Carla Bonnell ~ The Liberator

Carla Bonnell

Carla Bonnell

I had the pleasure to interview delightful Canadian modern folk recording artist Carla Bonnell. Carla recently released a new CD titled The Liberator, which she recorded in Nova Scotia. The songs were produced by JP Cormier, a beloved artist in Canadian music who played with Waylon Jennings. I absolutely love the single The Last Train. JP sang with her on that track.

Carla Bonnell is especially proud of The Liberator, “All of the material on this new release is my own.” Carla wrote all the music and the lyrics.

The single Gypsy Heart is one of my favorite tracks, because I love the classic country beat. Carla Bonnell shared the song’s back story with me: “My grandfather would tease me when I was a kid and say, ‘Go peddle your papers.’ That came into my head one day when I was sitting on the couch. So, I just started to write. As the song started to flow out, it became more about my disconnect from where I’m from in New Brunswick. I just started writing about living a gypsy lifestyle, the things I’ve seen in this country and the things I still want to see.”

When it comes to collaborating with other artists, Carla is very picky: “I look for somebody who has a real heart for the music. It’s very commercial these days and, right now, we have a great opportunity to be heard. One of my major influences was Stompin’ Tom Connors, a huge Canadian icon who passed away about a year ago. He always sang about what was happening on the ground level in Canada. He talked about the people; he told their story. So, I look for those artists who want to continue to tell the stories of people. I want there to be more of a connection, rather than just an opportunity. When I get that connection, such joy comes through me. I don’t want to lose it, and I want to keep looking for more connections.”

Carla Bonnell performing 3 Both Carla Bonnell’s father and uncle are musicians. She played piano as her first instrument and began playing guitar at age 14. Carla laughed when I asked her about her extensive music background, “That’s to kind of fool you. I took classical piano lessons until I was about 10 years old. I started having dreams that I could play guitar. Opportunity knocked and my mom got me my first guitar. We couldn’t get it tuned, so that guitar sat in the closet for a year. By the time I was 14, I got another guitar. My uncle came down from Ontario, about 1500 miles away, and he tuned my guitar for me. At that point, I got a book and started learning all the chords. I watched local musicians and started picking up their style.”

Carla still plays piano. She also plays other instruments, like the harmonica, drums and the bass guitar. “I love the bass guitar, so when nobody’s looking, I’m usually playing the bass.”

Instead of writing lyrical music with the piano or guitar, Carla Bonnell writes to a beat. “When I was in the studio with JP, he turned around and looked at me and asked, ‘Do you have a drummer in your head?’ I write to a beat more so than a tune. Once I feel the beat, that’s when I’ll start writing.”

Carla Bonnell recorded an inspirational CD in Nashville under the guidance of producer BJ McKelvie. “It was a great experience. We started with songs written by Sam Mullins, who wrote for Diamond Rio, and a circle of writers came in to write with Sam. We had wonderful musicians in the studio, like Pat Buchannan, Greg Morrow, Mike Brignardello and Neil Young’s back-up singer, Dianna DeWitt.”

Social media is very important to Carla Bonnell’s marketing strategy. “It’s a little harder than it seems. Everybody says, ‘Put it on Facebook, make a Facebook page, start tweeting.’ Like everything else, it takes time to build a rapport with people or to get people interested. Right now, I limit myself to Facebook and Twitter, because it can be overwhelming. I also have an official web page.”

Carla Bonnell performing 2 Carla Bonnell advises other artists: “Get involved in your local communities; become somebody there first. They will give you the support and confidence to step out into other communities. When I started out, it was really intimidating to play in the nearest city, Fredericton. This year was the first year that I got to play in Fredericton. It felt so good, because I knew that I had this support system pushing me and telling me to go ahead. Those are the people who, no matter what happens, they’re still going to love you and your music.”

Carla went on to discuss her purpose in music: “Those who want to re-engage tend to come towards me. The commercial sector isn’t that interested. That’s OK, because I’m not that interested either. I’m interested in people. When they come towards me, I gather them up in my arms. I love to hear their stories. I hope that I have many years of being able to write these stories and sing them to other people. I realize that what I desire is to bring people together. I want to tell the story that doesn’t get heard anywhere else. It’s almost like networking emotions.”

I love Carla’s purpose. To get your very own copy of The Liberator, you can buy it at local stores (if you live in her community in Canada), on CD Baby or through her websites.

The Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Carla Bonnell performing 4 Carla Bonnell

Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now