With a successful band and a budding solo career, Amy Millan’s brain is, naturally, filled with musical thoughts. But she’s also got something else on the mind. “I think about death every day,” she says on the phone from Montreal. “I remind myself I will die so I live as hard and as well as I can every day.”
For fans of Millan’s solo records — she also sings in Stars — this revelation isn’t a surprise. Just look at the titles of her two records; her 2006 debut was named Honey from the Tombs; her new record is called Masters of the Burial.
The new song titles also deal with death. There’s Bruised Ghosts, Bury This, Finish Line and she covers Death Cab for Cutie’s haunting love song I Will Follow You Into The Dark.
It’s not that the singer has a morbid curiosity with the afterlife — Millan has experienced loss. However, she doesn’t say what tragedies have befallen her. “It’s private,” she says. “But there has been sorrow.”
While the themes may deal with less than uplifting topics, the music isn’t nearly as depressing. Like her last record, Masters is generally soft and delicate with a subtle country twang. With songs such as the warm Lullaby-like Low Sail, and the lush, harmony-filled Americana number Bound, this infectious record is a vast improvement over Honey from the Tombs.
But while many artists try to better themselves with each record, Millan’s goal isn’t to build on her previous efforts.
“It’s like talking about children,” she says. “Which one do you like better? You love them both equally. I wouldn’t have been able to make a second record if I hadn’t made the first.”
She’ll leave the discussion on whether or not Masters is superior to Honey up to the critics.
“I don’t live in a world of judgment,” she says. “I leave that to the people of the blogosphere and the comments page. The world I live in is just trying to create beauty.”
As Millan releases more and more of her own music, it’s hard not to wonder if she’s setting herself up to leave her more famous day jobs, as a the female vocalist in the Stars and Broken Social Scene. She says that’s not the case, but admits a lengthy solo career is a logical step.
“It’s obvious that I can keep going with myself, but I would love to be in Stars for the rest of my days,” she says. “And who wouldn’t want to be in BSS? But all those other projects are so collaborative; I’m not really responsible for the music writing. I write all the melodies for my own record. That gives me the chance to articulate something, and I can manipulate the whole situation.
“From the moment I start writing,” she adds, “I go through the entire process myself.”
• Amy Millan’s new album Masters of the Burial is out on Tuesday.