I recently spoke with a staple in the Toronto music scene, Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras, about their new album Home on Native Land and what he’s been up to since releasing Age in 2014. The new record features names such as Feist, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Ron Sexsmith, Bahamas, Rufus Wainwright and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, and is one that took nearly a decade to piece together. The Hidden Cameras have proven to be a staple in Canadian music since forming in 2001, and Gibb’s drive to constantly push the envelope seems to shows no signs of letting up.
Have a listen to the track “The Day I Left Home” below, and read the rapid-fire interview below.
Your new album Home on Native Land has been in the works for some time. Can you talk about how you pieced it together over the years?
I began recording the album while I was making Awoo in 2006 on the Toronto Island with Don Kerr. Over the years I worked on other records and wrote other songs but never forgot about the idea to put out a country album or rather my interpretation of rootsy music in general. It’s also a straight-up Cameras record and my voice and songwriting is still there but it’s perhaps though my romanticized idea of country.
The album features appearances by RufusWainwright, Feist, Ron Sexsmith and Mary Margaret O’Hara. Was going heavy on the collaborations your original intention? How did some of these come about?
The guests just came about in their own way. Don drums for Ron so he just came around one day. I sought Mary Margaret out by phone for a spot on 2014’s Age on the song “Gay Goth Scene” and she also recorded some sweet choir-boy vocals for “Log Driver’s Waltz” at the same morning session. I was drinking with Rufus one night in Toronto and asked him to come round to sing the next morning.
For those who are fans of Hidden Cameras, what is special or different about this album that past material?
Pedal Steel, Banjo. We do three covers which is a first.
Can you talk a bit about your recent partnership with the McMichael Gallery?
They approached us upon hearing about the new album and I thought what a perfect place to unleash this new music. It’s my idea of what Canadiana might sound like in my imagination. What better place then the home of the Group of Seven.
When in Europe, what did you miss most about Canada?
The friendliness, the healthcare, the friends and the music scene….and the dispensaries.
For those new to Hidden Cameras, what do you hope they take from the new record?
I hope they get into the songwriting and the interpretations of standards and the sweet idyllic world I was trying to create.