After finding incredible success as a member of Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, violinist and composer Sarah Neufeld is taking the time to capture own musical voice. Since 2011, Neufeld has been developing solo violin pieces in a more formal and focused sense. With releases Hero Brother and Black Ground EP , Neufeld established herself as a viable solo act. With her most recent release, Never Were the Way She Was, Neufeld teams up with Colin Stetson and the product has been received rave reviews across the board.
Neufeld sat down with NUVO to discuss her upcoming album, life apart from Arcade Fire, and how yoga has influenced her musically. You can catch Neufeld on her current tour, opening for St. Vincent, at the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre on Friday.
NUVO: Who were early influences?
I was exposed to a lot of really diverse music growing up, you know I grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar and crazy, crazy stuff, so that for sure got me excited about music really early on.
NUVO: You’re about to tour with St. Vincent. When did the connection start between the two of you?
She opened for Arcade Fire in 2007, I’m not sure if it was one of her first solo tours, but it was a long time ago.
NUVO: How do you read her as an artist?
She’s constantly pushing herself, she’s constantly pushing boundaries and being really adventurous compositionally. She’s an amazing performer, she’s a solid, solid artist and I’m really happy to be touring with her.
NUVO: What should we expect for this tour?
It’s in advance of a new record that I just made, which is a solo record, but Jeremy Gara is playing drums. He’s in Arcade Fire and I’ll be singing a lot. There will be a track up online, which is a surprise but that’ll be coming out when the tour starts, so this is a really nicely timed tour. It was sort of a beautiful coincidence that they asked me to open and I was right in the middle of making this record. I just thought it would be a beautiful thing to pull it off live before it came out.
NUVO: After having such huge success with Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre, what nudged you to being solo work?
I think that in my subconscious I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time but I was really busy doing other stuff and there’s just a moment where things fall into place and you just feel ready for the next thing and I can also attribute it to having spent a lot more time with myself. I studied to become a yoga teacher and that just sort of re-calibrated my whole experience, I guess, in the world. I found the rhythm of daily regimented practice more so in all aspects of life because I became familiar with implementing a daily yoga practice, I then rediscovered a daily music practice. At one point I think it was like, "Hey, wait a minute. [laughs] I’m doing way more yoga than music. Remember practicing music?’ You just sort of reignite different types of practices at different times in life and I think it was through that that I just started to [practice music more].
I’ve always naturally composed through practicing. Even as a little kid I hated practicing so much that I would do the absolute bare minimum and then I would start improvising. Then, at this point in my thirties I just started practicing a lot and then I started composing by myself which was a different format but it was still me doing the same thing, right? Like bare minimum technique practice leading to musical exploration and at this point in my life I was ready for that to be followed through in a more hardcore way with producing my own albums and what not.
NUVO: Your album with Colin Stetson, Never Was The Way She Was, is getting rave reviews. How did the relationship between you and Colin Stetson come about musically and at what point was there a decision made that you two would put out a record together?
So, a huge part of that equation is the fact that we’ve been a couple for nine years. I always put that on at the end of my explanation but I actually think that it makes the whole explanation make more sense because we met so long ago and right away he got involved in the touring of Neon Bible and he got involved in Bell Orchestre after that tour because we were just doing a lot together already. It became this natural idea that we always sort of had, we would throw around, "Oh, we should make a record like this some day, we should make a record like that some day." But, you know, we’ve both been insanely busy with our different projects and he was developing so intensely as a solo artist and that of course is really inspiring for me to watch as well. So, I sort of had to find my own solo compositional voice and hone it a little bit before it felt natural to bring our two individual compositional styles together.
NUVO: What are the biggest differences, other than the apparent ones, between a Sarah Neufeld tour and an Arcade Fire tour?
It’s funny but performing solo or duo there’s just so much more pressure on you to put a good show on and it’s just all eyes on you, so it’s such a different feeling. With Arcade Fire I kind of have fun no matter what; no matter if I’m sick or if half the band is sick or if we didn’t sleep because we got on a red eye. There’s just so much group energy and we know ourselves so well as a performative entity because we’ve been playing together for 11 years as pretty much the exact same lineup. So, I don’t want to say it’s easier but it’s just this totally different thing. It’s funny because I probably get more nervous playing for a room with 100 people in it if I’m alone than I do for 100,000 people playing with 10 of my oldest friends. There’s power in numbers. [laughs] I can’t say that performing solo is at all negative, I get really fulfilled through that experience too no matter how strange that feeling is.