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An interview with Corinna Rose, the Montreal folk songstress who counts Sarah Polley among her biggest fans (so much so, she's playing the Take This Waltz TIFF premiere)

In our on-going hunt for beautiful summer sounds, the soulful and electrifying melodies of singer-songwriter Corinna Rose (aka Corey Gulkin) are truly the next best thing to hit Montreal’s ever-growing folk scene. With a debut album set to launch this August after two years of writing and composing, Gulkin’s new work connotes the easy warmth and nostalgia inherent to late summer afternoons, paisley skirts and long bicycle rides on dusty roads. She and her band will release the Corinna Rose EP on August 11, and in the lead-up, we had the wonderful opportunity to chat about why Sarah Polley chose one of her songs for Take This Waltz, her favourite Montreal hideaways, and her exciting year ahead.

How long have you been performing as Corinna Rose?

I’ve been performing as Corinna Rose for the past year and a half. Most people know me as Corey, but ‘Corinna Rose’ is the name written on my birth certificate. When I was born, my uncle stated that with a name like Corinna Rose I was bound to become a country & western singer, which wasn’t so far off! My mom actually named me after the old folk standard “Corrina, Corrina.”

I began playing piano when I was 5 years-old, and I’ve picked up a number of different instruments over the years, including the guitar, banjo, saxophone and drums. I never thought about becoming a “real” musician, with a music “career.” In fact, I found performing quite terrifying, though that changed in university when I started performing with folk/rock group the Rusty Horse Band. When the band broke-up, I was devastated – seriously, it was like breaking up with a romantic partner – and I think that’s when I realized I needed to continue writing and performing on my own.

Who are your mentors in the industry?

I think it is so important for local musicians to share information and support one another. It has been really inspiring to connect with other female artists in the city – Ainsley McNeaney and I go out for coffee every so often, and I’ve started playing banjo for Gabrielle Papillon, who has always been there to bounce ideas off of. Of course, I have musical crushes on a number of other artists in Montreal, who I hope to hang out with in the future – Cécile Doo-Kingué is badass, and Charlotte Cornfield is an incredible songwriter…

Some of your tunes will be featured in the new Sarah Polley film ‘Take This Waltz’, with huge names attached to it including Seth Rogan and Sarah Silverman – how did this come about?

Honestly, the music industry is all about networking. I was introduced to Sarah Polley back in my Rusty Horse Band days. She saw us perform at Le Cagibi in 2008, and has been a fan ever since. I received an e-mail from her last autumn saying that she would love to use one of our tracks; not only did she have the song stuck in her head while writing the film’s opening scene, but she had also been playing it constantly on set. Soon afterwards she invited us to come perform at the premiere’s after-party during the Toronto International Film Festival.

Where do you see yourself in five years, physically and musically?

Tough question. Physically, I really hope to have the chance to explore and travel, within and without Canada, but I’m feeling very open to just going wherever life takes me. Musically, I want to make sure that I’m still writing and playing in 5 years, and enjoying it as much as I do now. Of course, I have dreams of touring, releasing a few more albums and getting signed to a label; but, I promised myself never to do any of those things at the expense of my passion for the music itself.

Can we look forward to a fall tour following your album launch this month?

Yes! I’ll be doing a mini-tour with my band this September in Ontario to promote the album, and the premiere of ‘Take This Waltz’ at the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ll be announcing all the dates very soon.

What’s your favourite summer hangout in Montreal?

Oh, there are so many to list! Of course, I adore Mont-Royal for Tam-Tams or a picnic. I’ve been trying to explore new areas of Montreal on my bike lately – there’s a tiny park at the East end of the island called Le parc du bout de l’île – it’s right where Rivière-des-prairies meets the Fleuve St. Laurent – and it makes me feel like I’m at the end of the world!

Join us for the album release on August 11 at Quai des brumes (4481 St-Denis)! Doors at 8pm, $7.

Corinna Rose’s new EP can be streamed here!

~ Tyler Yank
Photo Credit: Leah Dolgoy

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