By Liam Dawe, June 15 2018 —
Calgary’s Mariel Buckley is carving her way into the limelight on the heels of her May release, Driving In The Dark. Expect to see her on Canadian charts or gracing the stage of your local pub in the near future.
The songwriter received well-deserved national recognition for Driving in the Dark, taking her on a Western Canada tour this July and August. She’s admittedly excited, but before the tour kicks off, Buckley decided an initial trip into the Rockies was in order to prepare for a boisterous summer.
“I thought there was nothing better to do than head out into the woods, drink some beers and try to pen some more songs,” Buckley says from her family trailer on the shores of Windermere Lake, a place of undoubtable tranquility.
Although her vacation spot sits four hours west of Calgary, her upbringing and current roost are right here in the Foothills. It’s a place rich in roots and country alike and the influence is evident in her distinct sound.
“Growing up on some of the local staples like Bill Cowsill and Ian Tyson, that type of culture permeates its way into local songwriting,” Buckley says. “The venues in this city have been so good to so many, including me. Historically, the Palomino, Ironwood and even places like Broken City create such an amazing community-minded atmosphere. You don’t have to look very far to find a great place to play.”
Buckley has spent years cutting her proverbial teeth, playing sets at venues in and around Calgary. She released her self-titled EP in 2012, followed by her debut album, Motorhome, in 2014. This time around, she took her talents to the Rebeltone Ranch studio in Lethbridge to work with True North Records’ Leeroy Stagger in hopes of developing a raw, off-the-floor sound to translate her authentic performances to tape.
Buckley’s sound isn’t confined to a single categorization. It’s a collective influence of folk, roots, country and rock, each foundational for her prolific lyricism — the kind of writing that leaves no emotion disguised. She deliberately defines herself as a singer-songwriter to avoid being clustered with many under the ‘folk’ designation.
“The first thing I’m focused on is my lyricism,” she says. “I also categorize myself the way I do because if I label it ‘folk’ or ‘roots,’ you tend to get lumped in with a pretty fucking huge gamut of shit. I find distinguishing myself as a singer-songwriter to be a little more to the point, but it’s a mish-mash of all kinds of shit.”
Transparency is not only one of Buckley’s defining traits, but also a quality embedded in all of her music. Driving In The Dark pairs brutal honesty with bitter nostalgia to knit together unique anthems. For example, lead single “Rose Coloured Frames” is a track capable of bringing listeners back to simpler times and one which Buckley notes, “Pokes me in my feels.”
“Pride” is a ballad that seems to bring the mantra of the entire project into perspective through remorseless rebellion and hints of teenage angst. It exemplifies the take-it-or-leave-it attitude of Buckley’s work and, when asked, she immediately affirms the notion.
“Bang on, that 100 per cent fits the mould I wanted to create,” she says.
Driving In The Dark is Buckley’s best work to date and has been credited as such by its routine placement on CKUA and CBC’s monthly charts. It’s a testament to Buckley’s comfort with being vulnerable as an artist and human being.
“There is definitely room for alter-egos and put-ons in art today but for me it’s more of a cathartic experience — to be that blunt and vulnerable is helpful for me creatively,” she says. “The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that it provides a mirror to the listener. I want people to feel comfortable with themselves and the world around them.”
While her work continues to reach ears across the country, Buckley is taking her act on the road this summer and beyond. She recently announced a medley of tour dates, including an unplugged run at breweries across Alberta and British Columbia.
Locally, you can find the beer-shotgunning singer at the Canada Day celebrations at Citizen Brewery on July 4, the Stampede’s Coca-Cola Stage on July 9 and Calgary Folk Festival from July 26–28.