Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 10th 2010 10:00AM by Lonny Knapp
When describing his sound, critics drop references to the majestic Colorado Rockies and the wide open-plains of the American West. He's been compared to the likes of Guy Clark, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, and in a recent four-star review of his self-titled debut, 'MOJO' magazine said Paisley possessed "the honeyed, craggy voice of the classic American country singer."
Thing is, Paisley hails from Toronto, a city several degrees cooler and some five hundred miles north of the Tennessee birthplace of country music. While he finds comparisons to legendary American troubadours and classic American topography flattering, Paisley tells Spinner he never intended to sound American.
"People get regional when they are describing music, but a border doesn't come into play," he says.
The border, however, draws a line between his home in Canada and the U.S where he is better known. He blames the divide on the 'weird trajectory' of his career.
Paisley cut his teeth playing 'by-the-book' bluegrass, and said that he never had designs on commercial success.
"It's a Canadian music phenomenon where you never expect to be that well-received. When you play roots music, you do it because you enjoy it, not because you think there will be some sort of commercial acceptance," he says.
Then In 2006, he partnered with visual artist Shary Boyle -- famed for her hand-made visuals at Feist shows -- to form Dark Hand and Lamplight. The collaboration saw Paisley pickin' tunes while Boyle, using an overhead projector, brought still images to life on a screen.
Before disbanding, the duo landed a tour opening for Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and headlined at prestigious venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The project was too far-reaching for some palettes, but touring the U.S. put Paisley in touch with a receptive American audience and led to a deal with Brooklyn-based indie label No Quarter.
He recorded his eponymous debut for that label live off the floor in a living room in Toronto. The budget was tight and Paisley was methodical in his preparation -- when the engineer hit record he was ready.
"Being in the studio is like sitting in the most expensive taxi you can imagine," he said. "By the time it came time to perform for the microphone, I knew the tunes inside and out."
The songs are stripped to their essentials and come off sounding as familiar and comforting as a favorite cardigan -- acoustic guitar, piano, bass, drums, and a sprinkling of pedal steel lend support to a voice so ragged and authentic it might be called beautiful.
This past December, when Broken Social Scene's Jason Collett hosted his annual Basement Revue, Doug Paisley took the stage armed only with a nylon string acoustic guitar and stole the show from a line up featuring some of Canada's most talented songwriters.
Paisley is currently working on a follow-up to his debut. He's five songs deep into a record that already features guest appearances by fellow Canadians Hayden and Garth Hudson, the Band's legendary organ player.
When it's released the yet-to-be-titled album will surely attract comparisons to American roots music legends and have critics waxing about American landmarks, but you have to wonder; does Doug Paisley ever get the urge to set the record straight?
When he sang, "There is a town in North Ontario," Neil Young made it clear that even while he was hobnobbing in Laurel Canyon, he was daydreaming of the Great White North. But Paisley said he doesn't want to tell people how to interpret his songs, and that he has "no plans to make a record that is undeniably Canadian."
"I wouldn't know how to do that," he said. "It's not really a choice. This is how I feel music."