Just got back from a great trip down to North Carolina. Got to see some beautiful spots and play in some really sweet venues. I was lucky enough to have been sent down there as part of a Nova Scotia trade mission. It was awesome. I spent the week cruising around with Jenn Grant, Tanya Davis and James Hill. Good times. This past Friday, I flew from Asheville, NC to Toronto, then made my way to Guelph, where I played at the River Run Centre. Also awesome. Thanks so much to everyone that came out. It was a really fun night for me and Al (who was playing guitar). When I finished making the record I took a bit of time to write a description of each of the tunes. I thought I’d share with you, check it out below.
Thanks for the visit. I hope you’re all digging the new record. Please take note of the sweet ringtone we have for sale (to the right on the sidebar!).
Run – Part of the philosophy of the record was to find interesting and perhaps less conventional ways to present a song. In this case, it meant rather than doing an acoustic guitar, bass kind of thing, we decided to ditch the instruments altogether and try rocking it acapella. Kind of a mix between a 50’s vocal group, Bobby McFerrin, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It was so fun to record. Though definitely one of the harder things I’ve ever done in terms of singing. It really forced me to use my entire vocal range like I’d never done. I think it might be the first time I’ve rocked falsetto.
Simple Pleasures – A song I wrote just a couple weeks after getting back from a trip to Havana. I guess I was dreaming of the sun. This song came together very quickly. I was running around my house, with my guitar, singing, laughing and trying out as many little hooks as I could. It’s kind of my anthem for those moments when you stop thinking about what you don’t have and realize you have it all.
I’ll Never Know – This is a song about embracing uncertainty. Being okay with not knowing certain things. In terms of production, we kind of went for a Heptones-style reggae vocal group thing. I love those guys. Also, the whistling at the beginning is kind of a tip of the hat to one of my favs, Taj Mahal. This song had a bit of that happy blues thing that Taj Mahal does so well.
The Sea – The trumpet was my first instrument. I started playing in grade 5 in the Connaught street elementary school band. I haven’t really stopped since. Charles Austin, one of the producers of the record, and I wrote this tune around a kalimba (thumb piano) part. It just grew from there. We tried to mix the world’s of finger style guitar with a horn based party tune in the style of the Hallelujah Chicken Run band (an amazing band fronted by Zimbabwean Thomas Mapfumo in the 70s).
Long Dark Night – One of my personal favourites on the record. I kind of wanted to go for a modern day Simon and Garfunkel sound. Graeme Campbell, another key producer of the record, did some amazing things with electronic sounds one this one. Plus, Kevin Fox played cello on this one and took the whole tune to a different level.
Don’t Look Back – This was one of the first songs we worked on. Recording this song helped us set the precedent for much of the rest of the record. Again, rather than going for a more traditional guitar based approach we decided to strip it down to just the bass and focus more on the multi layered vocals. The breakdown in the middle is what we like to call the “Mississippi John Hurt meets New Order” section.
Leaving – Probably the closest thing to a rock song on the record. This song was a bit of a beast to record. Mostly because I was determined to find as many ways to make it different from a traditional rock song as I could. Joshua Van Tassel, who played drums on the whole record, really helped push this tune out of the traditional rock world and into something a bit closer to the rest of the record.
Nina – I’ve been really into Brazilian music for the last couple years. This was my tribute to that music. I wanted to use my voice as an instrument more on this record and this is an example of that. As much as a soundscape in some ways as a song. Plus, Joshua’s drumming on this one is crazy. That’s all live drumming. Pretty fun stuff. Decided to mix in a bit of 90’s drum and bass for good measure. I also was inspired by John Lennon’s sweet song “Oh Yoko” and wrote my own dedication to the wonderful woman in my life, Nina.
Falling In Love – A song about how wild falling in love can feel. I wrote it from the perspective of a doctor diagnosing their patient. I really love the sunny feel this one has in the middle section. Charles, played bass on this one, and came up with the most unconventional bass part. I love it. It gives the whole tune this really interesting groove.
The Bottom – Here’s my tribute to the amazing funk/psychodelic music that came out of Nigeria in the 70s. All of us who were involved in making this record love this era of music. We were all very pleasantly surprised how this one turned out. Again, much thanks to Joshua Van Tassel on this one. He added the drums to all of these tunes from his home studio in Toronto. It was amazing to see how the tunes transformed with his parts. This one was a great example of that. He nailed it. Plus, the way Graeme Campbell mixed it all together really made it all work.
Ooh La La – Another trip to Brazil. My tribute to the beautiful Bossa Nova music of the early 1960’s. Again, the idea of using my voice an instrument in order to build chords really came into play here. I love the way Harry Nilsson does that and wanted to try rocking that myself. This is a song about the mysterious process of writing a song. The outro is something I’m particularly proud of.
Time To Be A Man – A song about the relationship between father and son. Kind of my version of the Cat Steven’s classic. I think this one features one of Charles Austin’s finest moments, a beautiful guitar solo during the outro. It almost sounds like a Kora (an African harp) at points. I love it.
Simple Pleasures (Classified Mix) – I had just written the song when I heard from the Classified. We had worked together on a song called “The Day Doesn’t Die” a couple months before. The song appears on his latest release “Handshakes and Middlefingers”. It went over awesome and we had a great time working together. We knew we had to keep the collaboration going. So when he got in touch about producing one of my tracks, I told him I had just written one that I thought would be perfect. We had a blast making this one. Given how our collaborations have gone so far, I’m really looking forward to more in the near future. Good times.