Follow that Cab – Catching up with TAXI

OLM caught up with Ottawa’s Emma Lamarre, AKA TAXI to discuss her “Intimacy Issues”.  That is the title of her debut EP, which will be dropping on September 8.  The songs titillate with straight-forward lyrics trip-hopping coyly along the notes of indie pop-noir rhythms.

Her producer, Bernard Frazer also joined us in conversation. Bernard is involved with a few other Ottawa bands, including the critically acclaimed, Church of Trees. In fact, Emma is an honorary member of Church of Trees who has performed live with the band.

Ottawa Life:  How did the TAXI project start?

Emma Lamarre: In Feb 2016, I was feeling discouraged and down so I decided to attend a song writers’ circle. It was the monthly meeting of the Ottawa chapter of the Song Writers’ Association of Canada held at the Sandy Hill community center.

That night I played my song, Flakey Girl.  Bernard Frazer, who was also in attendance heard me and approached me after the event to tell me he liked it and asked if he could produce it.  We’ve been working together since then. 

[Bernard interjects enthusiastically, “I actually leapt out of my chair and said we must work together!”]

Wow! But you said you were feeling discouraged. That’s impressive that you had nerve to go to the event considering your state of mind. You must have pushed yourself. 

Yes I did. It took me a while but I wanted to get my hand back in and stretch myself out a little. I’m so glad I did as it led to something fruitful.  I went to prove it to myself that I still could be involved in a creative outlet. It was great to interact with other song writers and to learn their different processes.  That really interests me.  Everyone is so different when they write songs.  Meeting Bernard as someone who wanted to work with me wasn’t the outcome I expected.  But it sure was great!

That’s a fantastic story. So what is your own song writing process?

I make it a point to write at least three pages a day. It’s all sort of stream of consciousness. I just go and don’t think about it too much. But then something will strike me – like a theme or a thought – it will jump from the page. Then I will search through my notes for little gems.  Honestly, most of what’s there is not great but there are some choice lines within and that’s what I try to pull out. It’s a little different every time but that mainly sums up my process. I’ve worked that way since I was young.  In fact, I’ve kept diaries since I was 7 years old. I still have them!  Sometimes I look back and laugh. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll use some of these old ramblings as a basis for new songs.  

So, tell me more about your new EP, Intimacy Issues. Let’s discuss your issues!

Ha, yes, I guess I asked for that, didn’t I. So mainly, the way I write is what I consider as the airing of my dirty laundry, so to speak. I like to explore the ugly sides of things, the emotions that we don’t want to bring to the fore or want to avoid at all costs.  The only way I can face these feelings head-on is to write them all down.  I was going through certain things that inspired these lyrics and I suppose that might be obvious. But usually, once I complete a song, I can close that ugly feeling and close that chapter. These are my intimacy issues! There may be more!

Ah so there’s more material to come!  It sounds like writing is therapeutic for you.

Yes indeed. That’s how it all started.

So not only are you writing these things down, but then you sing about them in public. So you’re airing out your issues to live audiences. That must take a lot of courage!

My favorite artists have highly confessional writing styles. Joni Mitchell is someone who inspired me a lot.  She was so OK about not being OK. She sang about what other people were feeling but wouldn’t admit to. She was able to “own it”, which I really admire.

Tell me more about the songs on your new EP. Were they written more recently are a while back?

Most songs were written fairly recently, except for the lyrics for the song “Sad”, which were written a long time ago. I’ve always had a soft spot for that particular song and its theme. It was the last song that we worked on in the studio.  As far as the other songs on the EP, Couch and Flakey Girl, and others were all written around 2015-16.

So Bernard, tell me your role in this project.  How are you turning Emma’s writing into songs.

Bernard Frazer: We usually have a chord sequence and a melody in mind. So I typically end up hearing the influences that she may have been thinking of when she wrote the lyrics. So I take that as a cue to remodel the composition into a song and flesh it out.  We seem to be on the same wavelength for that. We both agreed on Portishead influences!

So, Emma, you are releasing this EP on September 8th.  You have 5 songs that you want to get out now. And then what?

Emma Lamarre: I’m always writing and I have plenty of issues – so I won’t run out of material [laughs].  We are really proud of these songs and want to see how far we can take them and see where this leads us. My favorite place to be is in the studio. I want to get back there soon.  And of course, I like to sing live on stage although nerves are always present.  I’m getting much better at it.

You will have your EP release show on September 16 at Live On Elgin! here in Ottawa. When you perform live as TAXI, are you accompanied by a band?

No, it’s just Bernard and I. And we also like to throw in some covers – reimagined versions of some classics.

Well we look forward to this upcoming performance and sincerely hope you don’t run out of issues so you can continue to write great songs!  We need our artists to be opening their souls to help the rest of us deal with our own emotions.  

TAXI is officially dropping the EP on Friday September 8, and will hold an EP release event on Friday September 16 at Live on Elgin!