Our most fundamental questions—about how to exist in this world we share, and how best to love the people we love—so often keep us awake at the end of the day, at a loss for answers. From the plaintive opening notes of David Myles’ It’s Only a Little Loneliness, the New Brunswick-based songwriter testifies that he’s no exception: “I could try to explain what goes on in my brain, but I’d have to pretend that I knew,” he sings on “Certain.” On his introspective 15th studio album, Myles establishes himself as a seeker—of paths, of new sonic expressions, of God. Concrete answers, however, elude him the same as they elude the rest of us. All of that seeking reveals one clear conclusion, though: we are bound to each other. “But it’s late at night, and I’m reaching for the light,” he continues over soft, arpeggiated guitar on the album’s opening track. “And I want to spend my whole life with you.”
“It's the kind of thing you say to yourself when you're feeling a bit down: ‘It’s only a little loneliness,’” Myles says about the album’s title on a drive through northern New Brunswick. “But then at the same time, you know—it's actually quite a big thing. It's overwhelming. You try to tell yourself it's not a big deal but it feels quite fundamental. And you realize, ‘I need people. I need a community. I need my friends. I need my family.”
That’s clear from songs like the sweet “If I Lost You,” simultaneously uplifting and heavy as Myles deals with the fact that everything must end, and what that means for relationships based in love. On the smoky “Mystery,” he addresses the enigmatic magnetism of opposites attracting, reminding listeners that those who are different from us broaden our perspectives and make our lives richer.
Sometimes it takes something massive, though—a rending of the fabric of one’s reality—to see our interdependence on one another clearly enough to inspire profound changes. In 2018, Myles came down with a sudden illness that had him worried that his life and ability to make music were in jeopardy; in 2020, the world changed overnight, upending his life and career along with everyone else. “My worst fear was to have the career drop,” Myles says. “And then, for reasons beyond my control, it dropped for me. And I didn't die. And it didn't all fall apart.”
It took a lot of soul-searching to get to this point, where he could look back on the past few years and understand what it had taught him. During this period his bandwidth for putting on any kind of airs was completely depleted, and he realized that with the time he has, he has to be 100% himself, which meant following those thoughts that kept him up at night, learning how to best express them, and confronting them through music. “All of a sudden, I could talk about God in my songs, and I could talk about the mystery of relationships and love and confusion and loneliness,” Myles says.
In 2021, the Juno Award winning album That Tall Distance offered an instrumental expression of Myles’ feelings about these questions. It’s Only a Little Loneliness brings his voice and words into the mix, using the same recording approach, with each contributing player afforded as much time as they need to lay down their parts at home and complete the picture. The result is a collection that flows naturally, a whole that proves more than the sum of its dynamic and singular parts.
For Myles, it was imperative that percussion form the beating heart of the record, and Joshua Van Tassel’s intricate work drives songs like “Walk With Me,” as Myles seeks to fill his spiritual void. The virtuosic Leith Fleming-Smith appears on organ and Wurlitzer, and Asa Brosius provides the dreamy title track dobro solo and gossamer pedal steel for the cover of country heartbreak standard “Making Believe.” Elsewhere, Dean Drouillard provides the crucial low end on bass; Andrew Jackson blows trombone; and Aaron Davis provides the glowing piano work on curtain-closer “Solitaire.”
All over the album, the voices of dear friends—Rose Cousins (“Making Believe”), Breagh Isabel (“If I Lost You”), and Reeny and Haliey Smith (“Mystery,” “Walk With Me,” and the slinky and soulful “You Can’t Hurt Me”)—drive home that important sentiment: we need each other to get through, even if it’s just a little loneliness.
Over these past years of isolation, Myles has continued to seek connection via his “not-so-late night talk show” Myles From Home on YouTube, which has since become a popular podcast by the same name. Myles From Home has featured a diverse selection of guests including Jeremy Dutcher, Shad, Alex Cuba, Bahamas, and Ria Mae. The podcast is just another feather in the multifaceted cap of Myles’ career, which includes numerous awards and accolades, a robust artist profile stateside, a 2018 children’s book called Santa Never Brings Me a Banjo, and the biggest-selling rap single in the history of Canadian music, “Inner Ninja,” a cross-genre musical collaboration with rapper Classified.
Click for high resolution versions. Please credit photographer Mat Dunlap.