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In The Garden: The Weather Station

On The Power of Radical Softness


NOV 14, 2022 | ISSUE 9

The Weather Station by Danielle Rubi
Tamara Lindeman by Brendan Ko
Tamara Lindeman

Since forming in 2006, the members of The Weather Station — a four-piece Canadian folk band — have changed and lead singer Tamara Lindeman has evolved. In the band’s 16-year career, they’ve released six studio albums, the most recent being Ignorance (2021) and How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars (2022).

Lindeman, who wrote and produced all the songs on Ignorance, pulls inspiration from both her introspective musical style and the social atmosphere of the world at the time of its creation. While Ignorance sweeps listeners through thoughts on advocacy and climate, How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars looks through a more personal perspective, and was recorded live with Toronto-based jazz musicians. Lindeman joins smART Magazine to discuss the latest album, the Toronto music scene and venues that inspired it, and how climate activism found her.

sM | When did you know Ignorance needed a follow up album?

TL ── Ignorance always felt very complete and certain, but I had also written all these other songs that just didn’t fit with it. I felt sad that these songs were left to sit on a hard drive somewhere … and I knew by the time I was finished putting out Ignorance, these other songs would be too old to go back to.

So, I just had these “orphan songs” that I wanted to record for myself. It was also a bit of an experiment recording live with a band. Then the decision to put it out was made many months later and I was never sure it was the right decision. But some of the lyrics feel really relevant, and I hear a lot of intersection between the two records, so I feel that it was the right move in some ways.

sM | This latest album has been described as your softest yet, in a time where there’s such an incentive against softness. What’s your argument for staying mellow?

TL ── I have a shirt that says, “Radical softness is a boundless form of resistance,” and I never buy shirts that say things, but I had to buy it because I needed to wear it for myself. There’s a lot of fear in the world, and fear tends to manifest as anger and rigid thinking and, right now, we’re all afraid.

People are complicated and when you’re dealing with complicated stuff, like climate change, asking people to imagine the world slightly differently is near impossible. And so, I think of all the times in my life when I felt that being gentle allowed me into spaces that maybe wouldn’t have if I was too intense. It’s hard because I can be a little malleable as a human — that’s my weakness — but I also like to think of it as a strength. It’s all of these traditionally feminine qualities that I think have a lot to say to the world.

We still prioritize strength and traditionally masculine qualities and yet, in a world that is quickly changing, where we have to manage our pain and fear more than anything, I think some conventionally feminine qualities of care and softness are what’s needed.

sM | How has your environmental advocacy developed in both your art and personal life?

TL ── At the end of 2018, I went down a climate change rabbit hole and, the more I read, the bigger the impression it made on me. There’s this story I like about Exxon researching climate change in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s and concluding, “Yep, it’s going to happen.” But then they created a misinformation campaign saying the science wasn’t settled even though they settled it themselves. I never think poorly of people, but that blew my mind. My whole life elapsed in this reality of forces trying to pretend science isn’t real.

And yet, I’ve spent life feeling guilty for existing. That was what lit the spark. I already cared, but I thought, “I can’t not talk about it,” because I felt so much shock and indignation. That was what pushed me into talking about it publicly and in my music. When I look at how critical these years are, if I waited until I retired, it might be too late. I need to find the next way to advocate. What can I do in the next 10 years? The world is at a critical point, and it’s about everything. It’s human rights. It’s the climate. Everything is connected.

sM | How does it feel to be back on stage and interacting with people after the last two years?

TL ── It’s interesting. We want our audience to wear masks, but it’s harder to connect because you can’t see faces. I’ve found that some people are excited and some are afraid. There’s a level of discomfort in the audience that I think about. I imagined people would interact more, so maybe I haven’t figured out how to put people at ease yet. That’s not my strong suit. I think I need to grow as a performer and become a master of ceremonies because we’ve all been through a lot. At the same time, it’s been so incredible. I feel really blessed; I can’t believe I get to sing every night. I love it.

It’s been bittersweet. It got me thinking about history and how, maybe for the rest of our lives, we’ll be in between crises. It doesn’t mean we won’t play our music or put on shows — after all, people played music in the ‘40s and during the First World War.

Before, I was talking about things on the internet, but now that I’m physically in the world, it’s different. I think that this record coming out was the last thing that I had to attend to, and now I’m a little bit more free. There are days when just doing music feels pretty hollow because I’m like, “This is not enough,” so I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Tamara Lindeman by Ella Mazur