Of all the things to come out of Pugwash, Nova Scotia---salt, pewter, politicians named Eaton---the most immediately relevant to Haligonian music fans might be the sounds of Kim Harris, who honed her singer-songwriter abilities in Pugwash's Chatterbox Cafe.
Chatterbox's every-Friday "kitchen party jam thing" was Harris' first foray into live performance, initially as part of a group of "fun, artsy people" and later as a solo act.
"It was a very slow progression," Harris recalls of the transition. "It was kind of like, 'OK I'm going to come out of my turtle shell just a little bit, then just a little bit more.' I was frightened to death."
Hailing from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Harris first moved to Halifax in 2005 to attend massage therapy school, but was hesitant to test out her after-school hobbies amidst the city's thriving music scene. "I found the open mics in Halifax really intimidating and really stayed away from them."
But not for long. Upon returning to Halifax after her stay in Pugwash, Harris' fears were abated: "Very quickly a lot of friends were like, 'Just open my show, do this, do this...' and I was kind of taken under their wings. It's just been a little snowball ride."
A snowball ride that has resulted in her new album, Only The Mighty, which sees some of those friends providing backup: Stewart Legere, Margot Durling and Jay Needham doing vocal duties, Brian Murray on drums and Dale Murray playing a variety of guitars.
The latter Murray receives the most praise from Harris, for his work on the album and for recognizing her talent in the first place. Only The Mighty, she says, wouldn't exist without Dale "meeting me and telling me he'd like to work with me."
Murray helped Harris' live material go from girl-with-guitar to polished, band-supported album cuts: "It'd be me playing the solo song and Dale figuring out what we were going to do around that," Harris says.
He assisted in selecting the 10 tracks that make up the final version of Only The Mighty ---"We sat down and figured out which songs fit together and made a cohesive whole"---but left the decision-making up to Harris when it came to choose between songs "Feast for the Mighty" and "Amelia" ("Amelia" lost).
"With 10 songs it was hard," Harris says. "It's hard to pick the best ones. I was like, 'Dale, why can't you just choose for me?' but it came down to me making the final choice and it was difficult. It was like picking between two babies."
Harris hopes to tour in the fall, though playing with a band is a change she's still trying to get used to: "I had a really hard time putting a band together. It's such an intimate thing, and it's so vulnerable to ask people to play your music with you." Her lineup includes Brian Murray on drums ("amazing"), bassist Jason Vautour ("my number-one pick") and Ryan Stanley on guitar ("another all-star").
The praise doesn't stop there. Harris credits locals Jenn Grant and Amelia Curran with being "a heavy influence on my writing" and the person who "made me want to start writing songs," respectively.
"There's a lot of music around that doesn't have a lot of openness to it," Harris says of other non-Grant, non-Curran singer-songwriters. "And I think the bottom line is for artists to be honest. It's our responsibility to share, and I've tried to do that with this album, make it an honest extension of myself."
Kim Harris w/Dark for Dark
Thursday, April 17 at 7:30pm, $12/$15/$25 with album
The Atrium, Spatz Theatre, 1855 Trollope Street