Spinal Tap keeps Terra Lightfoot grounded on new record

While recording her new album, Terra Lightfoot and her band got a little bit of unexpected help and inspiration from the greatest fake band of all time.

Hamilton songwriter's third studio album 'New Mistakes' is out on Oct. 13

Terra Lightfoot is seen here with her band (left to right) Jeff Heisholt (keyboards), Maury LaFoy (bass), Joel Haynes (drums). Lightfoot says her new album New Mistakes is much more of a "full band effort." (Dustin Rabin)

While recording her new album, Terra Lightfoot and her band got a little bit of unexpected help and inspiration from the greatest fake band of all time.

No, not The Monkees, Gem and the Holigrams or The Rutles — the unquestioned kings of rock and roll: Spinal Tap.

With the stresses of following up her most successful record yet (2015's Every Time My Mind Runs Wild) rustling, an engineer at Ohsweken's Jukasa Studios suggested the band watch a movie in the studio's high-end film suite one night after they had finished tracking for the day.

"Of course, we selected Spinal Tap, and I think it was the healthiest thing for a bunch of musicians to watch while making a record," Lightfoot said. "We laughed for hours and days after quoting the movie while we worked in the studio.

"I think it kept everybody's ego in check and alleviated and pressure we had put on ourselves to create a specific kind of record."

That new record, New Mistakes, drops on Oct. 13.

Shiny and new

There's a decidedly different sheen to Lightfoot's sound on the album. While Every Time My Mind Runs Wild was firmly rooted in roots rock, and her 2011 self-titled debut is largely muted acoustic folk, New Mistakes is undoubtedly the Hamilton songwriter's most polished and modern-sounding record.

Lightfoot says she wanted to sonically "time travel back to 1971" on the album, while producers Gus van Go and Werner F wanted to make a more modern and "sonically pleasing recording."

"I think what came out was a happy marriage of those two things," she said.

Lightfoot's third studio album "New Mistakes" is out on Oct. 13 on Sonic Unyon Records. (Dustin Rabin)

Lead off single Paradise is emblematic of that union. Lightfoot's dulcet and resonant voice is still the centerpiece, bolstered by her deft guitar playing. She's still running through a classic Gibson SG (dubbed Veronica) and a vintage 1962 Fender Bassman amp — those are the classic tones audiences have come to expect.

But the song has a much crisper production overall, and 8-bit synthesizer lines from keyboard player Jeff Heisholt are a first on her songs.

"I think it became a little shinier than I was initially ready for, but I trusted them," Lightfoot said.

All around the world

To say she and her bandmates have been busy in the last couple of years would be a massive understatement. Since the release of Every Time My Mind Runs Wild, the band has been on the road more often than not, playing over 250 shows across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, sharing stages with acts like Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo.

They're even heading to Australia and Japan next week.

All that travelling has changed her, Lightfoot says — she name checks different locations all across the album.

"You can really plot out where I've been on the map, and where I wrote each song," she said.

Even while being interviewed on the phone for this story, the sound of a New York airport PA announcer blares into the receiver, telling passengers to have their boarding passes ready at gate nine.

"I've gotta go, we're boarding," she says.

There's barely a respite from the touring travel grind — but she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's just been a beautiful whirlwind of playing music."


About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.