Interview by Miriam C.
The Canadian blues rock band No Sinner is back with their second album “Old Habits Die Hard” via Provogue Records, it’s like to set the time machine – if someone will invent it- back to the 7os: try to imagine that the rock meets the blues and the Motown era at the same time, what do you think about it? Well, singer (and actress) Colleen Rennison took some time to fully examine with us how their new full-length was born and how drastically (in positive) the things changed from their debut “Boo Hoo Hoo”… fortunately (for us) Colleen has put on hold her acting career for focus solely on the music.
Hi Colleen, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you?
I am well thank you, just about to hit the east coast for some dates with Royal Tusk.
Do you mind recall us how No Sinner got together since its inception back in 2012?
Ian [Browne, drums] subbed on the drums in my cover band Little Sister and mentioned to Parker Bossley that he should write with me. We wrote some songs and invited Ian in to play them with us, then I ended up meeting Eric Campbell [guitar and backing vocals] through my first paying gig at a place called Guilt and Co and the rest in history…
On May 20, No Sinner will release their second album called “Old Habits Die Hard” – what you can share about its genesis?
It was written over 4 years and what feels like many lifetimes, from a fledgling band, to a touring band, to a band that was falling apart, me as a single girl, then falling in love, then engaged, then broken hearted… The genesis of it was necessity I suppose, just the need to write music through the madness.
I’ve read also that “Old Habits Die Hard” was produced by Ben Kaplan. How was working with him?
Ben was great, we needed someone to come in and tie a bow on 4 years worth of sessions and it was lucky he stepped up to the plate. We spent a good amount of time alone together in his studio playing with harmonies which was kind of the first time I’d done that. He was patient and accommodating and nothing less than an utter professional, you can even hear him if you listen hard to the gang vocals in Saturday night.
“All Woman”, beside being the first track present on “Old Habits Die Hard”, is your new single and it’s a cover from the US folk rock singer Cheryl Dilcher. What prompt you to choose this song and what personally means for you?
The label chose it, I really didn’t expect that the first single would be the only cover on the album but the general consensus from them was it would be the most appropriate for radio formatting. I always really liked the song and thought it was a good introduction to the album, not too hard, not too soft, a pretty clear message that applies to the albums message.
Here’s what you said about “Old Habits Die Hard”: “It’s a bit of an androgynous album—a rock ‘n’ roll odyssey through heartbreak and debauchery, good times and bad”. Would you like to explain more about this by taking your lyrics as cross-reference?
Well, the opening lines of “Saturday Night” are a pretty good start: “burning bridges left and right, looking for someone to take me home tonight/juke box mama with your photographs, you think you’ve been around but you don’t know the half/ better get some love or I might start a fight/ you know I’m going off the deepend on a Saturday night”. It’s the wear and tear of the Rock and roll lifestyle, it can be lonely and hard but you power through cause the show must go on and it’s a ride you can’t get off. There’s a lot of aggression on this album, a need to be heard and a need to rise to the occasion, to play rock and roll with the big boys without a flinch and to be a contender, regardless of what’s between my legs.
If you could draw a parallel between your debut “Boo Hoo Hoo” and “Old Habits Die Hard”, how do you think your approach changed since then?
“Old Habits Die Hard” is an album that was written with a whole band and full of songs that were developed through jamming and arranged over time with 3 people. “Boo Hoo Hoo” was written with an acoustic guitar on a kitchen floor, so the vibe is really different. In “Boo Hoo Hoo” I was writing about relationships and feelings I hadn’t even had the opportunity to have yet, while the songs on OHDH are intensely personal and relate to specific things that have happened over the last few years, it’s a little scary to release to be honest, it’s like a diary.
We know that you’re a huge Motown-era fan, how does this reflect in your music?
I think more than anything it’s with the delivery, my singing style and performance vibe. I’m not onstage mumbling along to the music and looking cool at the mic with my hair in front of my face. Whether I’m singing rock and roll or jazz or country, the Motown roots always come through because that’s where I learned to sing. memorizing all the words to “Heatwave” and belting them out when I had the house to myself as a little girl, imagining I was singing to thousands of people and trying to touch everyone of them with nothing but my voice and a song. Those inflections and that soul will always be where my voice goes, and I’m proud of that, some of the best singers in the entire world came out of Motown.
Your life should be pretty hectic, if we consider that you juggle between music and cinema. How do you manage to be a full-time musician and actress at the same time? Are you working on any next acting projects, right now?
I’ve had to turn down a number of projects and put acting on the back burner for now, it would be great to get back into it but it’s so it’s hard to make any plans with the nature things in music, you really need to commit to a city and audition constantly to be in the acting game.
Do you think that the fact of being an actress might have unconsciously influenced No Sinner‘s music?
Performing comes from the same place whether I’m singing or acting, it’s about telling a story and making people feel it alongside with you.
If you can name out 5 of your favorite album, which would they be and why?
It changes constantly, I don’t think I can answer that to be honest. Every time I start to try, I stop myself, there’s just too many to choose from and they can sometimes be my favourite and sometimes I can’t even listen to them because of what they remind me of… I’ve been listening to Terry Ried Seed of “Memory” and Gram Nash‘s “Wild Tales” a lot lately and Them Angry Young Them… I always listened to Nina Simone but never to a full album, always songs plucked from different releases, I really enjoyed “Little Girl Blue” and have been listening to that a lot. I can say that definitely 2 of my all time favourite albums are “Tapestry” by Carole King and “This Lady’s Not for Sale” by Rita Coolidge, and “The Last Waltz” soundtrack is pretty much the be all end all for covering the bases of influence in my life.
What are the next tour plans? Where can your fans catch you in the next days? Do you have any plans for a full EU tour?
We are heading to Canada’s east coast for some shows, then down to play some blues festivals in The US this summer. After that, we really don’t know, We are hoping for a fall EU tour, but we won’t really
know until we figure out how to pay for it!
So, Colleen, it’s time for your parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again!
Thank you!! Looking forward to getting to Europe and playing for everyone again!!
Photos by Brendan Meadows and Lauren D. Zbarsky