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Kaya Usher, widow of Gord Downie, on ‘healing journey’ of her debut album

Mostly instrumental record is shaped by her spiritual recovery
Kaya Usher smiles in this undated handout photo. More than four years after the death of her husband Gord Downie, Kaya Usher is stepping into the spotlight with the release of her debut album “All This Is.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Richard Briant *MANDATORY CREDIT*

More than four years after her husband Gord Downie’s death, singer-songwriter Kaya Usher is releasing an album she calls part of the “healing journey.”

The Toronto musician collaborated with two of her children and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew to create “All This Is,” her 10-track debut set for release on Nov. 17.

Usher says the mostly instrumental record is shaped by the spiritual recovery that she embarked on after being diagnosed with breast cancer nearly a decade ago.

Kaya, who was born Laura Leigh Usher, saw the disease from a different perspective when Downie faced terminal brain cancer in late 2015.

She says “All This Is” captures the love, connection and “real strength” that can be fostered after a significant loss.

The album also makes an effort to realize what she says was a shared dream with Downie of one day forming a family band.

Two of their four children play on the tracks, with their 21-year-old son Lou on keyboards and drums and their 26-year-old daughter Willo on harmonies.

“All This is” was produced earlier this year at the Tragically Hip’s famed Bathouse studio in Bath, Ont.

And Usher says while recordings of Downie’s voice don’t appear on the album, his presence is felt in other ways. A harmonica he gifted her before his death opens “Quickening,” while several other songs feature an acoustic guitar he once played.

“I really tried to bring him in through his instruments,” she says.

“We were as close to him as we could be.”

—David Friend, The Canadian Press

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