Continuing the theme of getting up close and personal with musical artists and legends, we bring you something special, an interview with The Carrie Armitage Quartet, a Canadian-based project focusing on a great groove foundation, “a mix of rock, pop, fusion jazz, and ambient, crossing genres eloquently.”

Hello! Thanks for sitting down with us to talk about music, inspiration, and more! For starters, when did you get the music bug? Can you recall your first-ever musical experience?

Not really. Well, my parents were gigging musicians, so I was experiencing music from before I was born. There were lots of musicians in my life. I never really imagined anything else for myself.

For a fan-to-be who may not have yet heard a The Carrie Armitage Quartet track but is reading this as their introduction into your world, how would you describe your sound and where it’s going?

This mainly instrumental project appeals to fans of everything from fusion jazz, progressive & Latin rock, to ambient and downbeat, because it touches on all these colors and vibes in a way that doesn’t insult really true fans of those genres.

What are the elevator pitches for your music that’ll make people have to listen?

The question makes me laugh, because I am the absolute worst hustler, I mean, listen to how I described our sound! But you’re right, sometimes you need to pull it together so I’d say this: “It’s kind of psychedelic, instrumental music that will take you on a musical adventure you’ve never been on.” I can confidently say that.

When listeners make their way through your band, what do you want them to feel?

Great grooves to begin with. Gary Craig on drums, is a Canadian favorite and my personal favorite. Mitch Starkman on bass is a real treat, his performances and tone will catch your attention for sure. Two great guitarists – our own Canadian Brian May who brings a real flare including many solo passages and Bob McAlpine, who plays on 5 tracks (Long Shadows, The Heartbeat Potential, Nocturne, Star Men, Dreaming Light) another wonderfully talented musician who brings into this set a nice contrasting energy, really balancing out the tracks. Evolving out of all of this is my ethereal, jazz-influenced keyboard, piano soundscapes, and vocals and I hope it carries people away a little bit.

Take me through your sound design process. Does the conception come first or do the songs evolve naturally – do you have a clear idea of what it will be before you start to make it?

For this project, I am fanning out the basic idea and capturing the creativity of this group before I build up the track too much. When all the contributions are in, this is when I really start to create the final sound design. I’ll start to get ideas of how it’s forming as the parts come in, but I am not dictating to anyone, I want their creative energy in this work.

How do you know when a track is ready? Does it ever become difficult to refine ideas or stop perfecting?

There are so many layers from writing to arranging to producing to mixing, sometimes all happening in tandem. For me, it’s when nothing is bugging me anymore. You’ll never hear your own work the way a new listener would, so you build up instincts about what is level or better than your previous work.

However, there is fatigue and you can think it’s done after a long day of mixing and tune in the next morning to the horrors of what you did the day before. Done? That decision requires some distance from it to at least mimic that new listener experience and get some perspective.

Can you introduce us to your album’s creative process? What were your influences?

I laid down the basic arrangements. The band then interpreted those sketches rolling in all their expertise and influences. Working with those foundations inspired something completely new for me. The tracks always evolved, and I would hear new things once everyone was in.

You collaborated with a bunch of impressive artists. How did that work? And who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Yes, all the musicians on this project are in demand for live and session players here in Canada. Working with them has been both educational and inspirational. What I’m looking for in collaborations is a desire to be creative, with different energies, and different sonics. I’m always listening and considering, and I have a small list of artists I’d like to work with when the work in progress creates space for it.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

Being a full-time musician and producer helps. I’m not fighting this huge energy drain of not living an artistic life. I know my creative time is 7 pm onwards, so I do business and most everything else during the day to create space for that. I put aside hours on Sundays to just play and ideas always form from those sessions. But I’m also writing for publishers, and those assignments are on tight deadlines. It’s amazing how a deadline can ramp up your inspiration and ability to be creative at 11 am!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work when you impose a deadline on yourself, for me anyway. If I were to recommend any strategy at all for entering a creative state more easily, I would have to say think of it differently and be very careful about the activities you do and the relationships you form that take you away from your creative state. As an artist, you should be able to take that state everywhere you go so it’s not a big stretch between these versions of you.

In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?

Well, you’re talking to a Canadian who has a deep respect for the cultural music I hear all around me, music being brought into Canada through immigration and fusing with the mosaic of sound gathering here. There is also this fusion of indigenous sounds with contemporary stylings, and I find it so beautiful to hear those cultural flourishes in otherwise popular-sounding music. They are glimpses of the soul, of ancestry, a deeper story. I think it may be difficult in cultures where music is so intrinsic to life, to break out of traditional genres and sonic structures but my experience here in Canada is there is a blending of cultural influences happening. Creative decisions are being shaped by cultural differences in wonderful ways!

I also want to ask you about the bands that have been continuous influences for you, but also about new bands and new records that you think are exciting in the music scene.

My influences have been diverse from Herbie Hancock to Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Al Jarreau, Andreas Vollenweider, and Pink Floyd, just to name a few. Add to that all the music I’ve played as a musician. Right now, I’m really impressed by an Indigenous Canadian artist Jeremy Dutcher, a perfect example of this fusion I was speaking about. A monster fusion jazz pianist who brings in the sound and language of their culture in this, at times, deeply moving fusion.

Do you have any specific reference tracks that drive your productions?

Not really. Not for this quartet work. Each one is treated uniquely.

What was the craziest idea you had – whether feasible or not – that you really wanted to go forward with?

Ummm, being a musician?

What other creative outputs do you engage in that we may not suspect?

That you may not suspect? Hmmm. I feel like I should have an interesting answer. All the quartet artwork is my design. I’m producing some cool and different projects, assisting non-profits to build interesting music therapy initiatives – this is all very creative and collaborative work.

What do you hope to do with your art in the future? I mean, do you have any crazy goals?

I really don’t have any crazy goals, other than to continue working with people more talented than me, who bring new ideas and energy into this work. But artists do just that, we continue.

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Still can't tell exactly my origins because of my suspiciously ‘Chinese eyes’.