If you were a songwriter, you'd want Terra Lightfoot to cover whatever you did. She'd do it better than you and it would plump up with more authenticity than you imagined it had. You'd be wondering what the writer meant by that middle line in the second stanza, then remember with a jolt that she was giving answers for which only you had the original question.
If someone were going to write a song about you, you'd want it to be Terra Lightfoot. You wouldn't be named in the song but you'd know. Even if her honesty felt a bit painful, she'd never be cruel, she's paint you right, you'd be ooo-la-la-ing right along with the background singers, and you'd hit the replay button as soon as the last guitar clang faded into the grey smells and neon buzz of the honky-tonk .
Lightfoot has never been to Prince George, so her two appearances this coming week are circled on her calendar. She's looking to expand her audience to a new region. Fans can expect to hear a mix of tracks from her New Mistakes album, her Every Time My Mind Runs Wild album and some carefully chosen covers to add some depth and fun.
"We're doing it in the format of being a trio, which is really fun because it's guitar-centric music and it allows the guitar to be the centre of it all," she said. "But at the same time it gives my drummer and my bass player a big chance to shine, so we are having a lot of fun with this arrangement. And it's rock 'n' roll, and it's country, and it's folk, and it's soul, and it's kind of everything."
Lightfoot is a true scribe within the craft. Lines like "I am burdened by a blindness to your flaws" and "every time my mind runs wild, you are always where it goes" carry her songs down the literary path more like a modern dirt-road poet.
When you run out of compliments for her lyrical balladeering you can move on to her smooth-burn Scotch whisky vocal tones, and then finish with her pinnacle asset of all, the guitar.
"I actually started on piano when I was five," she said. "Then I moved along to an acoustic guitar when I was in Grade 7 or something. My mom bought me a guitar at a garage sale. Then I just started playing electric at around 12 and I never put it down again, and I still haven't. I noticed today on my guitar, Veronica, my beautiful Gibson SG that I've had for many years (it's the one that looks like the one AC/DC's Angus Young uses), there is a deep hole in the body. It's a solid body. It's gotten so deep. It's like a tiny mountain range in my guitar's finish, in my warped mind."
You can clearly see the beginnings of that stum-scar in the video for her honey-dipped song Ruthless.
If you took note that her devil-horned axe had a name, get ready for more. Veronica has sisters.
"For this trip I packed three. I had four, but I left one at home, at the last minute," she said. "So I have Veronica, I have Charlotte and I have Ashley.
"Charlotte is an Epiphone that is newer but everyone thinks she is from the '60s." Charlotte is a voluptuous blonde that looks like the vintage arch-top guitars handled by golden age rockers like The Beatles and John Lee Hooker.
"Ashley is a handmade guitar made for me by a luthier named Ashley Leanne so I named the guitar after her." Ashley Leanne Rowley builds guitars in Burlington, nearby to Lightfoot's hometown of Hamilton. Rowley studied under master luthier Paul Saunders. She imbedded Lightfoot's guitar with a unique image - a bird made of abalone.
Lightfoot crafts unique images of her own, carved out of chord and stanza. One of the most vivid so far is the single Norma Gale, a true old fashioned ode to the Canadian country music legend. Gale passed away before hearing the song, but Lightfoot crafted it after meeting her son who introduced the two singers, the younger struck with inspiration by the older.
"That song really has become something else," Lightfoot said. "I did not write it with that intention, to get it where it's sort of gotten to. I got to play it at the Junos, and Sarah Harmer texted me for the lyrics to cover it, it's just been so cool. I don't write songs about other people, generally, from their perspective. It's usually about me or sung in the first person. But her story just struck me so much I had to write about it. For a song to walk on its own is all I could ever ask for, and I didn't know it would be that one, and I'm so happy that it is."
Other Lightfoot songs have also gotten up and walked on their own, thanks to the appreciation of other musicians. A whole album was made in which Lightfoot was called in to collaborate with the National Academy Orchestra of Canada.
"That is an unspeakable privilege," she said, remembering the sound of her songs renovated with orchestra arrangements. "I actually couldn't play with them in the first rehearsal because I was crying. I couldn't sing because I was overflowing with gratitude. It was such a beautiful experience, and I highly recommend even going to see a symphony orchestra. There is something just so beautiful and visceral and it taps into where we came from, I think. And the instruments are so gorgeous, and the players are incredible - so much better than rock musicians."
Lightfoot will show Prince George some of that material at her Coldsnap concert tonight at the P.G. Playhouse. The night also offers opening acts Grace Hoksbergen (Limelight Quest winner) and the Celeigh Cardinal Trio.
Lightfoot will also conduct a guitar workshop with Sam Weber this morning from 10:30 to11:30 a.m. at the Omineca Arts Centre. It's free of charge and guitar players are encouraged to bring their instruments.