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- Posted on Feb 8th 2010 1:19PM by Patrick Shea
Describe your sound.
I used to say it was "folk music that drinks." I still stand by that. I fall into a folk vein partly because of my background, but for me it's also very lyrical. When you're trying to write a good song, you don't waste it on "what kind of music" it is. Reviewers can tell me what kind of music it is.
Your website refers to you as a "seeker." What does that mean?
I don't know. I don't write that stuff.
What are your musical influences?
I think when you answer this question, you just list who you're a fan of. I'm a fan of Randy Newman and Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. I'm coming so much from a lyrically heavy side of writing. I read a lot of Steinbeck, and Margaret Atwood. Novelists and poets will influence me as much as other songwriters.
You've often played with the Mercy Band. How'd you come together?
We all live in Halifax. I've been playing with those guys for many years. We all still play together, but we dropped the title the Mercy Band awhile back. It's not confirmed, but Phil Sedore should be coming to SXSW with me. He plays guitar, and he also produced my album 'War Brides.'
What is your biggest vice?
I'm a smoker and a drinker, and for anyone who's heard my music, it's probably pretty obvious.
What are your musical guilty pleasures?
I've got everything in my CD collection -- and I do still have a CD collection! I'm a big jazz fan, and I love Thelonius Monk. He can do no wrong for me. But I've got him there right next to the Fugees' first album. I love that album and I'll never get rid of it. I'm also one of the biggest Nirvana fans I know. I believe there's must-have albums, and they don't fall into a particular genre.
Speaking of guilty musical pleasures, did you watch the Grammys?
I'm a sucker for an awards show. I pop in, channel surf on it. It's really, really horrifying. I don't know where the good writers are -- there are lots of great celebrities and performers, but the work is lost.
Your third album was entitled 'Lullabies for Barflies.' What inspired the title?
Well, I grew up in bars in St. John's -- always worked and hung out in bars. Everyone I know owns bars – it's a real cultural thing. I mean, in Newfoundland – at the time I was growing up, if you weren't working in Alberta or the fishery, you worked at the pubs. I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype, but at the time it was kind of a secret culture. Pub culture was the only place where some of these people could exist then.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
One is 'Guilty' by Randy Newman. That song says it all. He says, "It takes a whole lot of medicine for me to pretend that I'm somebody else..." And it turns me inside out. It's so correct. Another song by Old Man Luedecke -- a Canadian artist, he's fantastic -- called 'Little Stream of Whiskey.' Beautiful song. Probably has the most well written bridge I've ever heard.
Talk a little bit about the In the Dead of Winter Festival.
It's a real honest thing, you know? We go for broke every year. The four of us who started it are volunteers. It's not about great commercial success. It's 54 artists over a weekend in a small city, really important for our community. And you can get back and say, it is about the song, it is about the community. But "in the dead of winter," what else are you gonna do? You're gonna be singing songs somewhere, so why not come here?
Beatles or Stones?
I can't do that! I cannot pick between those two. It's an impossibility for me. I love them equally, although the members of the Rolling Stones piss me off way less than the members of the Beatles lately.
You're also a well-respected poet and playwright. How do those writing processes differ from songwriting?
It's completely different. Unfortunately, for me, I need time off the road to write things like that – but there's no time off the road, you know? Poems and plays are, I mean, they're such a different form of writing. They read so much differently, whereas songs don't have to "read." I love the word "baby" in a song, but I'd never put it in a poem.
What's in your SXSW festival survival kit?
I need a hotel room. And I need to know where I can get beer and cigarettes. Other than that, I should be pretty good.
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