By Christopher Treacy
It’s taken Calgary-based musician Mariel Buckley four years to follow up 2018’s, Driving In the Dark, an album rich with vintage charms and introspective meanderings that forced Canada’s alt-country community to sit up and take notice. Buckley works at a pace that suits her: it was also four years between her 2014 full length debut, Motorhome, and Driving In the Dark. In a world that tells us to hurry, quick, before we lose everyone’s attention, Buckley seems content to take her time. It’s admirable.
Last week it was announced that her Marcus Paquin-produced third album, Everywhere I Used to Be, arrives on 8/12. Paquin is known for working with Arcade Fire and The National, among others, signaling a change in direction for Buckley. Alongside came the first single, “Shooting at The Moon,” and it’s a jolt of shimmering country-pop goodness with a rocking, Petty-inspired edge. We liked it so much, we made it our Song of The Week in the new CQ Roundup. Buckley is for sure in new territory, here, but she sounds right at home. The narrative begs a lot of questions, so we reached out to ask her if she’d care to elaborate a bit and she obliged.
There’s a lot going on in the narrative here: bittersweet romantic memories, the punishing life on the road, a fantasy about being perceived a certain way, the idea of living someone else’s dream… can you talk a little about the inspiration for the song? It seems like an intersection of sorts.
The tune itself started as a bit of an internal anthem, a reminder that the highs are fleeting and the lows are what keep you hungry to get further or be better. So that’s one part of it for sure. It’s also about the masochistic love affair some of us have with touring. “Every night I lay on flowered sheets / and I think of you” is a bit of a cheeky insider for anyone who understands that ‘grass is always greener’ feeling of being on/off the road. You’re often thinking about where you could/will be, instead of where you are.
Identity is a theme that runs heavily through the whole record, in this tune it relates specifically to my career more than anything. Most artists struggle with the idea of self/public perception and certainly I do, as a queer artist. It’s hard to have that be an immediately interpreted part of your persona without even opening your mouth, if that makes sense.
I think the intersection you’re interpreting is maybe a very real snapshot of my internal struggle with being perceived on stage as visibly different, ungrateful for my successes, less-than my male colleagues… I’m over simplifying, but ultimately that “underdog” spirit is what drives me to keep grounded and ignore the noise, inside and out.
Is there romance in being the underdog?
Absolutely, I think. I understand the implied ‘woe is me’ sentiment as well, and I also recognize that I’m still in a position of privilege, comparatively to many folks. That being said, for me, there’s a very powerful feeling in being up against the odds, or having something to prove. I thrive on that feeling.
The song is driving in a no bullshit way with lots of forward momentum. It’s also more of a pop song than what’s come before—and I mean that in the best way. The production is super tight. Was that a deliberate choice? Is it indicative of the direction of the new album?
That’s so nice of you to say! Honestly it’s a great indicator of what’s to come. Marcus and I were very deliberate in wanting tight, punchy and contemporary production but with the same warm appeal of a live band and live takes. So almost the entire record is my interpretation of what I think pop-country should actually sound like, haha.
I’m really a music fan more than anything else, so when I get into a production style or find a sonic influence that I wanna run with, I always want to keep my sensibilities about honest songs at the core. But playing around with genre and instrumentation is what keeps it fresh for me and the listeners, so that’s always something I’m trying to do.
It’s been 4 years since your last full length – multiple singles in between. Aside from COVID, maybe you could tell us a bit about whatever obstacles may have stood in your way en route to making this new album?
The pandemic certainly fucked our scheduling to get the band and producer in one place for 2 weeks to make the thing. Because of how we envisioned making it, we needed the full amount of time to get the live band and vocal takes.
That being said, I also deliberately took time to write intentionally and excessively. I had about 24 songs going into pre-production, and paring those down and then editing took time. Mostly I didn’t feel I should rush, and wanted the recording to be as organic as possible given the circumstances.
Got a Pride message for CQ readers?
Shoot… I wish I was more inspirational! Haha.
I guess I’d say that the road to feeling truly proud is a long one, particularly for those of us who sit outside the norm. Your presence as any letter in the alphabet is valid, needed and beautiful; regardless of your visibility or if you’ve come out or not. Whether you do it quietly or parading, you can be proud in your own way and at every stage of your journey. For every person who doesn’t understand, I promise there are ten who feel just like you do.
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 lives in Waitsfield, VT.