Belle Plaine is always wondering about the planets and the stars. “I’ve been loving looking up at Mars lately,” she says. The Saskatchewan-raised songwriter, who grew up in a remote Canadian prairie town of 45 people, has a knack for living dynamically. She’s a jolt of unending electricity bounding from one location and creative pursuit to the next. Her upcoming album, Malice, Mercy, Grief and Wrath, out October 19, is her third full-length release, and is proof of her steadily evolving progression from her small town prairie roots to being an internationally-known bandleader, collaborating with guests such as Colter Wall, Kacy Anderson, and Megan Nash.
Produced by Jason Plumb (Colter Wall) at Studio One in Regina SK, Belle’s new record evokes an unmistakable classic country influence. “The album’s country side came partly from my upbringing, but also from working closely with my partner, Blake Berglund, and performing with his band-mates, who became trusted collaborators,” says Belle. “I’m not one that can pre-determine a final product and then create it. I’m more like, ‘What are we making today?’” Just as Belle refuses to live her life according to a stoic plan, moving unfettered from moment to moment, her recording method also takes on this spontaneous nature.
Though Belle is immediately energetic and engaging, her dialogue racing as if bouncing along to the rhythm of an upbeat tempo, she’s not afraid of delving below the crystal surface into deep, contemplative themes. “In retrospect, looking at what the album became, it was a way to process grief and loss,” says Belle. “A lot of the songs concern family and also my own expectations. There’s a lot of questioning in the album. The old ‘What does it all mean?’ And my answers were open-ended.” Belle’s parents, who passed away in the early 2010s, influenced the introspective tone of the album, specifically on the song “Golden Ring.” “They went through the painful experience of letting go of their future together, and putting an end to the years they invested in their marriage. After they both died, I was the recipient of their wedding rings. I wear them on a chain around my neck to honor their love, their optimism of making a living on a family farm, and to remember that I was cherished by them.”
While Malice, Mercy, Grief and Wrath contemplates the ephemeral nature of life, it also manages to address themes that are persistently unfolding in our lives: forgiveness, redemption and hope. She chooses to live with this knowledge at the forefront of her mind, not only in the spontaneous way in which she records, but also in the migratory way she moves from place to place. Despite her meditations on mortality and impermanence, Belle continues to desire a grounding force, but she searches where one might not immediately expect: somewhere beyond the clouds. “I’ve seen the rings of Saturn and peered directly at the sun through a telescope. Those experiences were poignant moments. They inspired me to look up and out, to follow moon phases and track the planets. As someone who is ever transient, these can be my constants.”