Pharis and Jason Romero have made it into the Smithsonian.
Well, into Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, that is.
“It’s really exciting for us, it’s our first time doing a record with a record label,” said Pharis, one half of the award-winning folk duo. Though they are usually self-reliant, producing, promoting and distributing their own records, the pair are happy to hand over those jobs for this release.
The pair’s latest album, ‘Tell ‘Em You Were Gold’ takes its name from one line in the song Souvenir.
The line stuck out for both of them, from the lyrics Pharis wrote, and which Jason then put the music to.
The video for the song was filmed in the historic 153 Mile Store, near Williams Lake.
Pharis said the location for the video came about after talking to Rick Magnell, a local photographer and videographer who she and Jason have worked with many times before.
“He’s the ultimate videographer and photographer because he is constantly pushing his skill set and his equipment set,” said Pharis, of Magnell.
The folk duo have worked with Magnell on three records to make promotional photography and videos.
They were brainstorming historic and interesting locations which would fit with the song’s theme and title, coming up with Barkerville, their old barn and then Magnell suggested the historic store.
“I had never been in it, but that was the perfect idea,” said Pharis, who explained the location seemed like a fit for a couple of reasons.
Pharis’ maiden name is Patenaude, so she is distantly related to Roger Patenaude, who along with his wife Alison, have been caretaking the store for the past few years on behalf of the Patenaude family.
Roger’s family used to own the 153 Mile Ranch and have been maintaining the historic store for a couple of generations now. The store is something of a museum, housing all manner of historic goods.
“It’s this incredible time capsule of Cariboo history,” described Pharis, referencing one line in the song: “a souvenir of time.”
“Although the song is not a direct reference to things being physical, tangible souvenirs, the store felt like such a great representation of just the idea of things being a souvenir.”
She said the filming of the video in the store, however, was a challenge. They were trying to convey a sense of intimacy in music and a sense of the place they were in, and to overcome working in such an old building.
“We had extension cords running all over the place,” recalled Pharis, with only one electrical outlet to light the space.
But the video gives no hint of those hurdles, and the video glows with both light and the warmth of the folk power-couples’ voices.
The Souvenir video is the first for their new record, an album that seems different to them, she said because it has more of a thematic feel, focusing on banjos, with Jason playing seven unique banjos in the 16 songs.
The emphasis is on each of these instruments’ sounds and backstory, which is appropriate because this year marks 20 years of the couple’s banjo-making business and this year they will produce their 500th banjo.
“There’s lots of like ‘Ting! Ting! Ting!’ moments,” said Pharis. “It feels quite incredible, actually.”
Jason has been building and hanging onto banjos for the last few years to work towards this project, which also included a film crew coming up to Horsefly, documenting the making of the album.
This year also marks 15 years of marriage for Jason and Pharis.
While in some ways, Pharis said the 15 years can feel like they have gone by quickly, in other ways, it has been far from high-speed.
“If I sit back and just think about the last 15 years of my life and what’s happened, I think ‘Oh no, that’s not fast at all.’ It’s so full. So that’s a good feeling.”
The pair so far produced two kids, five records, won three Juno awards and seven Canadian Folk music awards.
“Lots of similarities and lots of difference, enough to keep it interesting,” says Pharis, of the partnership.