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Sunday, July 14, 2024
Singer-songwriter recorded new album at old Niagara-on-the-Lake family farm
Avalon Tassonyi says their latest record "Candlelightning" emerged from six months of recording music live with friends in an old cabin on their family's peach farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Supplied

It was a dark and tempestuous October night in Niagara-on-the-Lake three years ago, on an old peach farm next to Lake Ontario.

Inside the farm’s wooden cabin, however, singer-songwriter Avalon Tassonyi and friends were safe from the thunderstorm, recording music together off the floor.

When the power went out, they lit the room with candles. Then, flashes of lightning began to fill the sky. Tassonyi made a connection there between the two sources of light and heat, one minute and personal, the other large and omnipresent – a spectrum representing life itself.

“That’s something that I try to capture in my songs,” said Tassonyi, who uses they/them pronouns. “Detail but also big-picture, and personal but also universal, and just trying to create something that does both of those things at once.”

That night became the inspiration for the title of Tassonyi’s sophomore album, “Candlelightning,” which is out now.

This latest project, a mix of folk, country and rock music, was produced entirely in Niagara-on-the-Lake and recorded at the old family farm where they has been living on and off since mid-2020.

Originally from Toronto, Tassonyi relocated to NOTL from Montreal, which was home for a decade before.

The timing of this record, like their first, is pertinent. The debut album, self-titled, came out last spring, at the tail end of another lockdown, and was recorded by Tassonyi in isolation.

“Candlelightning,” however, was a collaborative effort and comes now after we’ve put more than a year of lockdown behind us.

“Most of the album was recorded while everything was still locked down. I was in a bubble with three other people,” Tassonyi said.

Two of those people helped record this album: bassist and vocalist Eliza Niemi and drummer Eli Kaufman – who were both with Tassonyi on that stormy October evening.

Tassonyi, meanwhile, wrote the tracks, sings on the record and plays guitar, piano, harmonica and more.

A handful of other musicians Tassonyi knows feature on the album, recorded over the course of six months in 2020 and 2021, including pianist Nick Nausbaum, vocalist Cedric Noel, flutist Vic Bury and trumpet player David Lavoie.

“I just really like the way music sounds when it’s played together in a room with a bunch of people,” they said.

Outside of the recording process, however, Tassonyi spent their life in Niagara-on-the-Lake in solitude, as many others did during the pandemic. And, like others, they’re slowly returning to the world, reconnecting with friends in the city these days.

“Now, we’re coming more into this collective ethos of seeing the value of being together,” Tassonyi said. “I think this music captures that. The timing feels good to put it out there.”

The album starts off on a strong note with “Yes or No,” a warm, upbeat folk track dedicated to one of Tassonyi’s biggest philosophies for navigating life: to be like water and not worry about the thing you can’t control.

“It’s kind of like the central song on the album.”

As the record progresses, however, the songs enter a softer, more melancholy state of country folk, such as on the sixth track, “Planting a Garden,” a tableau of Tassonyi’s secluded life on the NOTL farm, tending to a small crop of vegetables.

“I have dreams of doing a lot more gardening and farming, but it might be something that doesn’t come to be until I’m in my 40s or 50s,” they said. “I’m just focusing on my music.”

While this record is sonically similar to Tassonyi’s self-titled album from last year, it does take a turn in a new direction at the end, finishing off with a jazz ballad called “You Snuck Up On Me.” Tassonyi said they’ve always loved the genre.

“I was doing a bit of jazz in school and that’s always been an influence, but it’s not the genre I was working in for my own music.”

After spending most of their life moving around, and on the road touring solo and with other bands, Tassonyi feels lucky to call multiple places home: Toronto, Montreal and wherever they’re playing on stage.

“I think my deepest home is the family spot in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” they said. It once belonged to Tassonyi’s grandparents, who immigrated to Canada from Hungary, and Tassonyi spent many summers visiting with family.

However, in the spirit of “Candlelightning” and its embrace of togetherness, home can also be wherever you’re with the people you love and feel connected with, Tassonyi said.

“Music is a gift and I’m happy to be able to share with people,” they said.

“Candlelightning,” out now on Vain Mina Records, is available to purchase online at Bandcamp, and for listening on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and YouTube.

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