As a musician and graduate of NSCAD's photography program, Halifax-based artist Ruth Minnikin had always been looking for ways to combine the two fields of study into one project. But it wasn't until the death of a loved one that she finally realized her two artistic passions with The Minnikins' Photo Album, a 7-song EP that sees its pre-release at Casino Nova Scotia on August 3.
The idea for the album began to emerge after 2009's Depend on This, following the sudden death of her father.
"You can think of how many times you don't ask your parents about stuff," she says. "I figured I wanted to get to the source."
Minnikin began spending every Thursday with her Nana, going over photographs, and listening to stories of her family's history. Weeks after the death, her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, giving the project a sense of urgency that occupied the majority of Minnikin's creative output.
Coming from an artistic family (her father was a photographer and her brother, Gabriel, is a frequent musical collaborator of hers) the project took on a life of its own when, one day while going through her great-grandmother's piano bench, Minnikin and her Nana discovered a letter written to Ruth before she was even born.
"When I read the letter it blew my mind, and when I turned it over and saw the chords I was just like, 'Ahhhhhh,'" she says, mimicking an angel's choir. "I almost felt like it was a sign, like something divine, transcendent came down and was like, 'Make this into a song.'"
The song would become "Letters for You," with six more being recorded hastily at The Echo Chamber over the spring. The album features accompaniment from Minnikin's musical family in The Heavy Blinkers and The Guthries, and features a guest spot from her brother and sister Amy, who at 15 provides vocals and violin on the album.
"Whenever I sit down with my family and play music, it's like nothing else," she says. "It makes me feel grateful to have such a creative family that are so willing to share their emotions and thoughts in song with me."
Ruth Minnikin w/Jon McKiel, Gabrielle Papillon, Mary Beth Carty Friday, August 3 at The Harbourfront Lounge, Casino Nova Scotia, 9pm, Free