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20 Questions With Opal Canyon

The Cape Cod couple talk muthashuckers, spolied pugs, quicksand fears & more.

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Sometimes, two heads really are better. Case in point: Opal Canyon’s Debra DeMuth and Dave Houghton. The folksy Massachusetts duo met in 2012 when budding singer-songwriter DeMuth went to see guitarist Houghton’s band. Three years later they began performing together, channeling a timeless sound that takes you back to the golden-haired glory days of Laurel Canyon. Their debut album Beauty And Loss arrived in 2019. And this spring, the married couple willl release their sophomore album Tomorrow To The Sea, featuring the soothing and sincere first single and video Come Ashore, which premiered HERE last week. Naturally, they put their heads together to deal with my dumb questions. No wonder they want to flee to the sea. Here’s how it went:

 


 

Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
DAVE: 6’ tall, long-legged guitar-pickin’ Pisces man.
DEBRA: 5’5” tall, white blonde hair, usually smiling Scorpio.

What is your musical origin story?
DAVE: My grandmother and father were very musical but they played only privately. Both of them were piano players. My father also played banjo and Hawaiian guitar. But once at a party I heard my dad play the piano like a boogie-woogie, Jerry Lee Lewis pro! I was maybe eight years old and I was in utter shock. After that I thought my dad was the coolest. Blew my mind.
DEBRA: My family is not musical at all. The arts were not exactly present or seen as something you would pursue professionally. But that did not stop me from singing my heart out in grade-school chorus and performing in the school operettas. My big breakout role was as Becky in Tom Sawyer. My parents to this day say, “We do not know where you came from.”

What’s your latest project?
Our band Opal Canyon is launching its sophomore album Tomorrow To The Sea in April. We are super proud of the songs and sounds. The album was an unplanned catharsis with a narrative that moves through lyrical expressions of regret and longing, connection and nostalgia, adventure and celebration. Musically, Tomorrow To The Sea is duo-fronted and harmony-forward with a genuine expression of hope and resilience. Hope is a beautiful thing in these times and we wanted to express that musically.

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
DEBRA: Dave and I are a team; personally and professionally. I think that comes through in the music. We both express ourselves best through writing and we complement each other stylistically; Dave has an edgier tension to his music and I am softer and breezier. We combine those influences and aspects of ourselves and that creates a uniqueness that sets us apart.

How will my life improve by listening to your music?
DAVE: Opal Canyon makes you believe the world is a beautiful place.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
DEBRA: My first song was written in the context of a songwriting group for trauma survivors. My friend and mentor, Robin Lane (Robin Lane and The Chartbusters), was the group facilitator. I was in the midst of cancer treatment and wrote a song for my sons called I Am Here. I was standing my ground against my disease and also reminding my boys to see me in the little things around them in case I was not there. It’s very traditional folk. I still perform it live usually to start the show.
DAVE: My first song was written when I was 17 after my friend died by suicide. It was the only way I knew how to cope. Somehow the words and chords were a comfort.

What is the worst / strangest / most memorable performance you have given?
DAVE: My grandmother made me play drums at a polka party at Lake Sunapee. I had never played a polka beat nor was I a drummer. I was 10 and mortified after I got the stink eye from all my grandmother’s friends. I still wish I could play the drums well to this day.

What is the best / most memorable performance you’ve seen?
DEBRA: I was front row center at Talking HeadsStop Making Sense show. 1983, Oxford, Ohio. Mind blowing!
DAVE: Taj Mahal a few years back. Outdoors in his hometown on a hot night in our lawn chairs.

What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
DAVE: Nick Drake, John Entwistle, Ringo.
DEBRA: Sam Beam, Pharrell, Beck, Jenny Lewis.

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
DAVE: Maroon 5, great melodies.
DEBRA: Fugazi (Dave introduced me).

What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
DAVE: Original, one-of-a-kind.
DEBRA: Genuine and kind.

What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
DAVE: Oyster farmer and shucker, I’m a good muthashucka.
DEBRA: I am making potholders; it’s very mindful and calming. And I can make a mean paella; my Spanish grandmother would be proud.

Who can you do an impression of?
DAVE: I can do a pretty decent Kermit the Frog
DEBRA: Definitely not my forte but after many episodes of Schitt’s Creek, I could do a darn good Moira.

What do you collect?
DAVE: Vinyl records.
DEBRA: Rocks.

If money was no object, where would you live?
A few spots: Somewhere foreign where we could immerse in a new culture, somewhere tropical and warm (we love the Dominican), right here (Cape Cod) so we could be near our family, somewhere desertish for the wide-open spaces.

What would you like to be reincarnated as?
Our pug Little Ricky, the most spoiled dog in North America.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Time away in the Dominican Republic. Sounds like perfect happiness to me.

What are your pet peeves?
DAVE: The salesman that can’t shut up.
DEBRA: Mean people.

What’s your greatest regret?
DAVE: Not seeing Neil Young when my band opened up for him, Unfortunately I had another gig that night and had to leave.
DEBRA: I wish my parents had been able to see me open for Los Lobos. Next big gig, I’m getting them there, front and center.

What are you afraid of?
DAVE: I am not a fan of bats.
DEBRA: People who do not believe in science.

What would the title of your autobiography be?
DAVE: The Gifts of Life.
DEBRA: I Am Here.

Who should play you in the movie of your life?
Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow.

What’s your motto?
DAVE: Do your part and a little more.

What’s always in your refrigerator?
Cheese and chocolate.

What’s the silliest thing you believed as a child?
DEBRA: Too many Batman shows with quicksand; I totally believed any soft surface could suck me down and I’d suffocate!

What was your favorite class in school and why?
DEBRA: I was really fortunate to have a radio station in my high school. So my favorite class was being a DJ. How awesome is that?

What world record would you like to break?
Oldest person to win a Grammy….hahaha.

What was the worst job you ever had?
DEBRA: My first job was at Sea World as a park survey greeter. It was quite a lesson in rejection and resilience. No one wanted to take that dang survey.

What’s the best and / or worst advice you were ever given?
DEBRA: I had a boss who once who told me his key to success was “do the least but get the most recognition;” he got fired and I got his job. My dad always said, “keep your head down and do what you’re best at.” So far, that has served me well.

Watch videos for Come Ashore and High Road above, hear Beauty And Loss below, pre-save Tomorrow To The Sea HERE, and connect with Opal Canyon at their website, Facebook and Instagram.