Potlucks inspire Pawnshop by Rob McMahon
Weekend, January 19-21, 2007
For Pawnshop Diamond, creating an album is about building community.
Singer-songwriter Katie Ormiston said much of the recording - from track order to cover art - is the result of collaboration between friends.
"(Everyone) changed what I would have created on my own," she said. "For example, seven people were involved in the creation of the CD cover."
Community is essential for Ormiston, who was raised in Victoria but moved to Vancouver five years ago. Growing up, her family held Sunday potlucks, and aside from holidays, never missed a date.
Moving from home disolved this tradition and brought a feeling of disconnection. Along with rain, crows, and homeless people, an overriding theme of Pawnshop's album is this feeling of aloneness.
To overcome that feeling, Ormiston started her own Sunday potlucks - which became her first performance venues. After sharing a meal (featuring her father's Yorkshire puddings), folks pull out instruments. "Wine and a safe living room pushed me to perform," she said. "(The potlucks) gave me an opportunity to share what I was writing in my bedroom, and hear what happens with the help of others."
East Vancouver's music scene became Ormiston's community. As she moved from observer to performer, she traded songs and ideas with friends, creating the material that became Pawnshop's album.
The album, a roots-rocker that features Ormiston's voice backed by pianist Nina Fleming, guitarist Jared Ferrie, drummer Lucas Schuller and a number of guests, will appeal to fans of alt-country singer-songwriters like Neko Case or Ryan Adams. Some songs appeared on the soundtrack for the Black Crow Project - a social housing fundraiser organized by Ormiston and Fleming last fall.
"Music brings people together, and allows us to communicate in an indirect way," she said. "(It's) centered on people adding ideas on top of ideas."
Rob McMahon is a freelance writer based in Vancouver.