Interview with Carla Muller
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Growing up in a family of immigrants, I was introduced to music through the beautiful folk music my family would sing whenever we were all together. I have the most wonderful memories of being very small, and seeing my family throw their arms around each other's shoulders at the table after a meal, swaying and laughing as they sang their old folk songs in German. I was so small that I had to stand in between my aunts or uncles so I could join in because my arms wouldn’t reach their shoulders if I were sitting. And even though I can’t remember the words, the feeling of that music stayed with me; became a part of me. I can honestly close my eyes and be right back there at my Oma’s table in their old basement. All of the best parties happened in the basements of various family members because it was the only place you could fit twenty or thirty people around a table, unless you were in the garden.
It’s funny, because I already know what I’d be doing. I actually own a little children’s shop in Kitchener, which I opened in 2008 after the birth of my youngest, Charlotte. It’s called Baby Charlotte, which is a name Michael and Emily came up with, (when she was born, they were 16 and 13 years old, respectively). I’ve had to leave it in my husband Tom’s capable hands as I chase this dream of self-producing and publishing my music.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I’ve always been a family girl, and I am extremely blessed in that my kids and my husband and I actually love spending time together. Which is really saying something after thirty-one years of marriage that included a two-year pandemic. We get along; have many of the same interests, (although music seems to be uniquely my own), and really enjoy each other’s company. I’m always down for a board game, puzzle or even a good movie marathon with all of us. And I have to say that it really does feed the music, because it’s in the small things; the everyday and ordinary that so much love for family and home are felt. Home is a strong theme in my music. The most wonderful memories are of home, and the most heartbreaking emotions I’ve ever felt are from the feeling of the loss of home. Feeling orphaned by a place you used to know and can no longer go. These need to live in my heart and in my music, and I’ve put that into my songs and my essays. Someday, I’ll write a book but right now, most of my writing is in song.
How long have you been making music?
I’ve been writing little songs since I was a small child, but nothing that I’d ever written down or recorded. I wrote a few lullabies for my oldest two children, but it was only after Hurricane Katrina that I started writing anything really complete. I wrote the song ‘Where Is The Help’ in 2005, and donated the proceeds to the Canadian Red Cross to aid in their efforts in New Orleans at the time. Admittedly, it didn’t do very much, but they did use it in some of their training videos about disaster relief, so I guess that’s something.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
I grew up in Waterloo and moved to Mount Forest just after marrying Tom, but I couldn’t stay away for long. My God! The phone bills I used to rack up, calling my parents every day. Tom finally figured out how homesick I was, and that he’d probably go broke if we stayed there, so we moved back to Waterloo after just four years. Being out in the country, however, spoiled me for having space and quiet, so the city wasn’t a good fit for me and we didn’t stay there too long before we found our home in Woolwich Township. It is the first place that really felt like home to me, after my childhood home. Maybe it’s because it’s so close to Waterloo, and because this is where my older sister and I used to explore on our bikes, climb trees, swim in the river and dream. I just always seemed to be singing a little tune wherever I went, winding down the backroads of Waterloo and Woolwich regions on my bike and singing away. So many of my songs harken back to that place and time, when we enjoyed the freedom of the very young.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
Well, I’m really just getting started after 30 years away from the stage. And by stage, I mean my high school stage, where I loved to be. I was busy being a wife and mom; collecting the life experiences that have served my writing so well, and it’s just in the last year that I stepped back onto a stage at the South Coast Jazz and Blues festival. What a rush it is to sing your own music! It’s funny, because as a complete newbie, I was graciously included in the Ori Dagan and Friends show, at the very end of that segment, and Heather Bambrick literally had to announce that dinner was being served as I got up to sing my set. The best part? Here I was, obviously a little out of place as a folk singer at a Jazz and Blues festival, but when I started singing, people actually stopped and turned to listen. And I was competing with some pretty amazing food here! There was this lovely moment where I was able to connect with the audience, and the murmurs quieted, their steps slowed, and they just listened to me sing. And just like that, I was hooked. So, I’m sure I’ll be around, singing here and there with some of the musicians I’ve gotten to know through the recording process.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Well, I’ll be singing again at the South Coast Jazz and Blues Festival, which takes place this August 11, 12 and 13 in Port Dover, Ontario. It’s such a wonderful show, with a real sense of community among the players. Even the sound checks were fun!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Oh, I’d be thrilled to sing on the same stage as Liala Biali again. She is such an amazing talent. But if I’m going into my bucket-list lineup, I’d have to say the artists that have made me feel the most and who have truly broken my heart with their words. Watchhouse, (formerly Mandolin Orange), Paul Simon, Patty Griffin, Josh Ritter, Bruce Cockburn, Jann Arden, Joe Purdy, Brandi Carlisle, Bonnie Raitt, KD Lang, Jason Isbell, Holly Williams, Richard Shindell and Cheryl Wheeler.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would say don’t let anyone tell you not to do it the way you want it. Trust your own instincts as a songwriter, or you’ll always feel your work is unfinished; always want to go back and fix it. To my younger self? I’d say keep trying. Keep writing and listen to the voice in your head that brings you the music. Give yourself enough quiet time to really tap into that and feel something. And always keep a recording device near you!
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
That’s like trying to choose which child you love best. Can’t do it! Oh, but if I had to choose a song, I’d choose one that speaks of my love of family, In Between.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Well, I haven’t performed a whole lot, but that would have to be ‘I’ve Got Everything’. I’m a Canadian girl and my parents have a little place up in the Kawarthas. The lyrics go something like this, “Well, they say the mosquitos of Kawartha will kill ya, but I’m taking my chances tonight. Neath a blanket of stars with you here in my arms, waiting up for the Northern Lights.” Well, I once had the chance to enter a songwriting contest, if only I would change the lyrics to be Muskoka instead of Kawartha, and I couldn’t do it! So that’s the favourite among friends and musicians. Among family, the most requested has been ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, or anything that tells our story, like ‘Be My Love’ or ‘Another Morning After’.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I just listen to the voices that come to me. I know, I sound crazy, but it’s true. I’ve always had songs come to me, sometimes a line or a verse or chorus here and there, and sometimes, I’m literally singing it and writing as it comes out of me. The most important think I’ve learned is to listen and record everything! As for inspiration, it’s all around me! Heartache or happiness, I seem to be a bit of a melancholy baby, and it’s funny because my kids don’t really care for my songs – they’ve always said, “Don’t be so sad, mommy!” But that’s where the best stuff comes from. It’s the twist of your heart; the paradox of enjoying the moments, while knowing exactly how fast they do fly by. And it’s really nice to know that one day, when I’m not here, my (someday) grandkids will be able to hear recordings of me telling our family history, and that my family will know how much they are loved.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Above all, the message is to enjoy the moment you’re in; the sweet spot, if I can shamelessly quote Antje Duvekot. We’re too dialed into our phones and computers and not connecting as we need to be. Slow down and let your feet feel the ground for a moment. You’ll enjoy life more, I promise.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Well right now, I’m in the middle of the ‘In Between’ project, which is a five-album recording project I’ve been working on for the past year at Canterbury Music Company with Julian Decorte, and the occasional pop-in from Jeremy Darby. It started as just a single album during the pandemic but has since grown! And, I’ve got over 300 songs, so I figured since we couldn’t really go out, I’d stay in and make music. I’ve been lucky to work with so many talented musicians; Nathan Hiltz, Drew Jurecka, Scott Metcalfe, Ross MacIntyre, Rob Piltch, Mark Kelso, Davide Direnzo, Mark Lalama, Jason Fowler, Gary Craig, and the list goes on. There are about 30 musicians so far who are on this project, and they have all been so lovely. The first album, titled In Between will be released in May of this year, with a Christmas album of original songs (and a few standards) coming in late September.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
You can keep up with me on my website at https://www.carlamullermusic.com/ to learn about upcoming shows, releases, music videos, my blog, and behind-the-scenes videos and photos. As my albums are released, you’ll be able to buy physical copies (some will be released on vinyl with download codes), and of course, you’ll be able to get my upcoming albums wherever you stream music. In Between, the first album, will be released in late May, with a Christmas Album Snow Came Falling, coming out in late September of 2023. After that, there will be two albums released per year in 2024 and 2025, with no plans to slow down anytime soon. Here are my socials, so you can stay in the loop: