Ira Provost had firm creative control over his latest CD “Evermore.”
The Fort Macleod singer-songwriter wrote, performed and recorded all the songs himself in his home studio.
The 40-year-old Provost, who has been a working musician for about 25 years, was delighted with the finished product.
“It’s the best thing that I’ve done,” Provost said.
“Evermore” is a collection of Provost’s songs that are heavily influenced by family, daily life, politics and First Nations history.
Provost worked 12 years as native education program co-ordinator for Lethbridge School Division before deciding to continue his own education.
At present Provost is close to his degree in Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge, with plans to earn his masters and do some graduate work in the same area.
Provost has long range plans to work in education on his home Piikani Nation.
“We always want to go back and try and contribute something to making the place better,” Provost said.
With the support of his wife Ruth and their daughter Aryelle, 13, Provost finds time in his busy life to write and record his songs.
“I’m going to be writing and playing music until the day I die,” Provost said. “It’s just a part of me.”
As a young boy, Provost listened to the music played by his father, a fan of 1950s rockers such as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly.
“That rubbed off on me big time,” Provost said with a laugh.
One of the songs on the new CD, “When Buddy Sang,” is about Provost’s father telling the story of those 1950s rockers to his granddaughter Aryelle.
Provost has at the university level studied the history of music all the way back to early minstrels.
“It just fascinated me. That’s my life. Anyone who knows me knows music is my thing. I’m always going to be creating music, I’m always going to be writing music. I’ve got this CD done and I’m already starting on the next one.”
While the music of Elvis Presley was Provost’s first love, his own music tends to be folk and experimental. He also counts “good Canadian artists” such as Blue Rodeo and Neil Young as influences.
Provost has been working on some of the songs for “Evermore” for several years. “True North Strong” won a prize in the 2009-’10 South Country Fair songwriting competition.
Some of the songs on the new CD are about family, some are based on observations about daily life and some are political in nature, but all have a message.
“Believing You,” for example, touches on the cancelled police college project in Fort Macleod. Work had already started on the $122-million project in 2012 when it was suddenly cancelled by Premier Alison Redford.
“I was upset about the college not being here — big time,” Provost said. “I equate it to historical accounts of how government is just not fair, is just not right.”
Other songs have anti-racism messages, touch on historic inaccuracies related to First Nations people.
“Trail’s End” touches on a popular silhouette image of a warrior on horseback that is often interpreted to be a man defeated, sad or broken. Provost wrote of a man standing tall as he returns home to his family.
“There’s those kind of messages I want to weave in with music.”
Provost took a different approach to recording “Evermore” than he did his first CD “Blackfoot Sky” in 2008.
“‘Blackfoot Sky’ was fine. The songs will always be precious babies to me,” Provost said. “But I said I really want to do this one by myself.”
Provost bought a Macintosh computer and the latest recording software and by the time he started recording in his home studio was well-versed in how to use the equipment. He was able to rent any other equipment he needed from a company in Lethbridge.
Having the studio in his home allowed Provost the luxury of recording when the creative mood was upon him.
“I know that pressure of being in the studio and the clock is ticking. I hate that. I hate it, especially when it’s my money.”
Provost took about a year to record “Evermore,” performing all of the vocals and instrumentation on his own, except for some harmony provided by Michele Goertzen of Coalhurst.
Provost admits it would be ideal to record in a professional studio, but he can’t afford the thousands of dollars it would require.
“I’m realistic. I know that won’t happen tomorrow so this is the best I could come up with and the best that I’ve done. I couldn’t have done it any better.”
Provost is using his song “Piikani House” as a fund-raiser for the Mary Ann McDougall Memorial Seniors Centre on the Piikani Nation.
Provost first sought approval for the song and using it as a fund-raiser and was intimidated at the thought of performing “Piikani House” before an audience of elders.
“I approached them, and they loved it. They loved the song,” Provost said with a laugh. “It was so affirming. To show a creative idea to anyone, let alone a community group of your elders, that’s a tough crowd.”
“Evermore” is available at The Macleod Gazette, on iTunes and amazon.com and at the Blackfoot Art Gallery and Gift Shop in Lethbridge.