EMILY HAINES at the Church of the Redeemer (162 Bloor West), Friday (December 17), $17.50. 416-922-4948. Rating: NNNNN
Waiting for Emily Haines to arrive at a bar on West Queen West, I'm having a hard time convincing myself that I shouldn't be extremely nervous. Not only is the lead singer and de-facto manager of art pop band Metric totally fetching, but the stories of her fiery persona make her intimidating. As does the staggering image of throngs of western-shirted devotees worshipping her whenever she performs Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl with her other crew, Broken Social Scene.
And then there's her singing voice, which is warm and sweet but chillingly detached, like the woman on my machine when I have no... new... messages.
But - worst-case scenario - even if she can kill me with her mind, I figure she won't. On the brink of her first solo outing, Haines wouldn't surrender this publicity. Backing herself up on piano, she'll be unveiling new songs Friday accompanied by projections of pared-down flicks by Saddest Music auteur Guy Maddin.
Hey, don't worry, Metric's not finished. And neither is Broken, whose new album hits shelves on Valentine's Day.
And yet you get the sense that this solo project is a means of creative fulfillment for Haines. Despite developing a huge North American following with Metric's album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, she's having trouble naming her crowning achievement.
"I don't feel that proud," she says. "There's something about pop music that, for everything it's accomplished, is kind of embarrassing or something. Sometimes when I think of all the animated energy around pop music, I feel as though it's a beer-fuelled ego-ride. I look forward to getting older and becoming a real musician, you know?"
On the other hand, "I really like being in a band," she says between sips of Coke. "I think it's better. It's more, to me, the definition of music, the collaboration between different people instead of doing the whole thing alone.
"The reason I'm doing a solo project at all is just cuz I play the piano and I write a lot of songs that don't suit Metric, and I thought it was kind of sad. It'd be weird to have all these songs never see the light of day. So it's certainly not a 'career move' in any way; it's just material that friends and family have always heard, and I thought I should release it."
She'll release it officially on the solo disc she's moved back to Toronto to record, the bulk of which is being handled by Dave Newfeld, the producer-slash-wedding selecta behind Broken and Apostle of Hustle. Clearly someone who enjoys continuity, Haines wants stills from Maddin's films to serve as art for her album.
As she speaks, it seems like she's really into this new project, and that's cool - but hold on. Last time one of the ladies from Broken went solo (Leslie Feist), she abandoned Toronto for Paris, turned into Sade, and now serves as Galiano's fashion muse, eating fresh baguettes and skipping around the Louvre all day and occasionally teasing the T-Dot with a show. That won't happen once Haines's new album comes out, will it?
"Yeah, well, anything's possible," she says. "It's not, like, 'Oh, now Metric is over and I'm gonna embark on my huge solo venture.' But having said that, there are lots of possibilities for a release in Europe and I think that'd be great, to get to do that, solo."
But these things take time.
"I'm hoping to be confident and patient," she says. "I'm not very good at either of those things."