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Charlotte Cornfield: Ready For Anything

Welcoming new life alongside a stunning new album, the nuanced folk artist is fully connected to the past, present, and future. 

by Noémie Attia

Photo by Brittany Carmichael

Artists dedicate energy, soul, and body to creation. Many of them compare the process of releasing new work to the act of giving birth. This year, Charlotte Cornfield brings both to the world, delivering her new record, Could Have Done Anything, while delivering a baby at the same time. In the very middle of this life effervescence, she greets RANGE from her Toronto home on a rather peculiar day. It’s 30 degrees outside and it also happens to be her due date. She assures, “It’s good to have things to distract me, otherwise I’m just, like, waiting around.” 

Over the course of our time together we revisit her various eras, as a new one is about to begin for the musician and singer-songwriter. Listening to Could Have Done Anything is like looking at old photos of yourself and remembering who you once were; seeing that person with only love, even though you didn’t think much of yourself at the time. “I think to me it’s an album of acceptance and hope and reconciling with the past while moving on at the same time,” she begins. “I tend to revisit things that have happened in my past, at different times in my life because I then have a different perspective on my relationships at the time and how they’ve evolved to now.”

“In this age,” she explains, “with everyone kind of being on Twitter and stuff, it’s very easy to be categorical about things and go ‘okay that person wronged me’ or ‘that person messed up’ so… ‘cut! that person is no longer part of my life.” Offering a hot take on cancel culture, Cornfield finds a form of beauty in accepting people’s flaws, all while embracing “this sentiment of not leaving yourself behind,” which she explores in her gorgeous single, “Cut and Dry.” 

The track’s music video is a collection of found footage from Cornfield’s childhood at various ages, performing in a choir or practicing the drums, which she later studied at university. “I looked back at that footage of a 10-year-old, a six-year-old, a 14-year-old. And I’m like ‘oh yeah that is me.’ I feel very connected to that person and I don’t want to sever ties with that in any way.”

Cornfield’s relation to music is glaring throughout her life. She came of age, musically and literally, in mid-2000s Montreal, where she lived in her early twenties, during the height of the city’s reign as the indie rock capital of Canada with bands like Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, and the Unicorns making international waves. She talks fondly about that time of experimentation, which she also evokes in her tender and incredibly relatable song “Magnetic Fields.” In it, she recounts a date night at the concert of said band at the Corona Theatre, lingering on trivial aspects that in fact make the whole moment remarkable. Cornfield has the gift of telling poetic stories while sonically expressing them, in true songwriter fashion. Every time listening to her songs uncovers a new layer. 

“I think folk classic, kinda 60s and 70s songwriter music is the music of my heart. I grew up on Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, Bob Dylan and all those people. And it’s evolved to be Judee Sill, Joan Armatrading, Karen Dalton, all these other songwriters that fit in that vein.” On her previous album, Highs in the Minuses, she longed to “make a little bit of noise in my own way, which is not like (laughs) super noisy.” She goes back to the music of her childhood with Could Have Done Anything, a more distinctly minimalist folk record, essentially constructed by herself and producer Josh Kaufman. “At its core I’m obsessed with songwriting,” she affirms. Another way to reconnect with the kid she used to be and experiment with form. 

“Often I will just play one chord and leave a lot of space. And then it just makes a lot of room for the vocals to do whatever. And I like that I can stretch it and pull things and move phrases over and there’s no real rules to it,” she says about her way of shaping a song and wording the lyrics unconventionally, evoking Joni Mitchell’s songwriting style: calm, lyrical, beautiful. 

For Cornfield, this new album is “sort of like the end of a chapter of me—which I didn’t know at the time I was making it (laughs)—of this segment of life. So in some ways it feels like tying a bow this time. And the timing being so wild and getting pregnant right after making the record and then it coming out around the same time the baby is gonna be born. It feels really special to me, to get to do that. And then to be able to enter this new phase of life, with like a clean slate, and explore new things.” Charlotte Cornfield could do anything from there.