Canadian songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Basia Bulat has spent the last nine years garnering attention for her thoughtful songwriting and passionate live performances. Much of her recorded output could loosely be called folk, but Bulat's brand of that music transcends preconceptions. So much so that she was tapped by Denver gypsy rock phenoms DeVotchKa to be an opening act on their 2008 tour, an experience Bulat remembers fondly.
“I learned on that tour about performance and musicianship,” recalls Bulat. “They've been playing together for years and are still good friends, and that was special to behold. Off stage, they hung out together. You expect that from a brand-new band. They seem very tight, and they taught me how to look after an opener on tour. There is a certain hospitality they were able to show me. They invited me to sing every night, and that was cool.”
As her star has ascended, Bulat has come into contact with a variety of other artists, including one of her musical heroes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame. The latter produced Bulat's latest album, 2016's Good Advice, which was recorded in James's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
While recording, Bulat explored Louisville, including the Workhouse Ballroom, affectionately referred to as “The Cave,” a concert venue in an actual cave. She also frequented the coffee shop and record store Please & Thank You and once visited the now-defunct Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium, which Bulat says housed eight theme bars on what looked like a movie set from the 1980s. In general, the welcoming climate of Louisville made Bulat feel at home and free to be creative in a positive environment.
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For the new record, Bulat explored electronic elements in her music much more extensively than in any time in the past, and rediscovered a love for keyboards and piano. In the recording sessions, James got Bulat to do warm-up exercises on her voice, and the benefits of that can be heard throughout the album, on which Bulat's voice seems to stretch out much further than on previous efforts. But the key to a sense of expansiveness heard on the album was the way in which, preparations aside, Bulat and James worked together to favor spontaneity and intuition.
“These songs were written very quickly,” Bulat says. “And in the studio, we didn't overthink them. I think we just wanted to make something new and more exciting to us. As much as we have so many records we loved in common, we wanted to make something that didn't sound like any records we already knew. We didn't have any references. We were getting excited about the songs themselves. Maybe it was time or experience, or you just have confidence in yourself. I just needed a little push from him to explore all these things that I was a little mysterious about.”
Basia Bulat, with Weather Station, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 5, Larimer Lounge, 303-291-1007, 16+.