Taking time to tell her stories
Mar 22 2022
By Amy Kenny
Kim Beggs tends to look for the silver lining. In March 2020, when the pandemic meant she had to halt recording on her new EP, Beggs saw it as an opportunity.
“To be honest, I was grateful for that extra time,” she says over the phone, a couple weeks before the release of Steel and Wool, her 6th solo effort. “Usually when I start recording, I don’t have all the lyrics set. I mean, the music part is set, but I like having that little bit of extra time to be sure about the lyrics before they’re carved in stone.”
Waiting until fall 2021 to get back into the studio gave Beggs plenty of time to hone the lyrics this time around. That was significant to her because of the substance of the songs on the EP.
“There’s some important topics on the album and so, when addressing important and vulnerable issues, it’s really good to feel good about getting it right.”
“Not a Man of God,” for example, is about a priest abusing a young girl and the impacts that has on her family down the line. Beggs calls the country tune “Whiskeytown” a “self-pity waltz” about being broken-hearted at the bar.
Then there are songs that are vulnerable in more ways than one. “She Divides the Town” is about a relationship going sour, which is tough in its own way. On top of that, it proved difficult for Beggs, as a songwriter, to properly pin down.
It’s a song about the Yukon River and the impact it has on a town during freeze-up and break-up. She says she wrestled with it (actually, “epic struggle” is the term she uses) for close to two years.
“Part of what I struggled with was the gender perspective because rivers are often referred to as ‘she,’ and I didn’t want her to be blamed,” Beggs says, laughing.
She switched back and forth from first to third-person perspectives to tell the tale of two lovers whose courtship begins with hand-delivered morels—a particularly Yukon brand of love language that stings all the more when your beloved starts giving those mushrooms away to someone else. Beggs finally threw up her hands, deciding that first-person is the way she prefers to write (“I'm going to be 80 years old and telling my story from the first-person,” she says). In the end, the song isn’t blaming anyone, not the fickle mushroom-giver, or the recipients of his morels. It’s just the river, Beggs says.
One of the ways she got the song where she wanted it was by co-writing with Eryn Foster. For a collection that came together during the isolated days of a pandemic, there’s a lot of that kind of collaboration on the EP, including “I Wanna Be a Flower” (written with Sharon Anderson) and “They Shut the Greyhound Down” (written with Kim Richey), about feeling stuck in a town and your life.
No matter how dark the tune though, Beggs’s songs maintain an optimism that things can change for the better, something she felt palpably this spring. After two long years of the pandemic, performing is becoming an option for musicians again.
In March, she and fellow Whitehorse musician, Claire Ness, went to Dawson City for a songwriting residency and played a last-minute show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. Beggs was a bit wary of that level of public engagement after some time off, but she left Dawson feeling buoyed by the experience.
“We got a chance to go out a little bit in Dawson, practice socializing … we played for two hours and swapped songs and it was really fun. It really helped me to feel optimistic about the concert at the arts centre.”
That show takes place on the YAC mainstage Saturday, April 2 at 7 p.m. Beggs will be backed by Andy Slade, Lonnie Powell, Dave Haddock and Bob Hamilton. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at yukonartscentre.com.