Windsor Star Feature

By Ted Shaw
The Windsor Star, Thursday May 6, 2010
Reprinted in the Ottawa Citizen

Karyn Ellis was ready to chuck it in as a singer and get a day job when a letter arrived from the Canada Council.

“I was literally on my way out to find work when the grant came in the mail,” said the Toronto-based songwriter, who used the money to make her latest CD, Even Though the Sky Was Falling.

Ellis plays music from the CD, as well as her earlier album, tonight at Phog Lounge.

The U.K.-born singer who grew up in Toronto had achieved some fleeting fame for her earlier album, Hearts Fall, in 2007. Humber College’s songwriting faculty named her that year’s most original new voice.

“It’s the plight of the indie artist in Canada, I guess,” she said. “People seemed to like the album and everything. I was touring, went out west.”

But things just sort of fizzled after that.

“It was a bit of a hard go. It’s a big country and with all the travel, I was feeling worn down. I was working super hard and not seeing rewards. So I was, like, OK, I quit.”

So the self-described “queen of grant-writing” fired off several applications for arts grants.

The Canada Council for the Arts usually provides incentive grants to writers and visual artists, but seldom musicians. Working musicians usually have to go through Factor to get funds for the recording, while the Council pays for the lyrical content through its Canada Music section.

But the process is not as simple as it looks: “I’ve got a whole collection of rejection letters in my drawer,” said Ellis.

When the letter came giving her six months to work on a new album, she said, “It seemed like this amazing reprieve that the universe sent my way.”

So much so that she named the album after the song that defines her philosophy of life.

“It’s sort of a take on the Chicken Little story,” she said. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling. We live at a time when there’s so much information to process and it’s easy to get caught up in it.

“Even if the sky is falling, I can walk outside right now and see irises growing outside my door. Little, wonderful things are happening around us all the time if we just stop and take notice.”

Even Though the Sky Was Falling has been getting the same kinds of raves as the earlier project. But Ellis won’t let all the attention distract her.

“It’s not that I am suggesting we pretend it isn’t a big, scary world. It’s more the notion that I am choosing now how to spend my time.

“Not overwhelmed, not frightened. Just enjoying life, looking up at the sky.”

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