A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canadian songwriter Calvin Love plays a mix of lo-fi indie and lush, darkly romantic pop. Emerging from the same vibrant Canadian scene as contemporaries Mac DeMarco, Alex Calder, and Sean Nicholas Savage, he established himself as a pop stylist with an atmospheric sound and a keen ear for melody. His latest release is Highway Dancer, out now via Modern Sky USA. There’s a palpable mood at the heart of the record: a mood as mercurial, dream-like, and haunted as a late night on the open road. A lifelong musician, Love has always been influenced by his restless spirit and his travels. Highway Dancer is full of songs for travelers, but it also speaks to anyone who’s ever been in limbo, in transition, or in-between moving and standing still.
We are living in such a powerfully political time in need of immediate recognition and change. The seed of this song was voiced by the sadness of systematic injustice, particularly sourcing the indigenous peoples of this land. My heart felt so much confliction in the case of Adam Capay—the Ojibwe man who was held in solitary confinement for four years—and in trying to grasp and understand the colonial powers that have destroyed a culture and his youth.
There has been such a divide in our country but in understanding my place in the reconciliation it has allowed me the chance to deepen the love I share, and the compassion I allow to empathize with the injustices. I witness injustice daily and it is a responsibility in battling the hyper-normalization of radicalized pain, trauma, and corruption.
There is difficulty in processing a system that is not reparative in creating and building an opportunity for growth and change. I hold a lot of anger and sadness in reflecting on how I can create change and space for a multitude of voices to be heard and in deconstructing the power dynamics we exist in. Do I have a place or right to speak about these issues in reconciliation as a person of privilege in society? These are all critical questions I ask through my work and developing as my best self through the questioning of who and what I am, my voice, my understanding, relationships to others and myself in the continual growth and exploration of life.
“The Coin, The Stick, and The Take” is a modern Western, starring Calvin Love (myself) as a lonesome cowboy in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. The film follows Calvin through daily ritual, seeking peace with nature, the lake, and his horses. His story is unknown to the spectator as he journeys through a day in total solitude. The film depicts the cyclical nature of the personal battle, juxtaposed within the Canadian countryside. The Coin, The Stick, and The Take seek to understand what fuels societal forces of money, power, and greed.
My personal relationship lyrically to the video is represented through this sense of the undefined. There is this ambiguity of the lonesome cowboy, escaping through reflection and daily ritual. There is also this underlining sadness and recognition of social greed and the systems of power. We are unsure of this person’s personal story, who are they and what have they experienced; there is a sense of loss and personal battle allowing for the imagery and lyrical content to share a common context and create a unified relationship. The imagery allows us to connect a deepened awareness and recognition of the beautiful land of Northern Ontario. Strung together is this juxtaposed irony of the sadness and pain of the land through the human experience that traces and informs the history. The beauty of the land engulfs and silences the dynamics, and this is shared through the solitary isolation that the lonesome cowboy embodies.
It is a vulnerable place to share thoughts lyrically and commit to making a choice to voice them, but in doing so I feel strengthened by my awareness in creating space for healing. As an artist, I am constantly trying to access freedom, to create from authenticity. To acknowledge that many racialized people, communities and individuals do not have the opportunity or privilege as me, to feel a sense of freedom is a very deeply sad place to work from daily.
How do we attack from the root, and allow the truth to hold the power in implementing systematic change?
My personal purpose is through songwriting, creating an opportunity for conversation from the work and material I share and represent.
I escape the conflicts of the world creatively through music and this song is a piece of that journey.
You can catch Calvin on tour 12/7 at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY or 12/12 at The Standard Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA.