Theresa Sokyrka's second album, Something Is Expected, is all about her.
She wrote the songs. She paid for the record. She picked the producers. And she wouldn't have had it any other way.
"This is the album of my life," says Sokyrka. "If this one doesn't work, I quit." The quitting part is wry melodrama from the personable 25-year-old, but the first half of the statement is entirely true. All of Sokyrka's adult life has led naturally to Something Is Expected.
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native's late teens and early 20s were spent flirting with folk bands and attending Red Deer College for music. Her breakthrough, however, came when she placed second in season two of Canadian Idol and subsequently released the album These Old Charms in 2005. Charms' jazz standards and covers earned her a 2006 Juno Award nomination for best pop album, going gold in Canada and selling over 70,000 copies as Sokyrka rode a firm wave of Idol momentum. That was just part of the plan, though. "I just wanted to make enough money off my first album so I could put out my album," she emphasizes. "This one."
"Her" album represents the perfect progression from Idol contender to stand alone artist. Something Is Expected is a rich, earthy collection of heartfelt songs that swirl between infectious indie pop, sweet ballads and gossamer dirges, admirably nestling the album alongside anything Sarah Harmer or Tegan And Sara has recorded.
That sound didn't come by accident, either. Recorded in Toronto and Vancouver, Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies fame and respected studio duo JC/DC ó John Collins (New Pornographers, The Evaporators) and David Carswell (The Evapoators) ó were enlisted to split the album's production duties.
Timmins introduced Sokyrka to live-off-the-floor analogue recording ("I donít think Iíll ever go back to digital. I really love the sound.") and surrounded her with a crack team of players. Timmins played guitar, Richard Bell (The Band, Janis Joplin) was on keys, Jeff Bird (Cowboy Junkies, Tamarack) was on bass, and Randall Coryell drummed.
"Mike hooked me up with a lot of wicked studio musicians," says Sokyrka. "They could play circles around anyone I've ever met really, anyone my age or anyone I've ever played with."
A huge fan of the west coast's vibrant indie pop scene, Sokyrka desperately wanted the Pornographers pair to contribute.
"They were my number one priority on the producer list. I adored Destroyer and I adored Tegan And Sara and I adore the New Pornographers and I adore AC Newman. I love all that music. I love it all and I love the production quality," says Sokyrka, of the albums and artists JC/DC have shepherded.
What JC/DC and Timmins ended up contributing to were confessional, personal songs that encompass Sokyrka's rollercoaster ride through life these past few years.
For example, the willowy "Without Waking" takes a very in-the-moment scenario and lays bare all Sokyrka's fears and insecurities.
"This is my favourite tune on the album and definitely the one I feel most close to," she says. "Itís definitely the closest to my heart."
Equally telling, "Yours Is Yours" is a withering observation of someone close to her.
"I wrote that song specifically about takers," says Sokyrka. "Sometimes thereís a realization that with certain people in your life that no matter how much you wish they would change, thatís never going to happen."
Another song, "Enemy," firmly puts into perspective her feelings about the machinery of musical stardom.
"Itís all about the business and the stress of the business," she says. "I was told once that I wasnít marketable. Iím not marketable with a major label, itís true ó itís because Iím not willing to show tits and ass."
Sokyrka needn't worry about such things, though. The realness of Something Is Expected shines loud and clear. Which is exactly what Sokyrka was aiming for.
"Iím genuinely and completely proud of the work I put into it and I believe in it. I really do," she says. "I believe in the conviction of the words. I believe in the beauty of the melodies. Itís my soul."