With her latest album, The Spaces In Between, Amanda Rheaume takes the listener on a journey through the depths of personal identity and cultural heritage, as the artist works to find her true self and a unique place within the constructs of a binary world.
In the album’s first single, ‘100 Years’, Amanda refers to a quote from Métis leader Louis Riel, who said, “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”
As a citizen of the Métis Nation, Riel’s words carry heavy meaning for Amanda. But now, more than ever, there is a haunting relevance to this quote for all people living on the land that we call Canada. Not just in the current sense of awakening from another pandemic winter and reconnecting with the arts through a return to live music and theatre. But also in acknowledging a truth that many thought was buried in our past. In the song’s chorus, Amanda asks, “Can you feel the heat underneath your feet?” As First Nations groups across the country discover more and more unmarked graves on the sites of Canada’s residential schools, now reaching over 1,000 in number.
Throughout the album, the artist’s theme of naked introspection forces the listener to reflect on their own relationship with the world and sense of self. The Spaces In Between carries a heavier weight than previous releases in Amanda’s 15-year catalogue. “It's a different theme with this whole record,” says Amanda. “The journey I've been on is about coming to terms with several facets of my identity and learning to love all those parts, just feeling strong on my own, like who I actually am.”
As a queer woman and proud member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, the search for a place takes Amanda outside of the binary view favoured by Western society. In the compulsion to label everything as either gay or straight, liberal or conservative, black or white… Many people are left on the periphery with no place to call home. Amanda leans heavily on the experience of her Métis people, who have made their home in-between spaces for 200 years.
“There are lots of touches on a lot of different things in these songs, but I'd say that the Métis experience is definitely a constant thing throughout the record,” says Amanda.
The album is being released on Amanda’s own label, a recent project called Ishkodé Records which she founded with a dear friend and Anishinaabekwe artist, Shoshona Kish. The word Ishkodé means fire in the Anishinaabemowin language.
“We started this record label to amplify indigenous voices here on so-called Canada, and to hopefully break glass ceilings,” she explains. “Open up the doors to artists that are telling critical stories and singing such important songs, these artists have been typically kept out of the mainstream, providing them a seat at the table.”
Amanda says that the de facto mission statement for her label would be, ‘songs for the eighth fire,’ which is based on the Anishinaabe story of the seven fires.
“It's been said that we're in the seventh fire right now, which is a time of great destruction and dissonance… no harmony,” notes Amanda. And in light of our recent experience with the pandemic, the truckers, war in Europe, and the general state of our Earth and climate, that’s another hauntingly relevant prophecy.
But it’s said that to light the eighth and final fire that brings peace, the people must choose between two roads. “Either we go back to our teachings or we continue on this path of destruction,” she explains. “But if we've returned to our teachings, then they will lead us to light the eighth and final fire of balance and harmony and forever unity as one great nation of all.”
In line with the theme of awakening, Amanda Rheaume and her band will be returning to the stage for a show at the National Arts Centre on May 25th, her first major performance since the onset of the pandemic. While Amanda was able to get in a handful of performances over the past two years, it was nothing like the life that she had lived before. She went from playing as many as 150 shows in a year in packed venues down to less than 10 gigs with social distancing in full effect.
With this new performance, Amanda can return the spirits not only to the people, her fans, but also to herself and fellow musicians. “I know I've really missed it; I found this time away very difficult, to be honest,” says Amanda. “I’m especially reminded of that Louis Riel line because the artists are back and we think differently; we see the world in a different way sometimes, and I think it's an important time for different voices and different ways of doing things.”
Pre-order Amanda’s latest album at amandarheaume.com