Instruments: Guitar, Voice and Theremin
Genres: Folk, Adult Contemporary
I had the amazing opportunity to meet with Keri Latimer from Leaf Rapids, a Juno-award winning singer and I am very proud to say I didn’t completely freak out. Keri is a kind and extremely talented musician and I had so much fun listening to her talk about her experiences and life filled with music. We talked about songwriting and the Theremin and just had a great time.
Ashley: How long have you been playing music?
Keri: Well I started playing piano when I was really young, I was about seven or eight but it was just for fun. I wrote my first song when I was 10, we moved from Calgary and I was really say about leaving all my friends and I Was looking at the back window as we were driving and I was just reflecting on how sad I was so it was something like losing your happiness and how it would always be behind me, something like that. I can’t really remember but that’s how it started?
Ashley: And how long have you been playing in leaf rapids?
Keri: It’s a new one actually; it’s only been a couple years for Leaf Rapids. We got offered a record deal and couldn’t really pass that up.
Ashley: So where does the name Leaf Rapids come from?
Keri: Leaf Rapids is a place my husband grew up in northern Manitoba and we would go there visiting and I always thought it was such a beautiful names. I think because the town is so small and isolated up north; it’s almost the end of the road and I just always loved that name. When we were thinking about band names I asked what my husband thought about it, he was a bit a torn about it because he grew up there.
Ashley: How did you get a record deal? Did they approach you specifically?
Keri: I was doing a solo album before that, Nathan is really hard on the road and I just needed a project to keep working on. So I played a showcase as a solo artist and one of the musicians in the showcase who was backing up Jill Barber and I knew him and I knew he was an amazing guitar player. I said “ Well since you’re sitting beside me, you might as well join in on my songs and of course he plays like he’d known the songs for years. He’s just one of those people and it was amazing. Afterwards we were talking and it turned out he had a record label and he was a producer and he offered us a project. We were looking for something because we love traveling.
Ashley: Why did you decide to learn to play the Theremin.
Keri: We were making a Nathan record and we had four days until it was going to get mastered so the mixes were done and there was this one song that for the solo part we just thought that sci-fi instrument that was in all of the science fiction movies would be great but what the hell was it? We did some research and for some reason I found one at Mother’s Music in the corner gathering dust for half price. It just got left there because no one knew what it was, I think. It was a stroke of luck because they were hard to find so I bought it and I practiced and practiced it and now I’m completely obsessed with it.
Ashley: How do you learn an instrument like that? Is there a book?
Keri: It comes with a little book with a few suggestions on finger movements because I think the main thing about the Theremin is when you are figuring out a melody the tiniest knuckle movement is like a semi tone so you just need to get used to the tiny little increments takes a lot of work and shaking your hand to get vibrato. There isn’t really a way to play it, it’s very intuitive; it’s basically a leap of faith and trusting you’re muscle memory. In fact you have to turn your brain off, I find, it’s like meditation. You’d like it!
Ashley: What is a practice to jam session like?
Keri: For Leaf Rapids it’s basically me writing the songs and then Devin and I coming together and figuring out the bass parts. I guess it’s primarily my song writing; with Nathan Shelley wrote a lot of the songs and now Mike who is apart of the band is a great writer and musician. IT’s more collaborative for Nathan but for [Leaf Rapids] it’s just mostly myself.
Ashley: So then what is your songwriting process?
Keri: It’s kind of embarrassing; this is lately. Sometimes I’ll get into a writing flurry and I’ll just put music to that. But more often than not it’s just melody and some gibberish which I record into my album and I’ll go through them and see if some imagery comes up and I’ll start piecing it together. But Mainly I’ll get struck with a melody but if anyone gets ahold of my iPhone, it just has the most embarrassing stuff.
Ashley: So who inspires your music? Or when you first started how did you find your voice and style?
Keri: Well I actually went to art school thinking I would be a visual artist and I took graphic design. It was so intense that I think on the side as a release of some tension I would just start songwriting. Ani Difranco at the time was just getting big and she was just an explosion that went off. When I heard of her, it was my first introduction to a really raw singer-songwriter and a guitar. She plays very percussively and she’s very poetic. You have to check her out. That idea of just be a songwriter with a guitar and have a message, that sparked me to just play a little bit. Then unfortunately my studies suffered because I was hooked by songwriting by full force.
Ashley: How do you go on tour when you have kids?
Keri: IT’s funny because Devin plays bass in the band with me so that’s handy. We bring them with us. In April we spent two weeks in western Canada and took our kids with us and toured with Slow Leaves. We practiced together and I learned a lot of backups for him, then he played guitar and sung backups for us too so it was a really feasible way. Part of the reason we paly music is because we both we love to travel so this is a way to subsidize our travel.
Ashley: Do they come with you to the show or do they stay in the apartment?
Keri: It depends, one of the festivals we did was 16 and over so we couldn’t bring them so we hired a sitter or nanny for those. But they’re starting to sell merchandise because they’ve started learning math.
Ashley: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Keri: Right now I’m really excited to play Theremin for the WSO for the new music festival this January and that’s completely terrifying which is the sign that you should do because you should do what terrifies you so I’ve already started practicing for it.
Ashley: So what advice would you give to beginners who are starting to perform and get their music out there?
Keri: I would say always keep an iPhone or some kind of recording device and write whatever comes to your mind even if you think it’s stupid. Don’t censor yourself. IF you start censoring yourself you’re going to accidentally filter out a lot of really good ideas. And you have to get through all the stuff because you can start getting to the new stuff. Then you start editing things and take away. And practice, practice, practice; which everyone knows. It’s hard because you get so sick of yourself. My husband is really good at making us practice a lot. I’m always fighting him but I’m always so thankful when we play live.
Ashley: You mentioned this before but how do you balance your music with you other obligations?
Keri: I think it’s just a natural thing. Other than having to just turn out the music, which is a hard one but the consequences are not worth it. Also bring the kids on tour is a lot. I know a lot of musicians who don’t bring their families on tour with them and it’s really hard on them so I’m very grateful.
Ashley: What’s the best advice you’ve heard since you’ve started in the music?
Keri: I think, it’s to not censor yourself too much. Not to worry about whom you think you’re writing for. The songs that have affected me the much in a real emotional way, hadn’t written for a mass. There’s something particular in the details in a really profound way. Don’t’ be afraid to put those ideas out there that terrify you.
Support Winnipeg Band Leaf Rapids