Rose Cousins didn’t set out to write an anthem, but she did it anyway—and just in time, too. The Halifax-based folk-pop artist wanted one more tune to complete her third album, We Have Made a Spark, and when fellow songwriter Jennifer Kimball showed her the poem that now graces the disc’s centrefold, her own lyrics quickly fell into place.
“I was telling Jennifer about this concept that I had, and explaining the point that I was trying to make in the song,” Cousins explains, just minutes after checking into a Regina hotel. “And she said, ‘That reminds me of a Wendell Berry poem.’ And as soon as I saw it I couldn’t believe it, because it was exactly what I was talking about. It kind of solidified the idea I was using.”
The song in question is called “The Darkness”, and the idea behind it is that personal or creative growth is only possible when one faces and conquers one’s fears. It’s not an unusual theme, but Cousins’s nakedly emotional treatment of it is so affecting that her song is likely to give solace to many in the years to come.
“It’s like the darkness is a person or a thing that symbolizes all the things we avoid, and I’m trying to move into a phase where I’m doing less and less of that,” Cousins says of her new LP’s kickoff track. “So it just felt like it was the perfect way to seal the record—and to open it.”
The Prince Edward Island–born musician is coy when asked if We Have Made a Spark, with its songs of loss and healing, is autobiographical.
“It’s hard to write from a place that I don’t know,” she says. “And this is probably the most honest I’ve been on a record, and maybe the most vulnerable, but I don’t think it matters whether they’re my stories or not. If it resonates, it resonates, and I’m certainly not talking about brand-new topics.”
But when the Straight points out that Cousins looks utterly spooked in one of the CD booklet’s photos, she admits that her recent existence has been eventful—albeit in a way that’s been more productive than destructive.
“No one’s ever called attention to that before, but I wouldn’t disagree,” she says. “Not unlike everyone else, I have my own set of demons that I’m trying to work out. I do think that the record has some of those facing-of-the-demons moments, and it has some other moments of lightness. Some of it is about realization and moving forward, and some of it is about begging to move forward, and some of it is, like, ‘Okay, I’m good right here.’ I think it has tastes of all those things.”
Much like life itself, then, We Have Made a Spark encompasses both heartbreak and hope. And if Cousins feels happy with herself at the moment, she’s got good reason for that: it’s a fine piece of work.