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Mustache Fable album focuses on the positive

Danielle Arsenault is always on the move.

“I have so much energy, even when I’m sitting,” she says. “When I go out with a group of friends I often stand because I just can’t sit very well.”

She doesn’t stand, thankfully, for the interview, but the list of her activities suggests she rarely has a minute to spare.

Arsenault hosts shows, is writing a series of cookbooks and this Saturday is launching an album, “Saving Earthworms from Sun-Scorched Death,” under the pseudonym Mustache Fable.

She is leaving Korea soon to take a three-month course on permaculture in Haiti, helping to rebuild the country’s farming communities, before taking the West Coast trail, a 10-day hike in British Columbia.

Her way of taking a break from all this activity is rock climbing.

“That’s my time to relax and everything just goes away, and all I feel is the rock,” she says.

It’s a hobby that nearly killed her.

Trying to climb along a traverse, she found herself exhausted, and decided to fall deliberately rather than lose control.

“It was going to be a massive fall. It was going to be the biggest fall ever.”

She says this enthusiastically, describing the feeling of falling as if she were looking forward to it, while at the same time admitting it was terrifying.

“I took a deep breath and let go, and the rope just got caught between my leg and flipped me upside down.”

“And I wasn’t wearing a helmet ― and I know that you should always wear a helmet ― so I put my hands up like that to protect my head and smashed into the wall and cracked 5 of my ribs.”

They weren’t minor fractures. She says her ribs are still strangely aligned and her right lung was punctured and collapsed. They got help from a nearby group, who tried to rig up a chair to carry her, but in the end simply helped her walk down the mountain.

The hospital that greeted her said she must be fine from the look of her, but after an X-ray and other tests rushed her into emergency surgery.

She didn’t tell her parents until afterwards.

“I didn’t want to worry them,” she says. “I would be like ‘OK mom, I had an accident. I’m OK now.’”

The certainty of a positive outcome that this implies demonstrates the positive thinking throughout her music.

The themes can sometimes oppose each other. On one of the songs she wrote in recovery from her climbing accident she calls on people to take control of their lives.

“They are complaining and complaining, but really the choice is up to them,” she says. “They are always looking for someone to come and rescue them and they don’t take the chance.” 
Danielle Arsenault (Corey Malcolm Lageunesse)
Danielle Arsenault (Corey Malcolm Lageunesse)

At the same time, the other song admires the hope many people have that keeps them positive.

Arsenault concedes the contradiction ― hope can be as much a desire for rescue as complaining ― but she puts much more emphasis on the positive outlook the two songs espouse.

This sunny disposition is present in the album’s title.

“When it rains the earthworms come out but then the sun comes out and they get stuck on the sidewalk and shrivel and die,” she says.

“When I was little I used to save the worms. I used to pick them up and put them back in the dirt.”

Arsenault came to Korea with a creative streak, but says she had no musical knowledge.

“I wanted to make music but I didn’t know how because I couldn’t play an instrument. I didn’t want to just sing other people’s songs, I wanted to write my own.”

She picked up a ukulele in Seoul’s Nagwon Arcade during her first year in Korea four years ago.

Her friend told her that she wouldn’t learn to play it, and it would just end up as decoration. This might have turned out true, if she hadn’t been living in a small town in Gangwon Province with time to kill.

“There were only 1,000 people, and I was the only foreigner in the town and there was no one for me to speak to,” she says. “All the younger Koreans had moved away and it was only older Koreans left. I was all alone. I liked it.”

Later she would teach herself how to use a loop machine.

“I guess this is what it’s all about ― gaining new knowledge, learning new things. That’s why I came to Korea, that’s why I’m going to Haiti.”

She also says she learned a lot from production, which she says she sat in on and helped with.

She describes her producer, Geoff Nostrant, as skillful, talented and kind, but is it possible for a can-do person like Arsenault to let someone else take control?

“I think in this instance it wouldn’t be possible,” she says, “because he wouldn’t know what my vision was.”

That aside, the album’s artwork was drawn by Kim Hye-won, who draws under the pen name Wonny Bunny.

Arsenault ditched the idea of a CD, explaining that people just use them to convert them to MP3 files now, but wanted to create something physical and opted for a booklet with lyrics and a download code in it. There is also the option of a simple download without the book.

She says she has hosted events before, but is both excited and anxious about Saturday’s launch.

“I think I’ll be nervous this time because it’s like its all me and I will be on display a little,” she says.

“I’m lucky I have some really talented musicians joining me.

“Normally I play on my own, but I really wanted to have a full sound that really represented the album rather than just by myself.”

The launch of “Saving Earthworms from Sun-Scorched Death” will be on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Laughing Tree Lab in Itaewon. Support will be from Used Cassettes, CJ IsInfinite and Jennifer Waescher and entry is 10,000 won. You can find out more about Mustache Fable, and download the album, by visiting www.mustachefable.com.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)
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