The meeting of the Amys happens in a quaint Italian restaurant down the street from Toronto’s Massey Hall. The multi-talented Amy Millan — she even writes the advice column, Ask Amy, in NEXT — is in town with Canadian music collective Broken Social Scene for two packed shows, and she’s stolen some time before soundcheck to say hello. An incredibly busy woman, Millan balances BSS with NEXT’s advice column, other iconic indie band Stars and, the most important gig of all, motherhood.
We chat about all these things over a glass of white wine, with the conversation centred around Stars’ forthcoming album From Capelton Hill. Their first full-length release in five years, this album is a scrapbook of memories and emotions that the band have collected in their 20 years together. It’s a love letter to the past and an acceptance of life’s impermanence, set to beautiful horn-and-string arrangements and gentle shared vocals from Millan and Torquil Campbell. Though there’s a feeling of closure on the album, the band are far from done.
Capelton Hill is a street in North Hatley, a small town in Quebec. Campbell’s grandfather built a house there, and we’ve spent a lot of time there as a band. I think a lot of what I wrote was to cheer Campbell up! He’s a catastrophist and we were living in a catastrophe. He was coming from a place that wondered if our career as touring artists was over and, while I was also looking to the past, I wrote love letters to my band instead. Campbell and I approach our writing differently but always end up coming to the same place.
A sonic balm
I hope the album becomes a bath for the pressure that people have been under these last few years. I hope they sit inside the songs as you would in a bath, let go of the stress and come out of it feeling less alone, less sad and scared.
Songwriter for hire
During the pandemic, Campbell offered to write personalized songs for $1,000 and I started doing it too. It’s been one of the most moving experiences of my life. So far, I’ve mostly told love stories — we all end up in tears! This couple from Texas got engaged 15 minutes after the Supreme Court passed the law for gay marriage and another couple wanted a song for their kids. Sometimes, I struggle with lyric writing, but when you give me your story, it’s no problem. So, DM me on Twitter if you want a song!
NEXT’s advice columnist
There’s a saying in my group of friends, “When shit hits the fan, call Millan.” I’m known for my counsel and I come from a long line of social workers. What I find really fun is that it’s not just about the advice, it’s about writing a piece that’s entertaining for the reader. And it’s completely different to songwriting, it uses a different muscle in my brain.
Destined to tour
I think some people are born travellers. I have journals from when I was a teenager and, in one, I wrote I would get married on a bus. Little did I know, I was gonna get married to the bus!