In Conversation with Terra Lightfoot on ‘Consider the Speed’

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Photo by Mat Dunlap

Canadian singer-songwriter Terra Lightfoot’s album Consider the Speed released in the fall of 2020 was produced by Jay Newland (Etta James, Norah Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Buddy Guy) and engineered by Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell (Mark Ronson, John Mayer, North Mississippi Allstars, Ty Segall) and recorded in Memphis at the legendary Royal Studios and with additional recordings at Toronto’s Revolution Studios. Accompanying Lightfoot on the album are Steve Potts (Al Green, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, Mavis Staples, Buddy Guy, Isaac Hayes) on drums, Davy Smith (Kris Kristofferson, Al Green, Rufus Thomas, Wilson Pickett, B.B. King, John Mayall) on bass, and Lester Snell (Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Albert King, Mavis Staples, Steve Earle, Keith Richards) on keys.

Terra Lightfoot Consider the Speed album cover – Photo by Mat Dunlap

What inspired your latest new album, Consider the Speed, and what was the songwriting process? I understand you had writer’s block at one point. How did you overcome that?

Ultimately the block was about pressure: pressure to perform, to create something as quick as possible after we got off the road, to make something better than what I’d previously done. I was letting all that get to me. At one point, I realized that I was going wild over what was going to happen in the future, and at the same time living in the past and trying to go over it again and again, but I was never actually just there, in the present moment, when I was trying to write. Once I figured that out, I found it much easier to move through the creative process, and songs started flowing to me right away.

The album was recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis. Share with us a little about that experience?

Honestly, when you walk in there, even if there’s nobody there, you feel like there’s a session still happening or about to happen. It just has that vibe and that energy. It’s old, it’s unpretentious, and you just walk in and get the opportunity to make great music every day. I loved working there. I got to be the bandleader, which I loved, especially when working with people of that caliber who’ve played on a million sessions. Funnily enough, after taking the time to drive fifteen hours from where I live in Canada down to Memphis with my 1962 Fender Bassman, it broke on the first day. So I used a Princeton on most of the live stuff until we got the Bassman fixed.

You had a great set of studio musicians backing you. How were these collaborations formed?

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Yes! I had Steve Potts on drums, Lester Snell on keys, and Davy Smith on bass. We connected via the producer, Jay Newland. It was really cool to be in a band with those guys for a few days. Each of them has a crazy resume, but no one needed to talk about that; we just made songs and parts together. They’re humble, no-BS kinds of folks. It was really inspiring and challenging for me to work with them. The scariest part was knowing they were listening to what I was doing each time we did a take. Ha!

What guitars did you play on the album?

A 1964 Pelham Blue SG, my trusty 1972 SG “Veronica,” a Shyboy Tele, and my custom Ashley Leanne acoustic.

What’s your go-to guitar for songwriting?

I have too many at my house to choose from! Right now, it’s definitely my Ashley Leanne custom acoustic. She makes amazing guitars. I also just received a 1971 Telecaster from my great Aunt Theresa who was a bad-ass country guitar player who toured all over. She doesn’t play much anymore, so she gifted it to me, having no idea that I played a Telecaster all over this record. It meant so much to me to receive that from her. It’s full of her vibes; she’s a little brash and a little tough, so it gives me real power whenever I play it.

How did you get started in music?

My grandma on my mother’s side was a piano player, so she taught me a little when I was young, then I moved onto the guitar around age twelve. I could never really put it down. I loved playing guitar, even though I was horrible at first. Even now, I’m always finding new ways to love playing it.

What musician had the biggest impact on you?

One of my all-time faves that has always knocked me out of the park is Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Not just because of her SG, but her incredible talent and show(woman)ship. For a while, I was obsessed with Mother Maybelle Carter—the way she played and the way the audience received her always inspired me. She was a great guitar player, but that kind of went unsaid. No one talked about her as a woman guitar player; she was just Mother Maybelle. I never wanted to be classified as a female guitar player; I just want to be a guitar player. So both those talented women mean a lot to me.

What are you listening to today?

My favorite recent discovery has been the song “Pacing the Cage” by Bruce Cockburn. It gets me right in the heart. Maybe it’s the pandemic and not being able to play shows that makes that song so pertinent right now, but I feel like it speaks to everything I’ve been feeling lately. Also loving the work of Charlotte Cornfield and Frazey Ford. Both are such cool songwriters.

What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?

I just hope people feel something that helps them through this time. With Consider the Speed, I wanted to write a record to help people process things like grief and loss. So they could feel good about themselves, so they could take their own power back and stand up for themselves. I also want them to be able to dance or run or walk or do the dishes or drive or any of those daily things we do that music helps us with.

CONSIDER THE SPEED TRACKLIST

  1. Called Out Your Name
  2. It’s Over Now
  3. Empty House
  4. Love You So
  5. Consider the Speed
  6. Lost You Forever
  7. Midnight Choir
  8. Ramblin’ Rose
  9. Paper Thin Walls
  10. One High Note
  11. Two Wild Horses

TERRA LIGHTFOOT ONLINE

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