Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Q&A With Fontine

By Christopher Treacy & FONTINE

Photo Credit: Jen Doerksen

Winnipeg-based FONTINE just released her debut EP, Yarrow Lover, yesterday, and it’s been a long time in coming. When we covered the first single, “Homemaker” late last year, we were struck by the viewpoint: a rejection of domesticity. It’s not something you often hear articulated in songs, and it’s an important with a queer context as well—not everyone wants a white picket fence. As queer folks, we still get to define our relationships in whatever ways feel natural and comfortable to us, and that doesn’t always match convention. “Homemaker” was also striking for it’s bittersweet melancholy. And “Yarrow Lover,” the EP’s title track, exudes a similar energy. The production is an indie-folk-pop delight, and Fontine brings a strong vocal performance to the track. The entire EP is about an ending relationship in different stages, but it also subtly celebrates the beauty of letting go. It may have taken a few years to come to fruition, but this won’t be the last we hear from this exciting Indigenous artist from “up north.”

As a cycle of songs, Yarrow Lover seems to chronicle a breakup. The title track is flooded with melancholy, but there’s a bittersweet quality to it—something almost ‘mournfully joyous,’ for lack of a better description. Letting go is so intensely painful, but there’s other energy in the song, tempering the pain. Can you speak to that a little?

I know when I was writing it, it was supposed to be sort of like this hopefulness for the other person—not that they were ever going to listen to the song—and a reminder that they would be okay without me. But I think I actually wrote it for myself, really. It has changed over time to serve as a reminder to anyone that things change, and you are going to be totally fine. You will find new and incredible things in your life over and over again. 

Some of the songs on the EP are more organic than others. This one seems to really be an electro-organic blend. It strikes a great balance. Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution of the song, structurally, and the choices you made in production? 


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

I was actually looking for some old videos and pictures from when we were making the record just the other day, and I came across a video I had taken of a snippet of the first time I demo’d “Yarrow Lover.” It was one of the very first times I had really taken a solid crack at any production other than eq’ing my guitar and vocals. I sent it to Kris Ulrich (co-producer and engineer) and he loved the song so much, he sent it back the next day with better drum sounds, some different synth bits and some better sounding guitars. This song in particular was a bit of a long haul because we were living in different cities at the time, but we eventually added a bunch of really crispy, bright—but also warm—parts that Kris played, re-did the lead vocals and some harmonies, but kept the original acoustic track buried in there. Most of the stacked harmonies are from the original demo too.

How does Yarrow fit into the context? 

So, yarrow is this hardy plant that has healing properties. When I learned about this, I thought about how even though the relationship I was in at the time was not right for me, it was still really healing. Really, writing the whole EP was a healing and growing process for me. I think, also, the juxtaposition of how dainty and airy the flowers are versus the fact that it’s such a a hardy plant is a cool contrast. It’s also a reminder for me that no matter how fragile you can feel after a big change, you will persevere and make it through to the other side with beauty and grace. 

From writing the first song to full completion, how big a span of time did it take to make your debut EP?

“Yarrow Lover” was the first song I wrote from the EP, and I wrote that in early 2020, so, three years.

Can you articulate how your cultural heritage informs your approach to art and music? Is it a spiritual extension?

I think that I’m really drawn to themes of nature and connecting with the land. I pull from the sounds I hear the earth make, and the beauty that Mother Nature has given us, most specifically in the “Nature Song for the Time Being” track off of the EP. I think that music is an incredible tool for connection, and we have been making music since the dawn of time. It’s a way for everyone, regardless of language, culture, beliefs, whatever, to connect in a really pure and beautiful way, and I think I feel that in my bones. My ancestors were drumming and singing and telling stories, and I want to continue that way of connecting with people. 

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He’s the Managing Editor for CQ and lives in Waitsfield, VT.

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