not to dwell on the things that don’t jive with me and focus on the things that are working.
Sure, some things don't seem to work in the music business anymore, but I think rather than pushing back at change, we are better off going with the flow of it and trying our best to think creatively in every aspect of our careers. Instead of thinking about the “music industry” as being this separate entity, we should be thinking about how we can bring music into everyday life more.