Cat provided backup vocals on Christine Fellows album
It’s a given that touring musicians will encounter at least one spontaneous and strange performance-related occurrence — and often it’s negative, like a drunken heckler, a bottle toss or a naked stage-hopper bearing some cryptic message on his or her body.
Winnipeg singer-songwriter Christine Fellows, however, cites a tour this past summer as one of the few times spontaneous and strange performance-related occurrences left a positive memory.
Collaborating with Toronto multimedia artist Shary Boyle as part of their Shadow Songs project, Fellows recalls a euphoric Dawson City (Yukon) Music Festival finale singing Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time with the festival’s other performers that brought out the zaniest in Boyle.
“She was just going nuts with full-on windmill arms,” Fellows laughs. “I already had such tremendous respect and admiration for her work and her work ethic. But she’s also a super amazing, laid-back and hilarious person to travel with.”
Fellows’ other lasting memory involved singers Carolyn Mark, Lily Fawn and Diona Davies bursting into a flaming hula hoop serenade during a stop at Guelph’s Hillside Festival.
Then again, Fellows’ own humour can crop up in the way she approaches recording and songwriting. The best example of this is Instructions On How to Dissect a Ground Owl — a cut from her third outing, 2005’s Paper Anniversary. Along with contributions from fellow “Peggers” Jason Tait and Fellows’ hubby John K. Samson of The Weakerthans, the songstress also included her cat Snap purring away as backup vocalist. Then there’s the song title itself, based on a Julio Cortázar poem from his work The Instruction Manual.
“There’s all kinds of these sketches he did — instructions on how to wind a watch, how to sing, how to cry, how to dissect a ground owl,” Fellows says. “I do draw a lot of my songs from literature like this as I develop my own songwriting.”
She also is drawn to collaborative work, such as scoring music with Tait on a forthcoming documentary on Bigfoot sightings in Manitoba and for choreographer Susan Burpee’s latest, The Spinster’s Almanac, sometime this fall.