A lot of musicians and artists give up. Plenty of exceedingly talented people get beaten up by the industry and are forced to get "real" jobs. Christina Courtin isn't one of them. And that's not to say that she hasn't been beaten up. She even had to wrestle her new record, Varsity, away from the label that dropped her—even though they had no intentions of releasing it.
Courtin is a little reluctant to talk about Varsity now; it's been two years since she recorded it, so her "new release" isn't at the forefront in her mind. She's already set to record her next one—which is a positive thing, all told; it means more good music, and soon. But Varsity deserves a long rotation on our stereos. It's not dated or passé. It's ambitious, successful, and sonically masterful. The album captures the energy of a live show that so few bands are able to recreate in a studio setting, while also showcasing a precision and delicacy that's sometimes hard to accomplish the other way around. Merging well-tempered rock music and poetic lyrics with her jazz and classical influences, Varsity demonstrates the breadth of Courtin's contagious musical and lyrical personality.
In anticipation of Varsity's release today and of our exclusive premiere of "I Am and You Are" [below], we sat down with Courtin before a rehearsal. We tried desperately to steer the conversation back to the new, old record.
AUSTIN NELSON: What do you want us to know about Varsity before we listen to it?
CHRISTINA COURTIN: Have you ever seen George Lucas's house? I mean, I know you're not friends with him. Or I guess you could be. I don't know. It's amazing.
NELSON: [laughs] Can we talk about Varsity?
COURTIN: It's old. [laughs] Let's talk about my life.
NELSON: I think that's interesting that it's old.
COURTIN: Yeah, I feel kind of bad that it's old. I have a lot of guilt issues in general, but I feel guilty that I'm on to other things. I mean, I love the record... I'm proud of it. It's just really hard when you're on a big label, and you're a little guy, and they don't care about you after your first record didn't go platinum.
NELSON: So, it's way different than the first one. It's pretty rocking.
COURTIN: Yeah, because I did what I wanted to do. The first one, I was trying to be good. I had an attitude problem when I was growing up, so on the first one I was trying to be good and do what people wanted me to do. On Varsity, I did what I wanted to do.
NELSON: So, on Varsity you stood your ground more?
NELSON: Are you happier with the second record?
COURTIN: I actually just re-listened to the first one recently to compare it or whatever, and it's really not as bad as I always think it is. It's just different.
NELSON: Is Varsity a springboard for the album you're working on now?
COURTIN: I think so. It's got some funny stuff on there. I mean, it's serious. I take it seriously, but it's got some weird genre mixtures.
NELSON: Do you want a solo career to be your thing?
COURTIN: Yeah, but I also love collaborating with amazing musicians, and I'm lucky enough to play with some of the best musicians in the world. But, yeah I'd love to be a superstar and tour with Bootsy Collins. I'd be cool with that. [laughs] I mean, I'm totally fine being by myself with an instrument. I wouldn't hate making a little more money, but if I died tomorrow, I've had a pretty cool life. I might like to have other people play my songs.
NELSON: Who would you want to play your songs?
COURTIN: I mean, I like cool stuff. [laughs] They're playing Roy Orbison right now. This is the jam. Maybe he could play some of my songs.
NELSON: You went to Juilliard, right?
COURTIN: Yeah, for violin. Graduated in four years. It happened. [laughs]
NELSON: When you're writing, do you write with a guitar or piano?
COURTIN: Guitar. I can't play piano yet, really. I like the songs that just sort of pop into your head. It's really important to create the space to let that happen.
NELSON: Do you mostly try to do that in your house?
COURTIN: I'm trying to do it right now! [laughs]
NELSON: Are you always in that sort of creative headspace?
COURTIN: No. I mean, I have to work. I have to deal with bullshit, like everyone else. But I do like getting older.
NELSON: How old are you?
COURTIN: 29. I can't pay attention. [laughs] Look behind you. That lady's pants are hilarious. I love them. Do I still have to talk about myself?
COURTIN: Bless you.
VARSITY IS AVAILABLE NOW. GET IT ON VINYL OR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD HERE.