Haley Bonar is officially back in Minnesota, touting the sonic spoils of a West Coast retreat. The South Dakota native returned to her adopted state last summer after spending a quasi-isolated year in Portland, Ore., writing songs for her fifth album, "Golder."
"It was the right thing for me to do," Bonar said of the temporary relocation. "I needed to get away from my comfort zone."
With a relatively untenanted social calendar, Bonar wrote about half of the songs on her colorful self-released record, including "Daddy," a sprightly piano-based tune inspired by the family she worked for as a part-time nanny while in Portland. Through the eyes of a child, Bonar tells of a family whose patriarch lives an interstate-bound life as a trucker, a less-than-novel theme made fresh by the positivity of her exposition.
Bonar's thoughtful lyricism pervades the record, counterbalancing intimate poetry with hints of folksy storytelling. "I've become so defined by you I can't tell up from down / The nature of your beauty pulls my bones into the ground," she croons on "Candy Machine Gun," while the playful country feel of "Bad for You" showcases the songwriter's ability to apply her lighthearted nature to deeper subject matter. The 2 1/2-minute ditty muses on how media consumption shapes one's self-image.
"I'm so tired of like, sugar-free, fat-free, fun-free Americanism!" Bonar said with an exasperated chuckle. "Everything is [telling you] you're ugly and fat and you're not good enough and you should be doing something better to make yourself a better person, so it's just my little response to flipping through magazines or watching TV for an hour."
Without the help of the fundraising website Kickstarter.com, Bonar's latest batch of spunky observations and soothing serenades might not have seen the light of day, at least not without her opening a new line of credit. Bonar received more than $9,300 in donations to help pay for printing, promotion and touring costs. In exchange, generous fans were rewarded with autographed albums, hand-embroidered T-shirts and otmher exclusive goodies.
Bonar's show Friday at the Cedar Cultural Center will be a celebration of more than just her new record -- it's also her 28th birthday. Ever since deciding at 18 to pursue a career in music, Bonar has played a show every year on her birthday, although she insists it's coincidental.
After a decade in the biz, the songstress has amassed an aural catalog bountiful beyond her years. Bonar said listening to her past work is like looking at a snapshot of the person she was during its inception. "Hopefully I can continue to [make music] and say the same about this record," she said.
If her future efforts sound as sweet as "Golder," we hope so, too.
Michael Rietmulder is a U of M student on assignment for the Star Tribune.