Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Soundtrack

I am proud to announce that I’ll be heard on the soundtrack for the upcoming Ben Stiller film, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas and I recorded this little cover of ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ in a dream studio near Paris, France.

The song can be heard at the halfway mark in the video below.  It was also mentioned in USA Today.

All fall, I had the honour of traveling across Europe and America singing with Bahamas and, sometimes, Jack Johnson as well.   A few photographic highlights.

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Socan Songwriting Prize

I am honoured to be nominated for the Socan Songwriting Prize for my duet with Steven Lambke.   The Socan Prize is a nationwide contest to determine the year’s best song.  The nominees are juried, but it is now up to the voting public.  If the spirit moves you, go vote.  You can vote once a day from now till July 3rd.

VOTE HERE

Thank you, perhaps.

Arabaki

Whilst in Japan, we stood on a stage in the cold by the mountains and lakes of Miyagi Prefecture, in the beautiful Michinoku Park, and played and sang some songs amidst wild wind, rain, and a warm, receptive crowd.
Here are some pictures of this moment:

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Japan

Japan.

Only one word.  So strange.  So infinitely far away.  Calling up visions of strange foods and temples and beautiful, impenetrable writing.   And somehow, we went.  Played music.  Getting to play music in Japan was one of the most beautiful experiences I have been fortunate to experience so far in my musical life.  We played beneath mountains at Arabaki Rock Festival, the only western band amid a dizzying array of unbelievable musical offerings, walking around at dusk soaking in the wild sounds and the warm crowds which managed to be wildly enthusiastic and beautifully peaceful at the same time.  Much like our experience of Japan itself, the cities, the people.  Always warm.  Always vivid.  But calm, somehow.  Kyoto in particular was a highlight, stumbling upon ancient Zen Temples and stunning gardens, roads so narrow they could only be walked down, and everywhere the quiet hospitality and kindness of strangers who gave us umbrellas, smiled, and, inevitably, bowed.

I loved it.  I was incredibly grateful to get to go.  I thought Japan was utterly beautiful.  Thank you to everyone who saw us play, sold us convenience store treats, and especially, Yasushi, Takeshi, and Jun.

Especially Yasushi.

 

The Duets of Our Lives…

I have begun a duets project.  Writing and recording duets with friends and compatriots.  The first three of them, featuring Daniel Romano, Baby Eagle, and Marine Dreams, will be released February 15th at The Dakota Tavern.  The evening will be a beautiful show featuring Baby Eagle, Marine Dreams, Ryan Driver, Simone Schmidt (Fiver/$100), Misha Bower, Matt Cully (Bruce Peninsula), Felicity Williams, Carleigh Aikins (Bahamas), and more yet to be announced.

In the meantime, I sat down to write on why I have undertaken this project….

Writing songs is a strange thing.  Lonely in its own way, so often done in a bedroom, in stolen moments of introspection.   Could change your life a little, or simply keep you dreaming all day long, staring out the window, moving around words in your head.  And then, once you’ve written songs, you gotta spend your money or someone else’s to record them, and then suddenly you’re driving around the cold snowy country, playing shows to no-one, sometimes you aren’t understood, sometimes you are and then you’re wondering how you can hang on to that somehow.  And so it is always a comfort to think of my friends.  All these people, geniuses in their own ways, who do this thing that I do, this strange thing that is at once so ephemeral, and so deeply important.
Hell, it is always just a comfort to think of friends, their lives, conversations, moments we have shared.  And then too, to think on their music, how it illuminates and shapes them, rising above and out of strange flows and eddies of their own peculiar hearts, a possession of theirs, and yet also ours to know and hear.  A whole aspect of that person that there could be no other way of knowing.  A creation of will and also a little compulsion, or maybe of no reason at all.  A funny thing sometimes, somebody’s music.  You get used to it, almost, but you forget that not everybody has this thing, trailing them around.  Like a shadow, or maybe the opposite of a shadow…
And so when I travel, and people compliment what I do, I always want to introduce them to my friends, to their music.  And I began this project in part to make those introductions.  I also began it to simply to have fun, to learn from those I consider to be the best, to make less lonely that lonely process of writing songs.  To allow other people to enter them, to change them.  To go into other people’s songs and change them myself.  A duet is a dynamic thing.  You see it one way, but what about the way I see it?  What happens if someone else walks into the room?  Who are they, and what have they got to say?  To who?  What does it mean, this conversation?  Isn’t that everything?
Or perhaps I am doing this simply to sit at the kitchen table with these people that I care for, with a sheet of paper, and try to create something, simply because we can, and it would be fun to do, and because we’ve got guitars, and a little recording setup in the basement…

Friends, perhaps it has been forever.  Record making is a strange and all consuming process.  A process.  In good news though, I went to go see Leonard Cohen recently and have been on an all Cohen diet ever since.  Not a bad life.

I’m playing two miraculous shows.  One is a collaborative set with my Welland brothers, the Marine Dreamers, at the Great Hall as part of Fucked Up’s Long Winter.  It’s a celebration of all things fucked up and wintery with a long list of star spangled guests.  Friday, December 14th.  The Great Hall.

Secondly I am honoured to be the quiet opener for The Wooden Sky at their annual Holiday Revue.  At the hallowed Music Gallery.  December 17th.

Then January will be given over to the snowy east, as I hit up both Stereophonic and In The Dead Of Winter.  That will be awesome.

 

America and Bahamas

It is nearly impossible to speak of all the incredible things that have happened this summer.  Among them, Dawson City Music Festival, Wolfe Island with all the You’ve Changed Crew, Sappy with the Dreamers…

But for the moment, let’s look ahead.  Tomorrow, I leave quiet Canada for my very first American tour.  New York, then down the Eastern Seaboard via lovely Maryland and Virginia, to Hopscotch Music Festival, where I will open for the Mountain Goats in Raleigh, NC’s beautiful Fletcher Opera Theatre.  Here are the dates:

August 29 – New York, NY – Union Hall w/ Will Stratton
August 30 – New York, NY – Rockwood Music Hall
August 31 – Frederick, MD – Cafe Nola
September 1 – Charlottesville, VA – Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
September 2 – Hillsborough, NC – The Farm
September 5 – Wilmington, NC – Satellite Bar
September 7 – Raleigh, NC – Fletcher Opera Theatre w/ The Mountain Goats – Hopscotch Music Festival
Tell your friends!

Secondly, I will be playing more shows with Bahamas.  This is more than exciting.  Nearly all churches… Check it out…
September 12 – Guelph, ON – Folkways Music w/ Afie Jurvanen
September 13 – Montreal, QC – Cabaret Lion D’Or w/ Bahamas
September 14 – Kingston, ON – Chalmers United w/ Bahamas
September 15 – Ottawa, ON – First Baptist Church w/ Bahamas

Bahamas and beyond.

This past week, I had the enormous pleasure of opening up for Bahamas as they swept through Ontario, selling out all their shows and basically teaching the world that musicianship, songcraft, and class matter.   It is a truly special band, at the peak of their powers, and it was a truly special moment to have been a part of.  Not to mention, I had the absurd pleasure of playing with Afie, the best guitar player I have ever heard, and having him join me on stage at every show.  Felicity Williams, whose voice is a fountain of purity and light, joined me on stage as well, and I was honoured.  Finally, I got to hang with the coolest and most generous gang of humans.  Even though the audiences were incredible, sometimes it feels as though nobody can appreciate a band so much as somebody who has been even briefly riding around in a van with them, and knows that their awesomeness extends from musicality deep into personhood.

But I was even luckier than this.  Danny Romano came to Hamilton and Toronto to play some beautiful fingerpicking guitar and some wild drums with me.  Naturally, it was awesome.  For the Mod Club, I surrounded myself with a small party of my favourite people and musicians.  My dear Bruce Peninsulans, Misha Bower and Matt Cully sang, and Andrew Barker was on lapsteel.  They were incredible.  Danny and Afie both on guitar and drums.   To understate the matter, it was a special night.  Colin Medley, of all this awesomeness, was on hand to document.

Pitchfork

This morning, Pitchfork published an interview and small writeup on the record. Done by the lovely gentleman Grayson Currin, who also had some incredibly kind things to say about the record.  An unfathomably warm March day made warmer by Southern generosity.

Pitchfork Interview

All of It Was Mine, the second album by Toronto’s the Weather Station, was released last August on the small Canadian imprint You’ve Changed. It’s the kind of record that you don’t need to rush to hear; plain but elegant, simple but intricate, the mostly acoustic songs of tremulous singer Tamara Lindeman aren’t the type of numbers bound to light up music blogs for the next week or two, then fade away.

Rather, they’re built with concise and precise images, sung sweetly over sounds that split the difference between transcontinental folk fathers Doc Watson and Bert Jansch. It’s a fool’s errand to suggest that anything is timeless, but as they hint at lust and flirt with the future, Lindeman’s proudly diffident love songs do seem preternaturally sturdy.

Over the gently traipsing banjo of “Trying,” Lindeman pauses one line into the last verse, as though in final attempt to gather some resolve and direction in the world. “I am trying,” she sings, pausing again to let the instruments momentarily expire, “for some kind of grace.” The song stops there, Lindeman leaving a deliberate disconnect between self-improvement and self-fulfillment. Her songs feel very much like attempts to understand and appreciate the world in spite of its bitter ills; like the most basic forms of folk music, a term Lindeman readily embraces, they come with intent and aim.

The Weather Station: “Everything I Saw”:

The Weather Station: Everything I Saw (via SoundCloud) Stream

We spoke to Lindeman about eight artists, encounters or circumstances that affected the outcome of the Weather Station.

The Books

I was 20 years old and living in Toronto, which was a really exciting place for music. It hadn’t occurred to me to make music myself, but I was going through a really hard time. I had a roommate who made rap music, so I borrowed her software. I had a banjo and a guitar, and I couldn’t play either particularly well. It didn’t occur to me to write songs, but it was like, “I feel this way, so I want to make a recording that sounds like this,” like a landscape.

I had a mixtape that was songs from Thought for Food and The Lemon of Pink. The Books’ whole idea of taking songs, putting them together and making music out of them made up for the fact that I couldn’t really play my instrument fluidly. I could play little sounds and cut it together to sound really cool, and I could put some effect on it. That’s how I started making music—kind of an ass-backwards way of getting into it.

It’s so easy to get drawn into the Books, because it is so poppy and so approachable. But to me, it was the opening up of this whole idea that anything can be music. The sounds of everyday life become musical, which is so romantic and so exciting. Before I knew it, I could sit down at my computer and have something that felt like that.

Bluegrass

The same time I was going through my Books phase, I was also learning banjo. And because I was learning banjo, I was learning about bluegrass. There are a lot of incredible bluegrass players in Toronto, and I just got into it because, when you’re learning banjo, you just get floored by really good playing. You realize how incredibly hard it is. I’ll never be a good bluegrass player because I don’t have it in me to be that nerdy. I have this theory that people are always drawn to opposites in music, to things that are the opposite of them. Bluegrass is so deranged in this weird way—so controlled, so tight, so narrow, with so little room for expression. That’s infuriating and appealing. It’s fascinating that you give your life to this art form that’s not dead but no longer moving.

Banjo

I came to guitar through banjo. When I started to learn the banjo, I took bluegrass lessons, so I learned a few classic, Scruggs-style bluegrass banjo rolls. But I immediately wanted to make that crazier, so I made my own rolls. I played banjo in a rock’n’roll band, but when I started to write songs, it was such a difficult instrument to write songs on. Out of sheer laziness, I de-tuned the E strings down to D because then it was in tune with the banjo, so I understood where all the chords were.

Musicals, Choirs, and Growing Up in the Country

I grew up in the country. I had a lot of space, so I would definitely sing walking around in the woods, just to myself. I listened to musicals and classical music, so I sang that kind of stuff. I was in a choir that sang songs from musicals, so my friends and I learned to sing the harmonies in choir. Now, harmony singing is the easiest thing for me to do, and it naturally leads you to a pop sensibility.

I think of singing as the most simple form of communication. It’s the reason I’ve wound up where I am, where I just play and sing. Singing is all that matters to me—the well-sung song.

Surroundings

At the time I made this record, I was really overcome by material things. I’d moved around a fair bit in my early 20s, and I finally found myself stationary, living in this same house for a couple of years. I was really interested in what objects and surroundings and environments mean. I went through this summer of being obsessive with plants: I’d be walking down the street and constantly craning my neck to see what was growing in the sidewalk. The record is about an end that I didn’t really understand was coming but would show up in lyrics very subtly. You can say so much without talking about your feelings.

Jennifer Castle

She lives in Toronto, so I see her all the time. Her presence is so powerful that people are either really confused and don’t know what to do with themselves, or they’re really drawn in. Something witchy happens when she sings. Her songs aren’t classically written songs with a plot, but her voice manages to carry everything she says.

Her first record is so simple. The first time I heard it, I had all these disparaging thoughts about it: “Oh, it’s so horribly recorded. What’s with all these crazy guitar solos? It makes no sense.” It grew and grew on me until I considered it my favorite records, because it is what it is. In an interview, she talked a lot about imperfection and how she wanted to make a record that allowed for imperfection.

Bill Callahan

He’s not a good singer, but he’s an incredible singer. The worst tendency of young people is to over-sing everything, but his expression is so perfect. His voice is the perfect conduit for his lyrics. He has a great understanding of this: “I can write a lyric down, and I can’t sing it. My voice doesn’t suit it. But there are other things my voice does suit.” If you can’t sing it, it probably means that the lyric isn’t true.

Being in a Rock Band

By the time I was about to make this record, I had a really big band. I wanted to make music that was really intelligent and thoughtful, so I worked really hard at these songs with complicated time signatures. I was really into looping pedals, and I had two percussionists. It just didn’t work; people didn’t respond to it. It was a true release to realize I didn’t need any of that stuff. When you’re standing in a crowd watching a show, what you really respond to is a person and what they’re saying to you.

I used to think it was really exciting to be abrasive. With my record, I was really proud just to say, “Here’s a record with nothing else going on, no bells or whistles. It’s just story and songwriting and finger-picked guitar and harmony, and this is how much you can say with this.” I understand that isn’t really in vogue, or it comes in and out of vogue, but maybe it’s intrinsically good? –Grayson Currin