Egge album tackles effects of mental illness
Mental illness is a character who runs rampant through Ana Egge’s seventh folk-rock album, Bad Blood.
Egge, who teamed up with producer Steve Earle for the 12-track CD, decided to write songs about the bipolar disorder that was tearing a hole in her family, as a way of coping.
“Loving somebody whose reality ebbs and flows drastically from your own, you’re constantly trying to imagine what they’re thinking and feeling, but that’s a crooked road. . . .
“Sometimes there’s no reason, there’s no why,” said Egge, who performs with her band on Friday, Nov. 9, at The Hideout, south of Red Deer.
The Saskatchewan-born resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote the songs on Bad Blood as a way of venting about the disease that is affecting two family members. “There was a whole range of emotions, from hopeless and scared, to wanting to feel hope, and being desperate. Sometimes, it was everything all at once.”
The songwriter was angry at mental illness and also wanted to pierce the “shame” that keeps many people silent about the condition. But she didn’t know how to begin writing about it.
“I didn’t feel I could run from this anymore and didn’t know how to confront it in such a way that I was able to express these hard emotions.”
When Egge eventually decided to personify mental illness in her songs, she was able to start a lyrical dialogue.
The title track of Bad Blood is about a character who’s unravelling while “running wild in the west.”
On Driving With No Hands, Egge tried to capture the erratic behaviour of those with the disease, while Hole in Your Halo was written after visiting a family member in jail and reflecting on how destructive the condition can be.
Feedback for the just-released Bad Blood album has, so far, been positive from critics and listeners.
The CD received a three-and-a-half star rating in Rolling Stone magazine, and many fans have approached Egge to express gratitude for her sincerity, and to share their own stories.
While reactions were more mixed from her own family, Egge believes her relatives largely understand why she wrote the songs.
If nothing else, she believes the CD has shown her ill loved ones the effects of their decision to go off the medication that would keep them more emotionally stable.
“The breaks with reality were pretty intense . . . in the end, I decided to talk about it honestly” — which Egge believes has helped raise public awareness. It wasn’t necessarily why she embarked on the personal album project, but she believes it’s a good thing.
Egge grew up as the child of “back to the land” hippie parents, who decided to farm the family homestead along the border between North Dakota and Saskatchewan.
She was born while her American parents were on the Canadian side. “My sister used to tease me, saying ‘You can never be president,’ but now I get the last laugh because I have the benefit of dual citizenship.”
When drought, hail and grasshopper infestations drove the family south to live in a commune in New Mexico, the 10-year-old Egge felt the ground had shifted beneath her.
“We were the strange people in North Dakota. In New Mexico, we were the normal ones!”
Yet she remembers her childhood fondly. “It was pretty magical — so much time and space. We spent lots of time outside. When we lived on the plains, we were really free. There were few people, but lots of kids, and I would ride a motorcycle and run around barefoot. . . .”
Egge began taking her guitar playing seriously at age 15, when her astrology teacher (she admitted there were some quirky classes at her parents’ private school) began teaching her his other skill — guitar making.
The singer/songwriter still uses the guitar she built as her main instrument during concerts.
Egge has toured Western Canada as an opening act for Ron Sexsmith and Joel Plaskett, but this will be her first appearance as a headliner. And she’s looking forward to getting away from the hurricane-ravaged East Coast.
Although Egge resides on high land, she said, “I just feel terrible for everybody here who’s been affected” — including friends who can’t go to their jobs at New York University because it’s closed due to flooding.
“There’s going to be a lot of restoration work needed. . . . It’s a good time to go up to the plains.”
There’s no cover charge for the 9 p.m. show. For more information, call 403-348-5319.