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CJ Temple discusses her new Olivia Records album, a Sarah McLachlan flip side and Judy Collins’ new album on Cleopatra Records

Nashville’s Olivia Records to release its debut album “Smoke” by singer-songwriter CJ Temple
CJ main

OLIVIA RECORDS is a new independent Americana-folk label headquartered in East Nashville, a subsidiary of Olivia Management founded by Erin Olivia Anderson who said, “I wanted another way to invest in music that I believe in. I am not an artist, but I think my goal is the same as a lot of artists, wondering what else can I do and how can I contribute to the world of music? Olivia Records is my answer to that question. Since I started my own management company a decade ago, it’s always been about helping great artists continue making great art. Olivia Records is an extension of that same mission.” The label’s debut album is Smoke by CJ Temple, available on CD in April, with more artist releases to follow this year.

CJ Smoke

GOLDMINE: Congratulations on your debut album Smoke which is also the debut release for Olivia Records. I was reminded of one of your influences when I was listening to the album, Canada’s Sarah McLachlan. Your album cover reminded me of the album cover for her Surfacing album, which contained her first four U.S. Top 40 hit singles, “Building a Mystery,” “Sweet Surrender,” “Adia” and “Angel.”

CJ Surfacing

CJ TEMPLE: I grew up listening to Sarah McLachlan. She was one of those artists, when I was a kid, where her music hit me emotionally in a way that not many others at the time had. I felt a connection to her music, and it inspired me to want to create music that other people would have that deep of a connection with and affecting people the way that “Angel” affected people, delivering songs with substance.

GM: As we moved out of the 1990s to the new century, Sarah McLachlan was back on the radio with “Fallen.” Her cassette single also included a live version of “Answer,” with both songs being from her album Afterglow.

CT: Those songs showcased how she could explain things, making them easy to relate to. Everyone can relate to making mistakes. Everyone can relate to being lost. We take songs like those as an audience and make them our own. I think that is something so amazing about her songs, “Fallen,” for example is relatable storytelling. That is something that I try to do with my music as well, telling a story, and allow somebody to feel something.

CJ Fallen

Sarah McLachlan

Flip side: Answer

A side: Fallen

Billboard Top 100 debut: October 25, 2003

Peak position: No. 41

Arista 60143

GM: Your album opens with the title song, “Smoke.” I like what some people would consider vintage imagery in your “Smoke” video, although I am still surrounded by it daily, puzzle pieces and vinyl albums. Musically I was reminded of Sade’s “Kiss of Life.”

CT: I grew up with Sade’s music as well. My dad instilled in me this love of music that wasn’t mainstream but was more soothing with a jazzier feel to it. I was attracted to those sounds when I was younger. My family went through a lot during my childhood and during that time music really helped my family. My dad introduced me to a lot of Sade’s music at that time, and of course Sarah’s songs were around at that time too.

GM: Josh Kaler’s string arrangement on my favorite of your songs, “I Am You Are Me” is wonderful, as is what he brought to “Cold Heart.”

CT: He also did the arrangement on the song “Smoke.” I didn’t know Josh until Erin introduced me to him. Then I listened to some of the music he produced. He and I probably had just two conversations before we got into the studio, and it was almost like we could read each other’s minds immediately. He was so easy to work with. He always had suggestions and never said no to my ideas. If I wanted to do something, he would always defer to me, which is not what I was expecting, which was a producer to tell me no, and insist on doing something his way. I wasn’t expecting him to give me the final say. The string arrangements almost came organically. On “I Am You Are Me,” when the strings pick up at the end, I knew they had to be there. He had the idea of a few string arrangements for the songs with an orchestra he had worked with before. I was there for two weeks recording with him in East Nashville, and it was the most fun that I had in a long time.

GM: When I heard the harp on “Cold Heart,” I was reminded of Florence + The Machine.

CT: A couple of people have compared me to Florence Welch. I think her music is big and beautiful, yet at the same time deep and full of feeling.

GM: There is a different arrangement on “Take Me Where You Go” with an acoustic guitar and more of a folk sound.

CT: I had written all eleven songs by myself and have demos where I am playing guitar or plunking on a piano, but on this recording, it was Josh playing guitar and piano, and all the main instruments on the album.

GM: There seems to be an overall breakup theme with “How It Feels,” “Lost” and “How Long.”

CT: I wrote the songs between the ages of 18 and 33 and between that time, a lot happened. All the songs have to do with something in my life that affected me or something that I found out about myself. Sure, there a lot are breakup songs, like “How Long.” “Take Me Where You Go” is me speaking to a loved one who is passing. When I was writing it, a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. I was thinking about being that person, sitting by the bed, talking and sharing feelings. I tried to show different points of view. I don’t like to write songs just about how I have been hurt.

GM: In “Lost” you ask, “What’s it like to be free, to finally be able to breathe?”

CT: I had written that one while being depressed for a long period of time and wondering when I would be free of that and be able to breathe again. Then later I wrote “Smoke” about what it feels like to finally be able to breathe, so those two songs kind of go together as a before and after. I look forward to sharing these songs with an audience. I would love to tour and play these songs live. It is one thing to listen to them and it is another thing to be able to share them and have other people singing my songs with me. That is a dream of mine, to look out into an audience and see people singing my songs, after working a dozen years in corporate America, and finally giving that up in 2020 to pursue music. I am encouraged by what you and others have said about my songs. I am now based in Northern Michigan on the western shore of Lake Huron, so I may start here. It is quiet during the winter and in the summertime, it is really booming with people on vacation.

GM: I can picture the area, like in the film Summer Rental, perhaps you’ll write a song about Michigan like Judy Collins has written about different states on her new album. Let’s conclude with her. In 1968, the year Sarah McLachlan was born, I was introduced to Judy Collins’ music on AM radio with her first Top 40 hit single “Both Sides Now,” Joni Mitchell’s composition. All of Judy’s hits were written by others, but she is also a wonderful writer, and finally, with her 55th album Spellbound, the entire dozen songs are written by Judy. Her voice is beautiful, and her piano playing is amazing. When I interviewed her last year, I told her that her 1990 composition “The Blizzard” is my all-time favorite song of hers. I am so happy that she chose that song as the bonus track on the new collection, to share with more listeners. The Spellbound track most similar to “The Blizzard” about Colorado is “Grand Canyon,” where she reflects on living in that state from age nine through twenty-one.

CJ Judy

CT: “Arizona” is also a gorgeous song. It’s one of those songs that feels almost painfully beautiful, like she somehow created the musical equivalent of nostalgia. I love that even without listening to the lyrics you can tell that there’s something bittersweet, a memory and sadness, but also joy in the remembrance. Creating a world within a song can be hard to do, but she does it with that one.

GM: She also does that with “So Alive” about being in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s with all the talent there like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Her song “Thomas Merton” reminds me of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” with her knack for storytelling and “Gilded Rooms” reminds me of the mood of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust” and those are my favorite songs from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, so you can tell how much I am enjoying Spellbound.

CT: Yes, thank you so much for sharing it with me. Like Judy Collins’ Spellbound, with Smoke I wanted to create an album that would allow the listeners to relax, and Josh helped making the songs into what they should be. I now have a wonderful group of people who believe in me and my music, including you at Goldmine. This was so much fun. Thank you for choosing me to be part of your series.

CJ Temple photo by Shawnee Custalow

CJ Temple photo by Shawnee Custalow

Related Links:

CJ Temple "Smoke" video

Goldmine Judy Collins Interview 2021

Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its seventh year