In 2014 Liz McArthur (aka Cosy Father) recorded her debut full-length album ‘Loser Birds’. Accompanied only by her classical guitar, McArthur explores very personal emotional territory. With her soft but confident voice she relates her inner thoughts and feelings on matters such as love, loss and relationships. She speaks a truth we can all relate to, which in turn gives the music a universal resonance.
I spoke with McArthur as she was planning her next musical venture as a follow up to ‘Loser Birds’.
Where are you from?
I was born in Victoria, but when I was young we moved up Island. I grew up in Merville, out in the woods – literally in the middle of the forest. After high school I travelled through Europe. Lived in Scotland for while. Then I was in Vancouver for a short stint. I’ve been living in Victoria now since 2006. I didn’t think I’d stay here this long, but it’s kind of an easy place to stay.
How did Cosy Father get started?
It started out as me playing music in my bedroom in my apartment. I grew up taking music lessons, but when I started my career I was busy and I didn’t have much time for music. I came back to it once in a while. It happened in starts and stops. It was difficult to get an artistic practice going. But then work became less crazy and I had more time to spend with it and let ideas grow. Then Mark McIntyre, who recorded the ‘Loser Birds’ album, I don’t know if he’d heard my stuff or what but he encouraged me to get it out there.
Was it a need for expression?
It happened because there’d be people in my life who were also into music. I’d either play with them or … I guess I first started writing my own music around 2007, I think. A good friend of mine and I met and she was writing songs, so started taking it seriously for myself. Not thinking it would go anywhere. Most of my artistic practice comes out of interactions with other people. It encourages me to keep on writing and it sometimes it provides the lyrical content.
Is there anything that you are trying to get across with your music?
I don’t take the music that I make too seriously or seriously enough to think that it’s going to do anything. I take it seriously in that I want to construct something that’s worth listening to, that’s musically sound and musically interesting. It’s art. It’s meant to connect with people. All I can do it make it as true as I can. I’ve thought about it. Obviously I don’t live in a bubble. I’m connected to the world and I think about these things, but I’ve never felt the need to infuse my music with a political message.
Which comes first, the lyrics or the music?
It’s hard to say. It definitely comes hand in hand. There isn’t one without the other. I don’t know what sparks it. More and more recently I’ve found that if I am dealing with something painful in my life, if I am feeling sad, this dominates my musical practice. Not really knowing what to do with these emotions I’ll sit down with my guitar. More often than not something comes out of that.
So, it’s therapeutic?
Oh yeah, totally. I’m happy in my regular life. My lyrics and my music are typically downer material, but people who know wouldn’t say that is who I am at all.
What’s happened since ‘Loser Birds’ came out?
I’ve played shows intermittently in Victoria. I thought I wasn’t putting any more expectations on the Cosy Father project. The musical writing process for me, because I draw almost solely on my own emotional experiences, was really exhaustive at the end of ‘Loser Birds’. I didn’t think there was much left to put into song. But, you know, life happens, and so this Spring I’ve been writing more and doing more shows. Likely there will be another album in the near future. Well, I know there will be. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, maybe working with more complex arrangements.
Will it still be acoustic or more electric?
I have an acoustic electric, a jazz guitar, and that’s what I usually perform with, just because it’s easier. I have a classical guitar, and that’s what I wrote and recorded all of ‘Loser Birds’ with, but it’s really difficult to perform on stage with – it usually sounds pretty terrible. Well, it doesn’t sound terrible, it’s just a pain in the ass for the sound guys to deal with. So, I will be plugged in, maybe with a little pedal.
Where did the name Cosy Father come from?
I was backpacking through Greece ten years ago with two friends. We met these two Danish guys who they said were Copenhagen’s second best rap group. They’d just lost a competition to the “best” rap group in Denmark. They had Danish MC names and one of them was Hyggelig Far, which translates as Cosy Father. I just thought that was a funny name from my past, I never thought anyone would listen to my music or that it would matter. I don’t think he’s rapping anymore, I think he became a lawyer.