Andrea Revel: folk from Calgary to Montreal and back

Singer/songwriter Andrea Revel was born and raised in Calgary, but moved to Montreal on a whim. Though she had no definite plans, she ended up calling Montreal home for five years. During that time, she worked on a multitude of projects, wrote songs for both Old Navy and Target commercials and released two albums.

“I was working with an electronic producer named Mike McCann and he was part of the FUBAR crowd,” says University of Calgary alumna Revel. “They all — Mike Dowse, Mike McCann — went out there together to start up films together with Dave and Paul from FUBAR. So I was working on the album and Mark was like, ‘Come on, come out to Montreal.’ “

Though she collaborated with the group, she focused on her own alt-folk stylings. Her third album, House of Sticks — slated for release Mar. 19 — is a vestige of this time spent in Montreal. The album was written and recorded while Revel was in residence at the Mile End Cultural Center in Montreal where she would write and perform one song a month with other musicians. Revel, however, has recently moved home to Calgary and ended her self-imposed exile.

“I just realized that I wanted to be closer to family and friends again. I honestly like Calgary — it might not be as hip or cosmopolitan as Montreal, but everyone is so friendly and down to earth here and it was nice to come back.”

Since moving, Revel has found a marked difference between the atmospheres in the city’s music communities.

“In Montreal . . . there are a lot of people who are have-nots,” she says. “Most people are working a crappy menial job on the side and mostly focusing on music. There are just so many of us trying to be artists. It’s great, because you’re around this incredibly rich atmosphere where you have amazing musicians everywhere. No one really has a proper job. Here, a lot of great musicians have day jobs or full on other careers. They are professionals in different ways, engineers or teachers or they have their own sound tech companies.”

Revel’s new album touches on many themes, but one of the most dominant is the internal debate that surrounded her decision to leave Montreal and return to her roots in Calgary.

“For me, there are definitely some themes of loneliness, even though I had so many great friends and musicians around me, I definitely longed for the lifelong friendships back here and family — and definitely feeling poor,” she says. “That came up, the whole, ‘I have no money and I’m trying to keep doing it.’ Those cliche artist themes.”

It also acts as a longitudinal study on how Revel was feeling at different points over her residency. Since she was writing and performing one song a month, the songs touch on many different issues and aesthetics — from the allegorical “House of Sticks,” to the bouncy and light “My Twin.”

“The truth is I wrote some of the songs over a long period of time,” says Revel. “For me, this was my journal and my way of recording my life then. I was attached to these songs because of that and I had to put them to rest before I could even really write anything new.”

Revel has put them to rest and is now back in Calgary teaching elementary school. Like her time in Montreal, the experience will likely provide some of the inspiration for her next album.

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