A cabin in Manitoba’s Interlake region lacking both running water and Internet was Kathryn Kerr’s creative space for the genesis of her debut EP. Wood Songs was released this past summer and serves as an introduction to her folk-based solo project that goes under the moniker of astre, (the French word for “star”).
“I mostly wanted this release to be a bit of a calling card,” Kerr says. “Winnipeg is a great place for musicians starting out and I just wanted something so I can hopefully start getting my name out there.”
Kerr started writing music by herself, due to the fact that she works on a passenger train in the summer and is consequently only in Winnipeg for about half the year. It’s something that obviously makes practicing with a band and playing regular gigs a tad difficult.
“I started out solo as kind of a necessity and then I really got into playing music on my own, which is something I hadn’t really done much of before,” Kerr says. “The solitude has ended up being both the best part and the hardest part. I like writing everything by myself because I’m pretty controlling, but also it can be a hindrance because you can get sick of just hearing your own music sometimes.”
The 26-year-old used to play in a cover band that performed in Winnipeg bars. She also studied music at Brandon University, where she was mostly in jazz bands. astre serves as a bit of a genre switch for Kerr, since the EP is comprised of lo-fi ambient folk songs; she cites Cat Power and Joanna Newsom as main influences.
“Playing guitar, piano and singing was kind of what I was doing before I went to university so it’s kind of a switch back in some ways,” she says.
Kerr ended up creating the entire EP from scratch since she wrote and performed all the songs, recorded them by herself and even mastered them when she returned home to Winnipeg.
“Money was the main benefit. You can pretty much record the whole thing for free once you have the right programs and software,” she says. “It was also just great practice for myself because I really do like the production side of music and what better way to practice than by recording your own stuff?”
The promise of solitude is what drew Kerr to her family’s cabin, where she spent a week in March recording her EP. Nature has also been a big influence on both the EP title and the poetic lyrics that accompany her music.
“I live in an apartment with a bunch of other musicians and it can get pretty loud sometimes and it’s hard to get any alone time,” she says. “The lake is also my favourite place to be when I’m not in the city. I definitely get a lot of my inspiration from looking out the train window or just being present in the Canadian wilderness.”