This past Saturday evening, Carole Pope performed via Facebook Live for just over a half an hour. Along with Tim Welch (guitar), Sean Kelly (bass), and Tim Timleck (drums), this National Arts Centre #CanadaPerforms event was an original (and fully isolated) set of material put together to benefit artists/authors impacted by the closure of performance venues across Canada related to COVID-19.

Today (May 1st) Bandcamp is waiving it’s fees today to help artists affected by Covid 19. Carole Pope is donating 50% of any revenue to #directrelief

Sequestered away in the bedroom at the AirBNB that Carole was staying in, the four artists performed a tight set of material going back over thirty years to “that song” (as she coyly referred to it). The set was sponsored by Facebook Canada, Slaight Music, SiriusXM and RBC, and was edited together by Tim Timleck. It was the first performance in this fashion any of the participants had attempted, and it went off swimmingly. The clip can now be viewed in entirety courtesy of Carole Pope’s Facebook Page. Fans willing to donate to the #CanadaPerforms cause may do so by visiting the National Arts Centre’s official website.

#CanadaPerforms is a 700,000 dollar short-term relief fund that pays professional Canadian artists and professionally published authors for their online performances. It was launched by Facebook Canada and the National Arts Centre to help ease the financial strain for Canadian artists impacted by the closure of performance venues across Canada related to COVID-19, and to lift the spirits of Canadians during the crisis. Artists who are selected will receive 1,000 dollars, and their online performance will be broadcast on the NAC’s Facebook page.

Carole Pope took some time to speak with us about her #CanadaPerforms performance, along some tidbits that touch upon The Barenaked Ladies, SCTV, and the great equalizer that is COVID-19.

I understand you’re participating in an online stream performance for the National Arts Center tomorrow. That’s pretty cool.

Carole Pope: “Yeah, yeah. It’s exciting and harrowing. It’s pretty cool. We had no idea what we were doing and what we were going to get.”

From a technical standpoint, what does that mean to you? It’s not as simple as just singing into a telephone or a camera. Is it?

“I was singing into a telephone actually. I’m staying in an Airbnb, and I taped my phone. I had like some clear packing tape. So it looked like I’m filtered. I just taped the phone to this light fixture. And yeah, I was like singing into the phone and then everybody else’s in their respective homes doing their part. And then we stick it all together.”

Wow, so crazy. It just blows me away, some of the stuff the musicians are doing right now to deal with the fact that they can’t be together and they can’t be in front of an audience. It’s nuts.

“I know, right? But it’s real. What’s frightening is just losing all of our gigs. You know, that’s my primary source of income. So that’s pretty horrifying. Who wants to play live right now? Just let it be.”

From an entertainment business standpoint, the sports guys can’t really do anything because, I mean, they need to interact with each other to play their sports. I think it’s interesting that artists can jump online and can do this sort of thing because there are people in the entertainment industry who just can’t do much of anything, you know?

“Exactly. Well, they could do live tennis, though.”

And darts.

“Darts. Yeah, that’s a biggie. I mean, you know, I wouldn’t want to be an athlete. Even getting back into it because it’s just so scary.”

Have you done any live streams before or is this the first one that you’ve attempted?

“This is the first one, and none of us knew what we were doing. But we got help from Edward Pond who works with the Barenaked Ladies. because they do these great streams.”

Did you watch anything that was streamed in advance of doing yours? Just to kind of test the waters and see what was happening out there?

“I watched my guitar player. I sang to him. I couldn’t really hear him that well because you have an earbud in because you’re singing the song. But then I really needed another earbud to hear him. (laughs) So next time. But I was like, ‘I don’t want to go. I’m afraid to go outside and try and find an earbud.’ You know, you have to make do. Everybody else has got studios. Everybody I work with, their studios are set up in their house. But you know, I’m at an Airbnb. So I’ve got nothing. I got nothing, baby!”

Carole Pope and Her Band

Did you enjoy it enough that you’d consider doing it again?

“Yeah, now that we know what we’re doing. I’d like to have a better recording set-up. I wasn’t even able to use my microphone. All my stuff is in storage. Normally I sing into a real microphone. I would look into that. I’d have a better image, and be able to hear everything. It’s true; I totally faked it. I sure hope people will like it. It looks cool, I think.”

I’m glad Stephen (Carole’s publicist) mentioned it, because I know I’m free tomorrow at 9 pm. I’m going to check it out. I never got to see you back in the day. I think you did a show in Toronto at the RockPile a little while ago. And I had my kid that night, and I couldn’t go, but I was interested.

“You know what? Wow. I don’t even know when that was.”

I could be wrong on that. But I just remember some pictures going up on a few of my friend’s Facebook pages. And I was like, “Oh my God. You are performing in Toronto!”

“I perform in Toronto a lot. But this is not like a live thing. This is like a bizarre performance, you know? We tried to figure out if we can do it in the same space. My guitar player Tim was like, ‘Maybe we can do it in my backyard, at night, and nobody will say anything. We could set up some fires.’ But then, some people like me act really badly when they see new musicians in the same room (referring to live streams when the bands are in the same room.) You know, we don’t want to scare anybody. We’re just going to do it separately.”

It’s hard to set the room tone outside, right? You don’t have control over the ambient noise.

“No, no, you don’t. It was just a crazy thought. You know, we were just like spit-balling ideas. Yeah, but, you know, maybe next time I could be with my guitar player, like separated from my guitar player in the same room with him? I don’t know what that would be. That would be nice.”

Can you talk a little bit about how you feel this virus will affect your industry in the months and years to come? Have you put a lot of thought into that?

“Yeah, it’s scary. I mean, I’m now like an indie musician. I have my own label and my main source of income is performing live. So I don’t know. I mean, I think some people are saying that they’ll do gigs in the fall. If I feel like it’s ok, I might want to do that. But it’s just there’s so much unknown about this disease and how it spreads? And whether it comes back? There are so many unknowns about it. I don’t know what to think, but I’ll just see. You know, I think we’ll all decide together what happens whenever we feel safe. And, you know, I mean, I’m hoping, but I don’t think things will be ok until probably next year.”

I didn’t realize that you’d written a book, Anti Diva, until I started reading up for this interview and I would like to read that. Is it still in publication?

“Yeah, you can get it, actually. I could send you one. I don’t have it on me, but I have some here. But I’m sure you can get it on eBay and Amazon and stuff like that. But it’s out of print. But yeah, I wrote a book. I was working on a second one, and then ‘this’ happened. And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is all anybody is going to be writing about.’ Yeah, I want to do a second one. The big project that I was really excited about was doing a musical with my friend Kate Rigg and we were supposed to workshop it out at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto. Actually we have a GoFundMe for it, because we have to pay actors and things. And right now I have the music director here, Elizabeth Baird, and the director, Robert McQueen, who as you know has worked on a lot of Broadway shows. And this wonderful person in L.A. is doing all the charts right now. So we are going hit it as much as we can, and then hopefully we’ll get to workshop it at Buddies. I am so excited about that because I’ve been working on it for eight years. There’s a lot of Rough Trade music in it.

And can you still work on that independently or do you feel like you’ve got to be in a room together and kind of bash it out as as a bunch of people?

“Yeah, we have to. I mean, there’s no way, there’s a couple of actresses who are going to do the workshop, but there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be cast and you can’t really cast people online. I mean, I can’t imagine doing that. Yeah, it would have to be in the same room with them.”

Crazy.

“So that’s disappointing, to say the least, because that’s my big passion.”

I remember seeing Rough Trade on CTV back in ‘81? I would have been about 14, I guess. And that could very well have been my first music video. So I don’t think we had MTV or Much Music at that point. So I just remember watching it. My parents were in the room. I thought it was really cool. I was huge into SCTV, and I remember my mom just looked like she’d swallowed a lemon after she watched you perform. It’s just stuck with me for years.

“Really?”

Yeah. She wasn’t impressed.

Carole Pope Live Stream Screenshot on 2020-04-25 at 9.06.20 PM

“Ah well. Moms, usually they like me. But yeah, that was so much fun being on SCTV. On Pre-Teen World. That’s on YouTube for sure. Yeah. That was so much fun. We were just friends with everybody on SCTV. And with Second City. Kevan Staples and I used to go to Second City every night in the ‘70s. It was like Dan Aykroyd and Catherine O’Hara and Gilda Radner and Marty Short and Eugene Levy and John Candy, and we’d just like smoke a doob and then go and see them every night. It was like the best thing ever.”

I feel like I was born about ten years too late because, you know, I would have loved to have been a part of that. Just to see some of that live. Such amazing entertainment.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I feel so blessed to have seen that. And, you know, Toronto in the late ‘70s and ‘80s was just amazing. It was so great to see that.”

Can you tell me where you feel you got your music musical influences from? Did that come from your mom, or was that something you just nurtured on your own?

“Definitely my mom, because she was in this English music hall, and she started taking me to this thing when I was just a baby. And she took us to see musicals. And I mean, that’s the first music I ever heard; I think it was Maria Callas. So there was like lots of singing around the house and we used to put on shows. And then I just secretly wanted to be a singer. I was really shy and introverted because I had a weird childhood. Well, my dad was like bipolar and we moved almost every year of my life. So I had to go to different schools. Then I had this rich fantasy in life of wanting to be a musician. And then eventually it happened after I left home and moved to Yorkville (a downtown neighbourhood in Toronto) and met all these great musicians who kind of steered me into that direction.”

I can remember, again, I was in high school, and someone told me that you were a lesbian. And it was the first time that I’d heard the word. I didn’t know what it meant. You know, I can remember saying, “Well, what is that?” I just didn’t know. It was kind of a profound thing. And such a big deal back then. And now? Meh.

“Yeah. It’s like whatever.”

Exactly.

“It’s only a big deal to Republicans. Who are all secretly gay anyway.”

Well, yeah.

“I saw this documentary once that outed all these Republican politicians. It was insane. I can’t remember what it was called. And they’re all like child molesters or gay. And they’re full of self-loathing. But anyway, yeah, it shouldn’t be like that. It’s only a big deal with them because they’re closeted. But yeah, it’s like no big deal to anybody right now. And it shouldn’t be really. It’s like, who cares? I know the last thing I think of when I meet somebody is a person’s sexuality. It’s just like, whatever, are they a good person?”

Yeah, absolutely. You’ve only got a limited amount of time on the planet. You should make the most of your time and do what you want and just be good to people, you know?

“Yeah. Right now, this is the great equalizer, isn’t it?”

Everything sort of is, isn’t it? Equalized. The playing field has been levelled. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich; poor; if you’re a one-percenter; if you’re an actor; if you’re a plumber. Everybody’s doing the same thing right now.

“Yeah. And everybody should be on the same page. And I think I mean, I wish they just could shut down the entire world for like a month. Everybody. And I think it would be so much better.”

Yeah. Yeah. I filled my car up yesterday, and it was, you know, 25 bucks or 30 bucks or whatever. And I just thought that the nozzle was broken. Do you know what I mean? It just felt so weird to be paying so little to fill up my car.

“Oh, wow.”

So, tell me, what was the last musical experience you had before quarantine hit?

“Oh, my God. Well, we did some things here in November. Oh, Kevan Staples and I actually did a little special guest appearance with the Barenaked Ladies. For Dream Serenade. That was pretty fun. And then I think we played The Duke, a dive bar that we like to play in Toronto. But I think that that was it. But it was definitely so fun playing with the Barenaked Ladies and actually hearing myself on stage. It was like, ‘What? What the hell?’ My band is a power trio. I mean, we’re not really loud. It was just amazing to play at the Dream Serenade and for that audience. That was a wonderful experience.”

Well, listen, I hope that I get the chance to see you live, especially if I can be somewhere that’s, you know, smallish and in the Toronto area down the road. I just I don’t know when that’s going to be.

“Well, hopefully, that will happen at the end of this year or next year.”

I like cheese, loud music, and David Lynch.