The cool air has arrived in Ottawa, and brings with it the whispers of autumn. What better way to celebrate the harvest and changing of the leaves than a new album from Ottawa heavy-hitting folk rockers Jack Pine & The Fire? The group’s new record Left To Our Own Devices will be released this weekend, and I got a sneak peek into the nine-track effort.
Ottawa native Jack Pine (a.k.a. singer/songwriter/producer Gareth Auden-Hole) grew up in the city, but admits that his heart belongs to the northern wild. It’s appropriate that the band’s name comes from the recognizable ragged tree that was made famous by Canadian artist Tom Thompson. The band’s music continually maintains a strong connection with the wilderness, with subjects such as rushing rivers, sleeping under the stars, solitude, and the metaphorical lone wolf scattered throughout. The new album genuinely feels like it could have been conjured up and recorded in a cabin 500 kilometers away somewhere in northern Ontario.
Left To Our Own Devices incorporates the band’s trademark americana-folk inspired sound dipped in Ottawa valley twang. More than any of their previous records (which I also enjoyed thoroughly), Devices offers a more complete picture of who this band is and what they have to offer. There’s a tug-of-war between the past and present on this record, as it recalls the great folk songwriters of days gone by while offering a modern take to listeners—one that could draw them in and keep them close while Jack Pine’s story is told (probably around a campfire).
The warm sounds of Martin Newman’s upright bass provide a tender, yet sturdy backbone for the album’s more restrained tracks such as “The Run Down” and “Lone Wolf,” but his fancy finger-work is also unleashed in tracks like “Seven Generations.” Mike Essoudry’s percussion brings forth the foot-stomping element that we all know and love, and is sure to have fans clapping along to fun songs like “Credit River” during live performances. Stuart Rutherford’s twangy resonator is truly enveloping, and recalls the distant bluegrass influences that surely helped inform their music, blending seamlessly with the fiddles and guitars.
All in all, Left To Our Own Devices is a great accomplishment. It contains inspired musicianship and instrumentation, captivating themes and songwriting, and has mountains and valleys of energy that elucidate how dynamic this band really is. Jack Pine and The Fire have shown, once again, that they are masters of their domain and that they’re more than just a gritty folk-rock band with strings.
Be sure to catch Jack Pine & the Fire at Irene’s Pub this Friday, as they get set to release ‘Left To Our Own Devices’ to the world in full. Tickets are $15 adv/door and can be purchased at Irene’s Pub, Compact Music, The Record Centre, and their PledgeMusic Store here.
Earlier this summer, Ottawa’s party-punks released their third album, And the Magic of Horses, keeping alive their streak of putting out an album every two years since their debut in 2013.
We are a little late to the party on this one, but it has been a hectic summer here. The boys in New Swears signed on with Dine Alone Records in late 2016, setting the stage for more new music and a lot of touring.
And the Magic of Horses is another fun-filled record featuring tons of sing along and clapping moments, with sprinkles of mosh-inducing build ups, group harmonies, and fun riffs to carry you through the summer. The opening track “Dance With the Devil” sets the stage for the whole album, as it has a little bit of everything mentioned above. It doesn’t take much to see how they could spice it up even more and have some fun with it live.
This album goes well beyond their usual focus on all-day partying and raucous—but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that, it’s just not the focal point of every track. The band explores more existential subjects like life, death, friendship, screwing up, and legacy. It is great progress to witness, and what is even better is how they have done it without losing their edge and fun which they have become synonymous with. I’m sure having Paul “Yogi” Granger record the album certainly didn’t hurt at all either.
I am a big fan of the closing track “Walkin’ to Rockin'” which is a great little slow burning track about their love for playing music together and rocking out. They sing “I don’t want to see another daylight unless I’m playing rock n roll, telling jokes and twisting it up, hanging with the boys on the open road.” They want to keep playing music and walk right into rock n’ roll’s warm embrace, and so do we.
Have a listen to And the Magic of Horses for yourself below and witness the evolution of New Swears.
Ottawa pop-punk group Dead Weights have just released their second full-length album, Mountain Arresting. It’s been a few years since we’ve heard new material from these guys, and we’ve been waiting impatiently ever since hearing a few of the tracks live earlier this year.
Mountain Arresting is a big step forward for Dead Weights, and clearly the product of a lot of work. The band strikes a balance of heavier guitar and bass parts with melodic flourishes, all woven together with rough and grumbling vocals of Jonathan Becker and Steve McCrimmon. Their signature sound comes through loud and clear on this record, as they tightened up their instrumentation even more and obviously had some chemistry in the studio. It doesn’t hurt that Dead Weights have been playing together for years, with lots of shows under their belts in recent memory.
Fans of bands like Latterman, Off With Their Heads, and Direct Hit! will feel right at home with this record, although it’s appeal is vast. Those who enjoy no-bullshit punk rock with some grit will fall into Mountain Arresting with ease. Their goal isn’t to play faster, louder, and harder than everyone else—their style and approach is intentional, and it grasps the listener tightly without losing meaning or using studio tricks as a facade of perfection. What you see is what you get with Dead Weights, and anyone who has seen them live can attest to this.
It was nice of them to put lyrics up on their site, because sometimes it’s hard to hear the words since it sounds like Becker just smoked three packs of cigarettes before the recording session. But hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The higher register howling of McCrimmon on tracks like “House is Not a Home” offers an appealing contrast to Becker’s whiskey-soaked rumbles. And the cherry on top? Hooks of gold, yearning for crowd vocals. You might catch yourself blasting these tracks and screaming some of the irresistible group vocal parts, only to realize that you are the only one in the room.
A stand-out aspect of the Mountain Arresting are the well-crafted lyrics, words about the everyday lives we live, social injustices, and growing up and getting by in a world that’s not always fair. Earnest words in these difficult times we live in is a breath of fresh air, offering perspective about the harsh conditions around us. But there’s a sense of hope in the songs, a sense that we’re all in this together and that all is not lost. Things are fucked up, but we can help each other and pick each other up. A little empathy and compassion go a long way, and while many of the songs discuss life’s difficulties and injustices, there is an overarching sense of humanity on this album.
It is obvious that a lot of effort was not only put into writing each song, but also composing a full album with no filler to speak of. The album itself is short and punchy, and although I was left wanting more, I still felt completely satisfied when I finished listening. Dead Weights have a lot to offer, and Mountain Arresting is a tremendous achievement.
Find ‘Mountain Arresting’ on Spotify, Apple Music, and bandcamp (stream below). Be sure to catch Dead Weights live on October 17th at House of Targ along with Montreal legends The NILS and Steve Adamyk Band. Follow event link here for more details.
Ottawa has a new rock band, Galapagos, and they dropped a debut EP earlier this June.
The four-song release, Potential Space, starts off on fire with the song “Bike.” It kicks off the album with a flare for classic emo from the late 90s and early 2000s with a indie and garage flare connecting it back to the current day. Lead singer and guitarist Adam Ferris (also know as one half of the band Waxing Moon) described their sound as… “Think Ryan Adams meets Treble Charger smothered in American Football.”
Galapagos began as a folk duo that played a few shows in the spring of 2016. After starting up again last fall as a trio with a drummer, they wrote a whole batch of new songs. The EP is kind of a long time in the making explained Ferris “after some successful shows this past spring, we decided to record an EP. Due to creative and professional differences, we parted ways with our former drummer during the original recording sessions. The final version of Potential Space was recorded on the afternoon of May 20th, 2017 with Cameron Steacy (Organ Eyes) both playing drums and recording the EP.”
You can hear some of their folk beginnings in the second song “What I Deserve,” but you can also hear Steacy’s influence throughout the EP, especially on “Again” combined with the band’s vision to really make it a fuller sound. Steacy has recorded, mixed, and mastered other Ottawa artists such as The Yips, Bonnie Doon and Fire Antlers.
Potential Space is a great starting point for a band that has already seen several members change over and has grown from two-piece to four. I really enjoy how much diversity they fit into a four song release and see much potential in all the different avenues for the sound to continue to grow. I also really look forward to catching them live as I think the emotions and honesty would translate very well in an intimate setting.
Check out Potential Space below and also keep your eyes peeled for Galapagos in August as they play August 19th at Café Dekcuf with Sweet Rocket and BINOS and August 24th at Pressed with Basement Revolver.
Galapagos also participated in the Shot In The Dark Sessions, be sure to check out their live video session for the song “Bike” coming out online July 24.
Ottawa’s one and only butt rock band (self-described) Mushy Gushy just released their second EP called More Butter, which also happens to have “butt” in the name…
What is butt rock, you may ask. Well, Mushy Gushy’s sound can best be described as a good blend of experimental garage pop with the occasional hint of surf rock. It makes for some good time rock that makes you smile, bob your head, and maybe even sway your hips. It’s perfect for those hot summer days on the way to the beach, but also excellent for those warm summer evenings on a patio or at a cottage.
The experimental side of things is very present from the get go in the opening track “Around the Bend” from the effects on the vocals, the reverb on the guitar, the well placed whammy bars and the smattering of sound effects subtly lingering in the background.
My favourite track on More Butter is track three, “Schemestress.” This pop number is very catchy both musically and lyrically. Lines like this “I could move mountain babe I’m just going to need some time / I could guess what you’re thinking but I can’t read your mind” are simple but greatly crafted and very relatable feelings to many of us, I’m sure. That is often what really makes a song. It is not always about complicated progressions and incredible prose—sometimes the best medicine is music you can just put on and sing along with while you relate to what the writer was feeling at the time.
Now go put some toast in the toaster, boil some corn on the cob, and pop some popcorn because all the the butter you need is on this album, which can be streamed below.
Be sure to catch Mushy Gushy on the Claridge Homes Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest starting at 4 pm on Saturday July 15th. More information on passes here.
Those who have been to shows in Ottawa long enough are probably familiar with the name Hard Science. However, chances are you didn’t know that the name associated was associated with music. Arturo Brisindi, a.k.a. Hard Science is an artist who has become known for his work with modular analog and video synthesizers over the years. His visual creations often take the form of projected video on walls, ceilings, and stages, and create breathtaking visual landscapes for us to bask in. While this is a world that I am admittedly not particularly familiar with, I have seen his work at events and can attest to its ability to transform a room. Those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s probably experience some nostalgia when watching his visualizations – I’m talking Windows ’95 era stuff. He has also created a video for a song on the soundtrack for the critically-acclaimed music documentary, I Dream of Wires featured on Netflix.
Hard Science has more up his sleeve. He is set to release his debut LP Dreaming in Stereo on Thursday, June 15, at Bar Robo. The album is a collection of tracks that have been produced from 2008-2016, a project that spans the better part of a decade. Dreaming in Stereo balances catchy synth pop with some experimentation, as Brisindi takes us on a sonic tour of his imagination. As we wander through the knobs and wiring in his brain, we find more than just drum machine loops and synthesizer effects. Hard Science draws us in through “pop,” but exposes the listener to a range of sounds produced from vintage equipment. These layers are also infused with interesting vocal samples and divergent arrangements, ultimately making it an album that is accessible enough for average listeners unfamiliar with this kind of production, but also complex enough for the hardcore gear and sound connoisseurs.
I had a chat with Hard Science about the new album, have a read and listen below.
Hard Science will be releasing the album at Bar Robo on June 15, doors at 8pm. Dreaming in Stereo will be available in vinyl at the event, as well as online through Analog Kitchun Records and streaming on Bandcamp.
Interview with Hard Science
Can you explain briefly how this album came to be?
The album really flowed from my vintage synth collection and all the exploring that I did as it grew (I guess you could call it gear-driven?). It all started back in early 2009 when I scored a Roland Juno 60 and a Roland Jupiter 4, along with 707, 909 and 808 drum machines. Throughout the years, I acquired more and more of these classic vintage synths, drum machines and tape echoes. With every acquisition came a new song. With every song came the urge to get more synths. Synths are sort of like chips; you can’t have just one.
Starting around 2012, I got into video and took a bit of a break from working on the album and music in general. Most of the groundwork for the album was done, with the exception of vocals and non-synth instruments. These parts came together between 2013 and 2015 with the help of Caleb Abbott and Olexandra Pruchnicky (vocals), along with Jason Redmond (bass), and Jose Palacios (guitar).
Unsure of what to do, and doubting that people would even like it (what would any self respecting artist be without crippling self doubt?), I put it on the back burner for a few more years. It wasn’t until this past winter that I decided to release the album, with a little push from my friends Grant Young, who released the vinyl edition on his label Analogkitchun Records, and Max Harwood, who offered to design my album cover out of the blue! I can honestly say that without Grant and Max, this album would still be sitting on my hard drive. So here we are, 9 years after recording the first song, and the album is finally out there.
What do the worlds of analog video and synth music have in common?
Quite a bit actually. Video synthesis uses some of the same fundamental building blocks as audio synthesis. It’s not uncommon, specifically in the modular video world, to see oscillators, mixers, modulation sources like LFOs and envelopes, VCAs, and filters. The main difference between audio and video is the frequency range. Audio is limited to 20Hz to 20,000Hz, whereas video signals can go up into the megahertz! Overall though, the methods used in modular video synthesis are almost identical to those of audio subtractive synthesis.
Can you talk about the synth scene in Ottawa?
The Ottawa synth scene is starting to hit its stride. With things like the Switched on Synths series and SOSFest at House of Targ this weekend, Possible Worlds’ Producer Meet-up Series, Not Normal, National Drone Day, synth meets, plus a bunch of other events popping up here and there, we’re starting to see a lot more engagement and comradery. With the Ottawa Synths Facebook group, people from all over Ottawa/Gatineau have a place to mingle, talk shop and sell their wares. I’m seeing collaborations between members and friendships forming. It’s a beautiful thing.
What can newcomers to this kind of music/performance expect from the album release?
I’m a fan of pop music, so I try to make music that’s catchy and accessible. But at the same time, I’m a stickler for tone and atmosphere, so I try my best to add a very specific character to my songs. A lot my songs have that eighties feel to them. Nostalgia is a huge factor for me. I’m a child of the eighties, and there’s just something about that wobbly, drenched-in-delay synth sound that grabs me like nothing else. That and a heavy dose of gated reverb on the snare.
For the album listening party at Bar Robo (June 15th), we’ll just be putting Dreaming In Stereo on the loudspeakers for all to enjoy. It’ll be pretty laid back. For my SOSFest set at Targ (June 16th), I’ll be performing a whole new set of songs that aren’t on Dreaming In Stereo, but are still a similar style.
For an Ottawa band that has only been around for the better part of two years, PINE has already experienced some major success. Not only has the band toured extensively in the US and Canada, in March of this year the band also announced that they were being signed to No Sleep Records. No Sleep is an independent label based out of Huntington Beach, California, known for having harboured such acts as Balance and Composure, La Dispute, The Wonder Years, Touché Amoré, and many more. Needless to say, being signed to a label such as No Sleep Records is a tremendous feat for a young band from the humble capital of Canada.
PINE is on the verge of releasing their first EP through No Sleep Records, an emotional five-track effort that spans genres and bring the listener into a world free of sonic boundaries. Their songs “Viable” and “(Un)rest,” which can be steamed below, are raw and untethered pieces that use intricate instrumentation and emotive lyricism to create a powerful experience for listeners. I caught up with guitarist Holden Egan to talk about PINE’s new direction and their new album Pillow Talk.
PINE will be releasing their EP Pillow Talk at House of TARG on Saturday, June 10 along with guests Safe To Say, Heavy Hearts, and Kamen. The physical album will be available in limited edition pink vinyl. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Vertigo Records. Doors at 9pm. Presented by Spectrasonic.
Interview with Holden Egan of PINE
The band announced the signing to No Sleep Records a few months back. How does it feel to be part of that family?
It feels awesome. Ever since I knew of No Sleep Records, Topshelf Records, and Run For Cover Records, and the bands associated with them, I’ve always wanted to be on one of those labels. It feels really good to be at this stage.
The single “Viable” is an emotionally jolting song that grabs listeners right away. Can you talk about how that track came to be?
It’s a funny story with that song! Our drummer Joey had written a song a few years before he was in the band, and when him and I moved in together we started pre-production on a few songs and he pulled that one out. I thought, “Woah, that actually works pretty well with some riffs I have.” So I worked on it, dissected it, and spun it backwards, added some riffs and jammed on it a few times. We recorded it in my bedroom and ultimately we had to leave that place because our roommate at the time didn’t want us to do music anymore. We toured with that song when we did our split with Dead Leaves, and we had a different lineup then so the song sounded a lot different, too.
So when we went to record it for this EP, Cory Bergeron (who mixed and mastered it) had a few great ideas on how to spice it up and bring it to the next level for this album. He made it a drum and bass intro and it kicked in with everything.
Having heard that song, what can listeners expect when diving into Pillow Talk as a whole? Are there some themes that resonate throughout?
The theme revolves around the struggles being in relationships when you’re younger. Cory and Darlene are both in touring bands, and the song “(Un)rest” is a song about dealing with being in a relationship and alone, away from your loved ones. It’s hard, especially when touring in the US where texting is expensive.
Your sound obviously has some roots in emo and post-rock of the 2000’s. In your mind, what attracts you to making music like this?
I think it has to do with our appreciation for soundscapes and production. When we’re touring, we’re always sitting and dissecting songs together and talk about why they’re good. We try and write music that takes little aspects like that and translate it in our own way the way we like. For example, I like a lot of post-rock and shoegaze. But our guitar player listens to a lot of singer-songwriter and progressive stuff. Our drummer listens to Mac DeMarco and the Chili Peppers, and Darlene listens to bands like Lydia and Sufjan Stevens. There’s a lot of diversity in the EP’s tracks. We’re not confined to just one sound, we incorporate different things into each song. We even have an acoustic song at the end, because we all like acoustic tracks with piano, cello and additional instrumentation. We all get off on that stuff.
If there were one band you could share the stage with, who would it be?
Slowdive, hands down. I would love to play with them. I’d probably cry if I found out that was a possibility.
PINE has toured quite a bit over the last few years. Is there some place that is on your dream list to visit?
This has always been a dream for me since I was like 15. Brixton Academy in London, England, is a venue I would love to play. I mean it’s kind of unrealistic at this point because it’s like a 5000 cap venue, but it’s a dream. But I’d love to play there. A place that’s a little more realistic to play is probably Manhattan. I’ve visited there a few times and I love New York City. I’d love to bring our music there and be able to say we played there, it’s on the bucket list for sure.
What can new listeners who attend the EP release at House of Targ on June 10 expect from PINE’s live performance?
I hope that they get the feel of the soundscapes we’re aiming for live. When we go to shows, we’re always paying attention to the tones. We’re all gear nerds and own lots of pedals. We’re really going for a wall of sound, and we’re not trying to make you happy but we’re also not trying to bum you out either. It’s moody, we want people to stand there and get lost in the music. It’s sort of like cinematic experiences. Slowdive uses their music to capture a cinematic moment or mood, and I guess it’s kind of emo in that way since we’re trying make you feel stuff. I’ve been in a hardcore band before and there’s a lot of aggression at shows. But I feel like our music is a bit different. We’re trying to make people feel something, and feeling soothing in some way.
Some of you may recognize Chris Landry from his other project the much heavier The Glorious Moonrockets or as that super friendly long-haired guy in a leather jacket at seemingly every punk and metal show in the region. But with One fifty five, Landry and his Seasick Mommas showoff that he is no one trick pony as they explore a range of country and folk sounds.
The first full track, “Writing to explain,” opens with slow guitar picking and the crisp sound of cracking open a beer. This sets the stage for a sad and lonely album tinged with country and folk songwriting of old. This is not your modern day upbeat pop-country or folk that currently floods (or should I say, clogs) radio airwaves and arena shows. This is music made from a darker and lonely place with pure honest emotion and sentiment oozing out of every verse. The steel string guitar really adds beauty to this melancholy, especially paired with Landry’s hurting yet comforting voice.
“Yukon nights” is a temporary shift away from sadness and towards the old folk tradition of telling a tale in song. The duets with Kerri Carisse (of The Yips) during the chorus really elevates the track, adding that extra dimension to the tale. Almost sounds two parents giving advice to their children of a younger generation.
If you are looking for something a little more, dare I say “pop-like,” you need to sink your teeth into the song “2 bedroom apartment” which reminds me of Wilco’s lighter side. Upbeat music with sad lyrics, nice harmonies, and great guitar work. This is especially true near the end of the song when Landry sings “I want to hear you coming in at night / I want to yell at you to turn off the lights / And I even miss those fights and I can tell you now that you were right / In that 2 bedroom apartment / You’re gone and it’s getting late / I sit and I stare and I’m starting to fade.”
After getting this close to Landry through his songs, it is only fitting that the album like a relationship ends with a break-up song. I don’t know you Laura, and I am in no way picking sides. But your leaving certainly left quite the hole in Mr. Landry’s heart.
Have a listen to One fifty five below and go hear it live this Friday, May 12th at Irene’s Pub. More information here.
Ottawa mega-chillers Shadowhand have released a new track called “Passing Through” which we are excited to premiere through Showbox. Shadowhand is the project of musician Jameson Mackay, and features the talents of Matt Corbiere, Brandon Walsh, and Sean Tansey. This band of buds is a local supergroup of sorts, containing members of How Far To Mexico, Lost To The River, Winchester Warm, not to mention Brandon Allen’s own project. “Passing Through” is a mellow, reverb-heavy track that has a classic feel. The clean guitar tones and exquisite harmonies make this song an instant favourite, and should translate well live.
The group is planning on releasing an album in June, as they’re in the process of mixing songs they’ve gotten together. They hope to play plenty of shows in town and tour lots, so keep an eye out for them.
Be sure to check out Shadowhand on a stacked bill tonight at Pressed, as they play along with Future States and Jeff Beam. Have a listen to the exclusive track below.
If you were to delve into Graven’s most recent record Jaybird, you might find yourself feeling a sense of nostalgia. Graven is the ongoing alt-country/folk project of Matt McKechnie, a long-time musician, journalist, videographer… and whatever else it is he is really good at. He is supported by his band, The Dirty Hustle, who added some gritty layers and rounded out a lot of the songs on Jaybird. We walk the finely woven web of McKechnie’s memories and musings, reflections that translated into a concept for an album. Jaybird is the culmination of those efforts, and it’s a finely composed collection of folk songs that range from the delicate and solitary to the hopeful and anthemic. There is a search for meaning that lingers throughout, which is hinged to the impetus of this album – the transient nature of moments, the inescapable reality that all things in life are impermanent. The bird flies through one’s field of view long enough to create a snapshot in time, if only in the mind, and then it’s gone.
McKechnie’s stories are true Canadiana – those of longing, connection to the wild, solitude, and the ties that bind. The first track, “All Roads,” is a shackle-breaking start to the record which would be most suitable on a cross-country drive soundtrack. This energy and spirit continues through tracks such as “Edmonton Eyes”, “Big Lake, Sky Summer,” and “In The Woods of Me” which offer irresistible guitar twangs and steady, driving percussion as the heartbeat of the album.
The last half of the album’s energy takes a turn, toning things down and bringing the listener in close. “O Little Plum” is a brief yet heart-warming ode to a newborn child, taking pause to appreciate the beauty of bringing a life into the world in spite of all its cruelties and hardships. As McKechnie takes us to the end with “Lone,” we’re left to reflect on his words and compositions. That’s how this album hooks you – it is pensive and raw, untethered from the harnesses emotional apprehension. That is the power of a good song, or in this case, a good album. It draws the listener in and takes them on a journey through it all.
I spoke with McKechnie around the time of Jaybird’s release in April. Be sure listen to the album stream below and catch Graven at The Black Sheep Inn on June 15 supporting Slow Leaves and Colleen Brown. Tickets and information here.
Interview with Matt McKechnie of Graven
How did you get into music? What drove you to start making your own music and performing?
I started making music in my teens and played in various basement grunge and alt-rock bands with a rotating chorus of friends like Jeff Dixon, Brian Macdonald, Mark Richardson, and many more. But I was always a background player and never wrote much original stuff – and I wasn’t really that good at bass or guitar in my teens. I could slide my fingers around and hit good notes (most of the time).
I stuck with guitar, though, and eventually, after playing somewhat seriously with a band in the Kitchener/Waterloo area (after going to school at Guelph), I was getting into my early twenties and coming up with song ideas of my own. I was always fascinated with words and poetry at a young age, and I went to university for English, so I kept using words like weapons. They could help me describe what I was feeling or thinking at the time, but mostly, I wanted to be Billy Corgan. He was one of my songwriting/musical idols for many years.
Tell me a bit about your life growing up
My background is pretty normal, really. Born in Nepean. I grew up in a white, Christian family in Trend Arlington. I spent a lot of time playing Atari, and biking around my neighbourhood with baseball cards in my spokes while taking trips to Macs Milk on Greenbank, and to the Leslie Park pavilion for lik-a-maid and big league chew. My next door neighbour and best friend Bri had a swimming pool. I pretty much had it made.
How has your music and approach to making music changed over the years?
I think my approach to music has basically stayed the same. I really just like working on the songs and getting better and almost having no agenda. I have a lot of music that I like and love and there are many songs that have wowed or moved me. At some point, in my late teens or twenties, I remember thinking that I wanted to get songs out into the world, too – just to see what would happen if people beyond my family and friends could hear them. But I’ve never been on any carved or shaped road, in terms of a success plan with music. I just really want to keep getting better at writing songs. How did you get together with your band The Dirty Hustle? The Dirty Hustle were all mutual friends from the Kemptville area who played in another friend’s band called Brad Sucks. Brad is mostly a successful solo artist with a huge online following, but when he plays live, they are the backbone of the sound. Ben Mullin (the guitarist) and I became friends, and he started playing guitar with me in a duo setting at some fun shows. Eventually we started jamming with Steve Gaw (bass) and Justin Purvis (drums) in Steve’s rock n’roll lair of a basement, and it all seemed to work.
Have you toured extensively?
I have toured across Canada on a few occasions. I toured once as a solo songwriter with two old camp friends (JD Edwards and Trish Jamieson), and two other times as Ali McCormick’s side-guitarist and vocalist. The road is the real-life epic journey of being a songwriter and a performer. If there’s any way to push you out of you comfort zone, touring is the real test of your mettle. You meet some weird and amazing and beautiful people on the road, and you learn to appreciate your home a lot more. You also learn to enjoy playing to a room of three people who are really listening to your songs, or a room of 200 loud, brawling drinking Calgarians. It’s all part of the story.
I don’t plan on touring anywhere until my three and a bit month old daughter is a wee bit more grown up. I’m currently looking more into building into my Ottawa community, and supporting other songwriters and creators in the area.
What’s the story behind Jaybird?
The album that loomed weightily in my mind, consciousness, soul and in the dusty sound-hole of my Sigma for almost two and a half years is finally ready for public consumption. These songs are about a very specific period in my life, and for nearly a year, I struggled with my desire to even make this album happen. Many of the songs were based on a concept that was linked to real life.
In the spring of 2013, I traveled alongside Matt Mays and his band for a few shows to film some social media videos. After 3 shows in southern Ontario, I headed back to work for my dad’s accounting company in Ottawa, and the band headed west to Alberta. 4 days after I left the band, Jay Smith (a guitarist and epicentre of the group) was found dead in his hotel room in Edmonton, Alberta. It was hard to know what to think or feel, and many of musical friends from Halifax and the greater music community were shredded. But I sort of went through that process as an outsider – as I only knew Jay for a couple of days, and we only had one real conversation about a mutual east coast friend.
In that short time, though, I saw that he affected many people in a heavy sense. It was shortly after this happened that I also separated from my ex-wife, and knew that my life needed some massive changes. And so, in the upheaval of such a mass-traumatic event, I was enduring personal traumas of my own. People seemed to be dying all around me. A great friend of my brother’s passed away that summer from cancer, along with my friend Dan’s father, and a kind man and accountant from my dad’s company. The songs of Jaybird aren’t really about Jay or any specific person – although that event is a flashpoint for the theme of the album.
In 2015, my friend Paul Myers (a longtime journalist and musician) posted a photo that he took with an iPhone app in Singapore. The photo is of a bird flying away from him, as he views it from behind – and I realized that Jaybird was about that very momentary idea. People can bring such colour and beauty and brilliance and power and creativity and inspiration and laughter and love to our lives – and in another instant, they can be gone. I started to see this truth also become evident in the seasonal nature of friendships, and how the good ones will last through storms – but the ones that weren’t very rooted or worth much weight can dissipate in the smallest spring shower. But despite the deluge, Jaybird is ready to be let out of doors from its dark, cabin basement dwelling to see the unrelenting and hopeful light of day.
15 songs were first tracked by Tom Brown and Steve Gaw in August on 2015 in Steve Gaw’s basement. Tom captured a great overall sound for the beginning of the record, and Steve recorded one of the most sonorous tracks of the record with two microphones on one take. And after this pivotal point of making the first dent, I began to see another bird – one that was flying to me. After many years of searching and waiting, I found Jillian in the fall of 2015 (October), and we clicked instantaneously and started a beautiful love relationship. And in the spring of 2016 (May), our daughter Sloan started winging her way into the world and joined us on December 24, 2016.
The song “O Little Plum” is the spark of new things amidst the sorrow, and a breaking point in a long night. My super-talented band (The Dirty Hustle) definitely added master strokes to this record. Steve Gaw (bass, keys) and Justin Purvis (drums) played on nearly half the tunes, and Ben Mullin (guitar) was able to get on one, but in the end, I ended up rounding out the majority of this work on my own. My old camp friend Jason Germain (of Jason Germain Mastering in Nashville, TN) added some incredibly skillful fine-tune brush strokes to the main meat and edges of the sound, and he really put forth a powerhouse effort to get these songs finished. I hope you find some solace in Jaybird, or at least a tiny awakening. It did that for me. May it find you well – wherever you are.