“I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do musically and I eventually learned that teachers are just the same as me, just older.” Attending the prestigious New York music college Juilliard was an eye opening experience for the extremely talented musician Christina Courtin. “They’re not exactly any more ‘right’ about anything musically than myself.” Her teachers saw her potential, but did not necessarily know how to nurture her talent. Having sung and played violin from a young age, Courtin was torn as to what she really wanted. “I did go to college for violin, but I was still singing in my dorm room at night.” Though she loved playing the violin, singing provided a magical feeling that she was hooked on. “It’s true that I did quit singing upon entering Juilliard, but I soon found myself totally depressed and distant because of it. Once I started singing in public again, things immediately became so much clearer and better for me. I guess I realised that without singing and/or making creative music, my life isn’t really worth diddly-squat.” Thankfully for us and for herself, Courtin did land on her feet after nearly tumbling at an unsettling situation.
Since her graduation Courtin’s career has gone from strength to strength, notable highlights including working with composer Osvaldo Golijov and hip-hop maestro Kanye West. If those were her apprenticeship, she sailed through them with flying colours and is fully ready to unleash her self-titled debut album to the public.
“I am highly critical of myself, so that can be a good and bad thing at times. I think it’s helped me mould what I want to do musically though.” Courtin is a true believer in the saying practice makes perfect. Live performance can also be improved and “even if it’s just to one person, there’s a lot to learn.” Courtin is not a pop star, she is most definitely a musician. For her “there is an intangible beauty in music (and in all art), which is unexplainable. It’s just like being in love.” Perhaps it is the assimilation of love with music that really influences Courtin’s writing. Lyrically Courtin broaches subjects with a childish innocence, seeing the life and love in ways with an amiable naivety. Musically Courtin is far more adventurous. If a box were necessary, she slides nicely into a jazz field but Courtin’s appeal is in her freedom of style. “Rainy” is easily the stand out track on Christina Courtin, the demonstration of a vivacious violinist marks Courtin out in her field.
There is an intangible beauty in music which is unexplainable. It’s just like being in love.
Naturally, a female musician draws obvious comparisons. “People love to compare me to Regina Spektor, Bjork, Feist, etc.” So, what is it that makes Courtin stand apart from the rest in her field. Why should she succeed in an industry bursting with new female contenders? Courtin’s talent alone is enough to make her stand out from the crowd. Courtin is not a pretender, her album is jam packed full of well constructed and meaningful songs. Though lyrically sometimes Courtin struggles to find her feet, she has already gained more experience than most of her contemporaries. Courtin also cleverly surrounds herself by well-respected musicians, notably drummer Jim Keltner (Neil Young and Travelling Wilburys), keyboardist Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers) and guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits) all make appearances on her debut album.
“To have a successful career in music, to make a comfortable living while doing what I love with people that I love.” Courtin aims are realistic, a career in music is her goal but it not the be all and end all of life. “I met some of my best friends while I was there. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.” Friends and happiness are just as important. Through the harder times at Juilliard, she found that is was her friends who helped her make it through. Her friends are just as inspirational as her heroes. “I am way into Neko Case and PJ Harvey right now. Also I love Joanna Newsom. I am also a huge fan of Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and Joni Mitchell (although they’ve been around for quite some time, they all still totally rock).” All those mentioned have “special pixie dust” which “is what distinguishes a good artist from an exceptional one.”
Courtin definitely possesses some pixie dust and she uses it amply on her debut. Praise is being heaped on her from all angles, many praising her unique and otherworldly approach. “I try to not let anything that anyone else says effect me.” Admirably, Courtin realises that praise is just one person’s opinion. For every admirer, there is always a detractor. With every compliment comes a criticism. Her task is to stay true to herself through it all. “There were some issues that I needed to figure out within myself and at times I was unsure of what I wanted musically. In a way, I don’t think I was ready for this record up until now.” Courtin has not walked an easy path, there has been a lot of soul searching and inner resolution required of her along the way. Thankfully, she has made it. Christina Courtin is a real work of art and her growth as an artist is charted within one albums worth of songs. Courtin hopes that it will strike a chord, but if it doesn’t she will be just as happy “to have a garden.”
Christina Courtin is out now on Nonesuch Records. For more information visit her official site.