Healthcare workers take aim at Opal Canyon music to offer hope and healing

With a new album and an aspiration for the future, opal canyon Member Debra DeMuth’s positivity is hard to miss in conversation.

“I want to give people hope and a feeling that things will get better and that we can enjoy being together again,” DeMuth said of Opal Canyon’s second effort, the album ” Tomorrow to the Sea”, released on April 8 with a local party. “But until then, we can listen to these songs and keep this hope alive.”

DeMuth and teammate/husband Dave Houghton moved to Brewster from North Hampton two years ago. DeMuth works as a licensed social worker overseeing local mental health services. Houghton is a case manager for a Cape Town-based nonprofit that works with adults with disabilities.

This drive to help others is evident in the couple’s music as Opal Canyon: it’s serene, soothing and evokes a sense of healing. Opal Canyon will perform for a private live experience Saturday night at Harvest Gallery Layouts at Dennis and will return on June 12 for a free public show.

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DeMuth came to songwriting and performing “later in life” after battling cancer, a traumatic time for her and her family. She found the “wonderful” Songbird Sings writing group, led by Robin Lane, a member of former Boston band Robin Lane and The Chartbustersand the music became an outlet that helped DeMuth learn to express herself in a way she never had before.

She had worked in advertising and creative writing, but said writing down music and then singing it was “very alien to her”.

“I didn’t grow up in a family that really embraced art as a career and it gave me so much strength and belief that my words would resonate with people,” DeMuth says of Lane, who she also calls her “mentor and best friend.” “It was a cathartic and life-changing experience.”

Make music together

Lane also helped introduce the spouses when Lane and DeMuth went to see Fancy Trash, Houghton’s band at the time. DeMuth, however, initially kept her music to herself until Houghton heard her sing one of her own songs.

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“He didn’t know much about the musical part of me until I was singing in the kitchen and he said, ‘What song is that?'” she recalled. “He was captivated by my voice.” Soon, DeMuth found herself singing backup vocals in Houghton’s band before the two eventually created Opal Canyon.

Although DeMuth and Houghton come from “very different musical backgrounds” – Houghton “more punk rock” and DeMuth “softer and softer” – it is this difference that inspires them to create music together.

“I think that’s what makes our sound really interesting because you can’t categorize it as one or the other,” DeMuth says. “It’s kind of an interesting mix of backgrounds and influences. It’s just a great way to share a passion.

In addition to moving to Cape Town for work, DeMuth wanted to be here for the vibrant music scene — with more venues, including outdoor summer opportunities than Western Massachusetts — and for the performing opportunities presented by proximity to Boston.

“We have always vacationed in Cape Town and always loved it, and we already know a lot of musicians who are here. It was encouraging to know that they are having a great time playing here,” she said.

“Tomorrow at sea”

Moving during the COVID-19 pandemic was “difficult” in many ways, personally and musically, given the difficulty in booking shows and making an impression in their new community. She hopes the new album ‘Tomorrow to the Sea’ will help Opal Canyon break into other Cape Town venues for her second summer here.

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The pair recorded the album at Brick Hill Music Studio in Orleans with producer Jon Evans and enlisted the help of fellow Cape Town musicians Jason Smith, Bob Hennessy and more. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the whole group was not allowed to be in the space together at the same time, but you can’t tell by listening. The album feels cohesive, with a seriousness provided by DeMuth’s vocal delivery. Some songs were streamed on Ocean 104.7.

Opal Canyon approached “Tomorrow to the Sea” as a full album, not just a list of potential singles to listen to out of order.

“When we released the record, it goes from the slowest ballad to the fastest, funniest song, and it was done very deliberately, to start with more introspection and just trying to process the emotions, and then it got to a place where it was like a full expression of joy,” DeMuth explains. “It’s a journey, and as an artist, it was a journey in theme, expression, and feeling.”

DeMuth is quick to say that music is a type of medicine for her, that it has provided a type of healing in itself, and she hopes that will extend to those who listen to Opal Canyon.

“Dave and I are healthcare workers and we’re all about connection, community and healing,” she says. “So whether it’s our daily work or through our music, that’s our goal.”

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