Five Questions With… Mariel Buckley
The Calgary singer/songwriter combines the lyrical heartfelt authenticity of classic country music with a steely-eyed intensity that compels an audience’s attention. Her second album, Driving In The Dark, is earning raves, and you can learn more here.
By Jason Schneider
Few performers combine the heartfelt lyrical authenticity of classic country music with a steely-eyed intensity that compels an audience’s attention like Calgary, Alberta’s Mariel Buckley. Amidst a sea of neon-Nashville superstars, Buckley offers a crunchy, roots alternative. It’s the kind of sound many musicians take years searching for, and the arrival of Buckley’s spectacular sophomore full-length album, Driving In The Dark, proves that she hasn’t taken a moment for granted.
Produced by Leeroy Stagger at his Rebeltone Ranch studio in Lethbridge, Alberta, musicians on the album include Stagger’s drummer and keyboardist Tyson Maiko and Michael Ayotte, veteran guitarist and noted producer Russell Broom, and Corb Lund’s drummer Brady Valgardson. They all helped enhance the essence of songs such as “Rose Coloured Frames,” “Jumping the Fence” and “I’m a Fool,” which exemplify the album's nostalgia and sometimes melancholic tone.
From the moment she arrived on the scene with her self-titled EP in 2012, Buckley quickly earned the respect of the Alberta roots music community, leading to performances in support of her idol k.d. lang, and entertaining audiences at the Calgary, Edmonton, Canmore and Fort MacLeod Folk Music Festivals. With the release of Motorhome two year later, the accolades kept growing, with No Depression hailing her as, “a new Loretta Lynn, speaking her mind... Throw in a little Townes Van Zandt mixed with Joan Jett and you’ve got an artist who’s going to grab a lot of people’s attention.”
Now with Driving In The Dark, Buckley is truly coming into her own. She could have chosen to chase a slicker, more polished sound built for radio and arenas, but instead, she has doubled down on the grit and the truth in her music. It’s honesty that brought her to this point and honesty that will continue to carry her into the future.
Mariel Buckley officially launches Driving In The Dark with shows in Calgary on May 4 and in Edmonton on May 5. For more info, go to marielbuckley.com
What makes Driving In The Dark stand apart from your previous work?
I felt more confident in the songwriting and production. It's also not as traditionally focused. We wanted to highlight some Americana influences, and I think we did just that.
Leeroy Stagger seemed the perfect choice as a producer. What did you learn from working with him?
Lee is a great producer and an even better mentor. He explained his choices and had all of the instrumentation thought out well in advance, and he wasn't afraid to try different grooves and feelings to find the right spot for a song to sit. I loved working on this album with him.
What songs on the record are you particularly proud of?
I think the band and myself probably dig “Rose Coloured Frames” and “One Time Asking” the most, just in terms of how full and rich they sound. My vocal performances seem to be strongest on those tracks as well.
What's been the most significant change in your life in the past year?
Probably the level of engagement in my career as a full-time touring musician. I've fully made the switch and dove in head first, which has been rewarding. Scary, but rewarding.
If you could fix anything about the music business, what would it be?
I'm not even remotely qualified to fix the music business, but I'd like to make a sizeable chunk of income from popular country radio, if that would accomplish anything. Likely not, though. I'm content to roll with the ebb and flow.