Letters for Landfills - Live Recordings from Cuernavaca, Mexico

by Justine Vandergrift



In late February 2015, Joe Nolan flew into Mexico City and together we went back to the Quest Mexico www.quest-mexico.org house in the hills that look over the beautiful Cuernavaca, "La ciudad de la eterna primavera", the city of eternal spring. My good friend Gerardo Debbink (director of Quest) kindly allowed us to use his program room as a studio. The idea was to record a full album live off the floor using one room mic. Joe acted as a producer and helped me strengthen the songs for I'd been working on there over the previous month.

13 tracks were recorded onto my mac mini and transported back to Edmonton, Alberta in early March. It had been an amazing month of writing songs, working on a semester program for Quest, attempting to learn Spanish and going to two beautiful Canadian/Mexican weddings. The last week of my time in Mexico was mainly spent recording the songs over and over with Joe until we got a good take of all of them. Sadly, we got all the performances right but the sound quality and actual recordings from the room were an sound engineers nightmare.

Fortunately my dear cousin Mitch who runs Fieldhouse Records was able to fix up some of the tracks to be easy on the ears. We had to choose the strong tracks and only 4 made the cut which is precisely why this is only Part 1 of the Letters For Landfills Project. I intend to record the rest of the songs professionally here in Edmonton.

I want to mention that I wrote a couple of songs specifically about the corrupt state of affairs we see in Mexico today that keep the poor very poor and continue help the top 10% get more wealthy. The reality of these growing injustices becomes more and more astounding when you spend some time in the real Mexico, as oppose to resort Mexico. Quest Mexico is a non-profit organization devoted to social justice through transformative and experiential education. It's a place one can go to learn about those things and try to find his or her place in it all. It's also a place that allowed me to get away from home when I really needed to.

These songs are what they are. My opinion of them no longer matters. We all have a vulnerable and lovesick teenager inside of us. At least I hope we all do. Writing songs is one way I acknowledge that vital piece of my existence. I hope listening to them does the same for you.

When recording in Cuernavaca in the evening, the crickets seemed deafening. Recording during the day felt like both a battle and a conversation with the birds. You can hear both as a backdrop in these recordings.

As you likely know, there is very little money in the music business for artists who aren't interested in selling a brand, an image or a sexual suggestion. I'm not making music to make money but I want to keep making it, so if you like what you hear and you want it on your MP3 player, please download these recordings for yourself and pay what you would like. I'm saving up to make another album like my first two.

Thank you for accepting music from me.


released April 14, 2015

Joe Nolan (producer)
Mitchell Veldhuisen (Sound Engineer)
Gerardo Debbink (studio host)



all rights reserved


Justine Vandergrift Calgary, Alberta

“Occasionally a new artist emerges that immediately demands respect and attention. Justine Vandergrift is one such artist. She will make a solid impact on anyone who has the privilege of hearing her songs.”

-Bill Bourne (Juno awarding Canadian Folk Artist)
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Track Name: Demons of Desire
I'm chasing my demons
I hope you are too
I'm walking on water
I'm still looking for you

If I knew better, this wouldn't matter anymore
This burning ember, left over from the war
We never should have started

Fighting fire with fire
Hanging on a wire
With the demons of desire

I'm walking on quick sand
I'm moving so fast
What's left of this wasteland
The crimes of demand
Track Name: Everytime I See You
He took my heart
just to see it crack
I feel him watching so I turn my back
To all the brokeness he wore so proud
Just for the people standing in the crowd

Please, would you stop existing for a while?
'Cause I'm getting tired of trying
To just get past how it always feels so wrong
Everytime I see you

I watched him dance to that old beat again
I couldn't let him see the shape I'm in
But something took all of that love away
Or maybe you never really knew your way
Track Name: Let You Go
There's a place in time
Where you and I don't fight
Competition pride and need
Don't bring in the night

There's a place in my heart
Where you love is real
I saw it in your picture
But now we don't trust what we feel

But now I know
I have to let you go
I live today
To find tomorrow
I have to let you go

There's a place in time
When you're tender still
All of your desire
Demands all your will
There's a place in my heart
Where you're doing well
There's a better story
That we're gonna tell