Mary Alouette:
The TVD First Date

Mary Alouette plays Sofar Sounds this Friday, May 11 and the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on May 24.

“Records lived in boxes in my basement when I was growing up. They belonged to my dad, and having no record player at home, they sat preserved. There had obviously been some love given to them as their covers were a bit rough around the edges. They’re a bunch of cool records.”

“My dad was somewhat of a hippie – he went to a small college of 300 people in Wisconsin, and a professor at his school lived in a teepee. His record collection defines the ’60s and these times of experimental adventures. I’d always been curious about these records, but for a long while, they sat under the table, waiting in the dark.

Jump forward. My friends in Montreal had record players and we’d sit and listen to their records, hearing warmth in the sound as if a live band were playing. We also found that listening to records took you on a journey. Just letting the sides play from beginning to end takes you on the musical road with the band.

My first time collecting records happened at the music library of my school, McGill University. They were giving away classical records, and I grabbed about 15 operas – Tosca, Fidelio, Carmen, and le Nozze di Figaro were among them. At the time, I had no record player, but I had a big empty wall in my bedroom that was openly asking for some love. I tacked nails in the walls and hung the records on them. I was studying opera singing in school, so having the records of my idols on my wall was inspiring to wake up to. They looked glorious to me, but I couldn’t wait for the chance to hear their stories. Yes, I could’ve bought a record player, but I was poor and spent money on headphones and music lessons instead.

Fast forward again three years. My roommates in Brooklyn had a record player, so I jumped on board and brought my dad’s records (the Beatles – all of the Beatles records were sadly worn out, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Procol Harum…) and my opera records to my home.

Having access to a player fueled the need to pick up more and more music. I bought a bunch of great ragtime piano records cheaply in the backstreets, and my boyfriend encouraged my love for Django Reinhardt and found some special records of his at various shops in NYC. He was big into Delta Blues, so we’d listen to a lot of Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, and Big Bill Broonzy, among others. I had the most indulgent experiences, especially alone. My favorite way to enjoy a record was to smoke a special cigar, enjoy a neat whiskey, read a big, thick book on Dalí, and drift away to the record playing. An added pleasure was listening to an old record of my dad’s and think of what was going on when the records were played back when.

I’ve since inherited a record player from a friend and now pick up loads of records in thrift stores in the DC area. I get them all for $1. Recently, I’ve gotten vinyl by Debussy and Chopin, and also picked up Switched on Bach (I play a Moog Voyager, so the vinyl is certainly an experience, though the music is a bit much to me).

The funny thing is that I love electronic dance music and don’t pick up those records. Mainly because I get albums online or from friends. I think that’s gotta be my next move. Another move awaiting is to press my next project to vinyl.

Yet, the most urgent awaiting move is the indulgent experience calling me to the player now…”
Mary Alouette

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