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Dissolving marriage proves to be creative fuel for Oldfolks Home

Breaking Bad

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When an album opens with the lyric "Lately I feel like I want to kill," it's hard to foresee it ending on a positive note.

But through Black and Blue, Ricardo Lopez-Aguilar, a.k.a Oldfolks Home, has created a contemplative chronicle of the end of his marriage, and manages to end it without it sounding like an angry kiss-off to his ex.

The album has become known as "the divorce album," as much of it was inspired by the end of Lopez-Aguilar's marriage in 2010. It takes us through the first painful moments of the end of his relationship to his eventual acceptance of his new life.

The folktronic singer-songwriter says he didn't intend Black and Blue to be a breakup album, but he wasn't surprised that it turned out to be one.

"Around the time that... it all started falling apart, I started keeping a journal. And I started writing more just to help work through my thoughts," he says.

"I just wrote what was on my mind and heart and that's what ended up coming out."

Once the album's direction became clear, Lopez-Aguilar envisioned Black and Blue as an angst-ridden outing. But it didn't feel honest to describe the end of his relationship that way, he says.

"I feel like when I was writing the record, I was really, really angry that this happened. I was upset and so I had a vision of how the album was going to progress. And it didn't end on a good note. It ended on a song... the original ending was a song called Everything Is Going to Fail," he says. "I thought I would end it in the usual way, just being angry and having it be an angry breakup record. And then that didn't feel right."

Lopez-Aguilar decided to write a new song for the end of the album, one that reflected understanding rather than bitterness.

"I decided at that point the album wouldn't be about how hurt I was, and that it would end on a note of forgiveness and acceptance of what happened. I don't know of many breakup records that end on a positive note," he says.

One of the most heartbreaking tracks on the record is the newly released single Sleeper, on which Lopez-Aguilar pairs up with local music veteran Keri Latimer (other guests on the album include Les Jupes' Michael Petkau Falk, The Details' Shaun Gibson and E.S.L.'s Tess Kitchen).

Lopez-Aguilar says he wrote it about how upset he was with his ex-wife, but when she heard the song, he says, "She wisely pointed out that the same lyrics could be applied to me, too."

"In a way I'm talking to myself as well," he says.

Despite most of the album detailing his divorce, his ex-wife ended up contributing artwork for the cover.

"She gave it to me before I moved out, and I had it on my wall when I was working on the record, just above my desk. So whenever I was feeling kind of stuck I would look up and see it all the time," he said.

"And then I realized that it was the right size for an album cover. It took me months to work up the courage to email her, because we hadn't communicated in more than a year at this point."

Not all of Black and Blue centres around Lopez-Aguilar's divorce, however. In the track Garland's Moving to Vancouver, Lopez-Aguilar gives an upbeat sendoff to a friend who is nervous about moving away from the comforts of home.

"I've known Garland since we were in Grade 5. She was feeling really hesitant and really worried. She's a visual artist, so she went out there to do that more and go back to school. So she just didn't know if it was going to work out, because how can anyone?" he says.

"I had a really good talk with her, me and my ex, just telling her that she'd be fine and she'd get out there and make a ton of new friends, and she has."

Black and Blue was released May 7 on Head in the Sand records. The official album release party will take place on June 28 at the Park Theatre.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2013 C9

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