Pharis and Jason Romero entered the Smithsonian.
Well, in Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the not-for-profit label of the Smithsonian Institution, that is.
“It’s really exciting for us, it’s the first time we’ve made a record with a record label,” said Pharis, one half of the award-winning folk duo. Although they’re generally self-employed, producing, promoting and distributing their own records, the duo are happy to step down those jobs for this release.
The duo’s latest album, “Tell ‘Em You Were Gold”, takes its name from a line in the song Souvenir.
The line stuck for both of them, from the lyrics written by Pharis, and which Jason then put the music to.
The video for the song was shot at the historic 153 Mile Store.
Pharis said the location of the video was created after talking to Rick Magnell, a local photographer and videographer she and Jason had worked with on several occasions before.
“He’s the ultimate videographer and photographer because he constantly pushes his skills and equipment,” said Pharis, of Magnell.
The folk duo worked with Magnell on three records to shoot promotional photography and video.
They were thinking of historic and interesting places that would fit the theme and title of the song, coming up with Barkerville, their old barn, and then Magnell suggested the historic store.
“I had never been there, but it was the perfect idea,” said Pharis, who explained that the location seemed to be suitable for several reasons.
Pharis’s maiden name is Patenaude, so she is distantly related to Roger Patenaude, who along with his wife Alison have run the store for some years on behalf of the Patenaude family.
Roger’s family owned 153 Mile Ranch and have maintained the historic store for a few generations now. The store is a kind of museum, housing all kinds of historical goods.
“It’s this incredible time capsule of Cariboo history,” Pharis described, referring to a line in the song: “a memory of time.”
“Although the song doesn’t directly reference things that are physical, tangible memories, the store felt like such a beautiful representation of the idea that things are a memory.”
She said shooting the video in the store was a challenge, however. They were trying to convey a sense of intimacy in the music and a sense of where they were, and to overcome working in such an old building.
“We had extension cords running everywhere,” Pharis recalls, with only one electrical outlet to light up the space.
But the video gives no indication of these obstacles, and the video shines with both the light and the warmth of the voices of the folk couples.
The Souvenir video is the premiere of their new record, an album that feels different to them, she said, because it has more of a thematic feel, focusing on banjos, with Jason playing seven unique banjos across the 16 songs.
The focus is on the sounds and history of each of these instruments, which is fitting as this year marks 20 years of the couple’s banjo making business and this year they will produce their 500th banjo.
“There’s a lot like ‘Ting! Ting! Ting!’ moments,” Pharis said. “It’s pretty amazing, actually.”
Jason has been building and sticking to banjos for a few years to work on this project, which also included a film crew coming to Horsefly, documenting the making of the album.
This year also marks 15 years of marriage for Jason and Pharis.
While in some respects Pharis said the 15 years may seem to have passed quickly, in other respects it has been far from rapid.
“If I sit down and think about the last 15 years of my life and what happened, I think ‘Oh no, that’s not fast at all.’ It’s so full, so it’s a good feeling.
So far, the duo has produced two children, five records, won three Juno Awards and seven Canadian Folk Music Awards.
“Lots of similarities and lots of differences, enough to keep it interesting,” says Pharis, of the partnership.