How Months of Lockdown Lead
To Karen Morand’s Latest Album
Story by Ryan Percy
Photography by Stephen Nilsson
From a sausage factory to a simmering stew. It is definitely a strange analogy, but it is the kind of wonderful wordplay that musician Karen Morand uses to describe how her new album changed with the times.
Ghost Hotel is Morand’s upcoming series of tracks accompanied by the Bosco Boys, set to release February 1st, 2022.
While Morand was born in Toronto, her roots in Windsor run deep ever since. Coming as a musician to the University of Windsor to study Music Therapy, she met the love of her life. Like every sappy heart string twanger you hear on the radio, she may have had certain plans, but love finds a way.
“I don’t know if we actually had plans to leave,” Morand says with a twinkle in her eyes as she looks over at her husband, Charlie. “I thought eventually we would but, you know, Hotel California.”
Much like how the protagonist of the Eagles’ smash hit could not escape, there was one thing that the creation of the album could not get away from: COVID. But Karen is a glass half-full kind of artist and took full advantage of the times.
“Thank you, COVID,” she laughs with an eye roll that speaks volumes, “Myself and the Bosco Boys, we’ve spent a lot of time on the album, and I was forced to really sit with things and let them simmer.”
What the simmering led to, was the chance for Morand to reach out to other artists and create an album composed of personal tracks and a number of co-authored ones.
“I was able to draw on a lot of guest artists,” Morand answers with a bright smile as she reminisces about the album making process, “because of technology, musicians like Mike Stevens in Sarnia, who’s an incredible harmonica artist, could just lay down a track and send it to me.”
One of the co-written tracks she is most excited to have people listen to is Lockdown and Out. Written by Morand and Justin Latam about their experiences and feelings during the pandemic lockdowns while, in Morand’s words they “didn’t want it to sound like a COVID song” because they wanted it to last beyond COVID, whenever that would be. What came from the collaboration is a crunchy psychedelic track meant for introspection and looking forward.
“I don’t know how many folkies are gonna like it,” Morand worriedly adds about her relations with her normal folk-centric fanbase, “but the people that are, they’ll love it.”
The album as a whole is a journey.
Morand’s goal was to make an album you could listen to start to end in a sitting and go on a wild roller coaster of emotions.
“Not everyone considers the whole album, it’s a world of singles,” Morand adds, “when you’re creating a collection of songs, it’s so good to have an arc and a flavor throughout.”
The album itself is quite the roller coast of tones and flavor, a buffet for the ears and soul. From bluegrassy twangs to R&B and even some slips of gospel and blues with a sprinkle of psychedelic rock, there is a bit of everything. When asked if there was any genre she was not trying to include, she laughs.
“I’ve really played with a lot of different genres,” she continues after coming down from the fit of laughter, “I had initially started in a very folk, very acoustic influenced genre. But the more I’ve gone on playing and writing, I’m figuring out I just want to be more soulful.”
The soulfulness comes through on each track. Morand’s background in the Church, singing gospel hymns, gives a punchy heart-wrenching tone that speaks on a very human level.
Of the nine tracks, four have already been released as singles and go on to show the breadth of experiences the listener will have on the Ghost House ride.
The four show Morand’s ability to spin tone and content in a way that you can have any combination of upbeat and/or sad. So, let us dig into those.
Never Enough is the sad/sad track, a slow, soulful and gut-wrenching composition talking about longing, addiction and the stress that it causes to the people who are cast aside in the process.
“When it’s full-blown addiction, there’s that insatiable appetite,” Morand states sullenly, “When someone that you love is kind of turning to something else instead of returning to you, it’s a lonely thing.”
But for those that make it out the other side, there are sorrowful sounding tracks with upbeat messages like Beautiful Scars, a track that oozes pure blues and Americana. Co-written by Suzie Vinnick and Morand it seems to be a track that can only be put to paper by a pair of veterans or, as Morand says, “vintage musicians.” An ethos of being yourself and realizing after the years it is about perseverance and compassion that makes us human and life worth living.
“You have a collection of dings, scratches and rub marks,” Morand goes off, building analogies to old guitars and your first car, “there’s a little story to all the little things and it’s what makes it special. The same is true with our lives and bodies.”
Easy, on the other hand, is a wild magical roadtrip track that hides a sad story in its lyrics. With the Detroit River as Morand’s muse she crafted the track to help her overcome the loss of a student who took their own life.
“I really wrestled with it; how do we go on with our lives when we’ve lost somebody?” Morand says with eyes filled with sadness and happy memories, “That’s why it’s a joyful song.”
But the most unabashedly joyful song of the album is arguably Coffee, told as a series of interconnected vignettes. Born during a run through Hamilton, birthplace of Tim Horton’s, it is a bouncy morning romp that is sure to perk you up just like a cup of your morning joe. When asked if the lyrics had any ulterior story, Morand just laughs and says it is up to the listener.
If you are interested in picking up Ghost Hotel, the album will be available February 1, 2022 at karenmorand.com as well as most music streaming sites. Lyric videos will also be available on her YouTube channel.