Why is Molly Thomason worth paying attention to? For starters, the Nova Scotian singer-songwriter was named Young Performer of the Year at the 2011 Canadian Folk Music Awards. She went on to win the She's the One competition at the 2012 Ottawa Bluesfest, as well as the Emerging Artist Series at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2013. She's also 19 and is about to release her anticipated new album, Columbus Field. Xtra spoke to the young firecracker ahead of a very busy year.
Xtra: Three records in four years — it seems like the songs are just pouring out of you. Tell us about your creative process.
Sometimes I'll have a lyric and a riff that has been sitting around for ages and one day I put them together and it magically works out, and that's great. I'm currently trying to expand on my guitar skills so that I can try different things in my writing and maybe focus a little more on the music side.
You've already won awards, been nominated multiple times for Music Nova Scotia and East Coast Music Awards, as well as placed as a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting and International Song Contests. You’re off to an incredible start as a career songwriter. What do these accolades mean to you?
I'm really proud of the awards and nominations. Each for different reasons, but in general, I'm so thankful to be recognized by the industry and fans as a serious musician. Some artists who start off young don't get that kind of treatment until much later in their careers.
What inspired Columbus Field? What were you hoping to capture on this record?
Columbus Field was inspired by my high school years in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Now, the record is a little more nostalgic for me, but at the time it was written it was totally raw. Columbus Field is like reading my high school diary. I wanted to communicate what I was feeling — everything that comes up around that time: love, lust, independence, anxiety, depression, anger, rebellion, restlessness . . .
With John-Angus MacDonald (from The Trews) as producer and on lead guitar, along with Jason “Cone” McCaslin of Sum 41 on bass, Nick DeToro (Sloan) on drums and at the board, and mixing by Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson, with Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Modest Mouse) on mastering duty, can you give us a postcard description of your recording process together?
The people in the studio were mainly John-Angus, Cone, Nick and I. I had a blast. Every time I go into the studio is better than the last, and this record was definitely no exception. It started out with John-Angus and I playing acoustic guitars in my living room in Antigonish, then the boys and I were doing full band pre-production in The Trews' Toronto space, and then we moved into the Verge Music Lab to do the actual recording. By the end of it I felt like I had three new big brothers.
You were named one of Canada’s Top 20 under 20 by Youth in Motion as a human rights activist. What sort of activism do you do, and why do you think it’s important?
I got the Top 20 award for my work in the LGBTQ community, specifically creating a gay-straight alliance in my high school and creating networking opportunities for GSAs across my school board. This was obviously a project based in my high school years, but I continue to support the community and be involved in any way I can. I think music is a great way of doing that.
Who are your musical influences?
I was inspired to try out music because I loved Avril Lavigne's first two albums. She was so young and so cool; she wasn't like every other girl out there, and she was writing her own songs. But I was always aware of songwriting because Bob Dylan is god to my dad, and he was always being played in my house and on every road trip ever.
What can we expect from your upcoming album release shows in Toronto and Halifax?
Expect loud guitars, sweat, dancing and drunk people. I'm going to be giving it everything I've got with my band (and maybe some surprise guests, too).