Rogue Doubt released today


Well, the day is finally here! Rogue Doubt was released today online and in stores.

You can grab it (virtually) here on iTunes:

If you don’t live in St. John’s (or just don’t like to leave your house much) you can order the cd through Fred’s Records:

If you are one of those folks who wants to check out an album before you buy it…well so be it. Stream the album in it’s entirety via soundcloud:

or perhaps Bandcamp is your thing:

Keep checking back here for updates. Lots more interviews and fun things happening in the next few weeks.

And don’t forget the Toronto and Halifax shows are coming up before the big band release party at the Rockhouse in St.John’s!

Nov 29th- Toronto – C’est What w/ Matt Wells
Dec 6th- Halifax – The Company House w/ Michael Dalton & Matthew Hornell

Dec 19th- St. John’s – The Rockhouse w/ Adam Baxter & His Best Friends and Another North

‘Firing Line’ music video released

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I know some pretty awesome people.

My pal Alona Penton-Power organized and shot a music video for ‘Firing Line’, the opening track from Rogue Doubt. She did all the work and as such should get all the glory. Take a few minutes and go check out Alona’s awesome video! Take note of the super-fantasic folks who helped make this video happen.

Director / Cam op – Alona Penton-Power
DOP / Electric dept / Grip dept – Andrew best
1st AC – Jason Hamel
2nd AC / Jerry body double – Mike Hickey
Hair / Make up – Lauryn Ford
Evil Bossman – Peter Sansome
Nuisance thugs – Andrew Squires & Andrew Winter
Edited by Andrew Winter
DMT / Colourist – Aaron Elliott

Special thanks to Take the Shot and the Vatcher families.

Engineered by Robert Kelly
Produced by Jerry Stamp
Mixed by Justin Merdsoy at Clairvoyant Mixing
Mastered by J. LaPointe at Archive Mastering

Brad Madden – Bass
Chris Clarke – Drums
Tino Borges – Guitar
Jerry Stamp – All other sounds

Song-A-Day #9: Ghost


The very first pre-production idea I had for any song on the album was one odd little note about the song Ghost. “ Reverb-y overlapping saxophones in the bridge”….. That was it. Something inside me said that was something I wanted to look at before anything else. Chris Harnett came in and improvised as many different bizarro sax techniques we could think of. We used all of them. 11 overlapping tracks of saxophone solos.

The song had already seen several arrangements. I had been playing a solo acoustic one for a while. My sometimes band King Nancy had worked on a very different sounding arrangement too. I still have hopes of us recording that version someday so I had to make some decisions about how to do some stuff differently.

I think this turned out the most art-rock-y of the album. Certainly had the most experimenting with sounds. There is a drumbeat that never breaks out until it breaks wayyyy out, Inverted choruses which technically also never break out and there are more noise sculpting guitars then there are guitars playing actual lines, riffs or chords. Then of course we have the saxophones, multiple contrary harmonies and vocal lines and a flurry of frenetic organ lines. Because of all these little experimental not-quite-pop-music-accepted isms this was the longest song In terms of starting and it never quite sounding like it was getting there for me. I had a vision but it was the sort of personal mensza puzzle of music where all these things had to be recorded that would sound horrible until I got them all together and could finally mix them properly. I don’t know how many times Robert Kelly (the world’s best engineer) looked at me wondering when the treatment was going to start making sense. I think he gave up the day Paul Heppleston came in to make whale sounds with his guitar. We had a lot of fun making this record.

As this is the last Song-A-Day because the album is officially released all over the interwebs and on CD (Vinyl is coming I swear!) I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing crew of people who made this extremely personal album come to life with me. If I thank everybody here you’ll be reading till Christmas. But that is why albums have liner notes. There are a few folks I have to single out though:

Robert Kelly (Engineer/Additional production) has the best ears in the biz. He loves to experiment and knows how to get every sound you can describe. If you are a musician and you are looking to do some recording and need an engineer or a producer to make you sound good he’s the guy.

My core band was, as always, Brad Madden on bass/double bass and Chris Clarke on drums/percussion. We make fun of each other and bitch at each other as much as any brothers do. But we also work really well together. There was nothing I could imagine for this record that these guys couldn’t do.

Ian Foster came in to help on a couple of tracks playing multiple instruments. Guitar, Piano and Harmonica. But he also wrote a killer string arrangement for Embers. We had a lot of fun recording the parts for that one.

The strings were played beautifully by Janis Campbell (Violins) and Naomi Kavka (Cello) (Brad Madden played the Double Bass as I mentioned earlier). It has been a dream of mine since I began writing music to not only write or score for strings but to have them recorded expertly so I can relish in them again and again. Thanks to these ladies ( And Brad) I can now do that. This doesn’t mean I have scratched an itch, more like now I will always have to get strings on my albums.

My most bearded of friends, Mr. H, Paul Heppleston was able to come in a make some crazy guitar sounds for me. In fact you hear that crazy ghost-y whale sound at the beginning of this song? Yeah he did that. Why did I ask him to make a whale sound at the beginning? I dunno. I just do what my brain tells me.

Tino Borges came in, sick as a dog, but managed to lay down some killer improvised guitar riffage in Firing Line AND lay down an impromptu harmony in Some Things of Yours (for Don).

Danika Drover, my go-to-girl came in and doubled Tino’s harmony and then laid down whatever other notes I felt were missing from the album. She has this uncanny ability to just do that. You say “can you sing..this?”…and she says “I don’t know” but then nails it anyway.

Brad Madden- Bass
Chris Clarke- Drums
Paul Heppleston- Treated Guitars
Chris Harnett- Saxophone
JS- All other sounds

Song-A-Day #8: I Fear My Love


There are three songs on the album that are directly written about my woes with my auto-immune disease. ‘Firing Line’ starts the album asking questions about my life and choices I have made. “What will come next?”. ‘Ring Finger’ sits in the middle of the album rephrasing the question of “what is going on here?” But ‘I Fear My Love’ owns the end of the album while it asks the question “what will I do?”

I have mentioned before about the fears of losing my ability to play. Those fears are very real. Maybe even more real than I want to admit to myself most days. But on one such a day I looked that reality straight in the eye and my choices were cry like a little baby or work it out aloud.

I actually wrote this song, for the most part, while suffering a particularly painful bout. I didn’t sit down with an instrument. I thought of some chords in my head and imagined some parts. I had a loose vocal line idea and started writing some words. The words dictated the song, perhaps more than they ever had before. This was a song begging for an answer to what happens if my worst fears became true. The ultimate song of catharsis for me. I think every writer has that tune in them that they will eventually need to write to exorcise some demon. This one was mine.

The leaving lover was, admittedly, an obvious metaphor. But it didn’t make it the wrong one. In fact, it made it the perfect one. I had changed my life, sacrificed and given everything to this one true love. Can anyone survive that kind of crushing defeat?

I initially intended for the song to be on piano and then started turning it into a guitar song. It sounds nice on there but the piano really killed it. So back to the piano it went. Almost right from the start the song felt less like a pop song and more like a French Art Song or German Lied like I studied in university. I couldn’t rationalize bringing in a band over it to pop/rock it up when all it felt like it wanted was that sparse piano and some strings. So I wrote an arrangement that was all tension. There is never a real release or resolution. Suspension after suspension, even when the last chord finally gets toward resolution on a G major there is still that one quiet F# gnawing at the chord until it fades out.

Admittedly I think I have listened to this song more than any other since the song was done. I won’t say this song defines me or anything as pedestrian as that. But it certainly defines an important moment in my life. I am extremely grateful that I have this recording the way I envisioned it.

Brad Madden – Double Bass
Janis Campbell – Violins
Naomi Kavka – Cello

Song-A-Day #7: Done & Gone


I had this idea for a tune that encapsulated a relationship from start to finish. Verse one would be about the start. Verse two would be about the end. And what if the chorus had the same words both times but the first time they were positive and the second they were negative? Sure! Why not? The bridge would then turn the tables. Pretty straight forward.

I made the verse a rocking rollicking groove, but the chorus (which most folks assume will be bigger and more rhythmic) was quieter, and awash with space-i-ness. A more reflective chorus rather than a declamatory one.

Not one cymbal crash in the whole song. A few hi hats were hit here and there but no crashes. I chose to do that because I didn’t want there to be any one point where things were crescendoing to a climax. I had this idea for a constant push and pull always building to a point but as soon as you think you are about to get there the rug gets pulled out from underneath you and instead of being up high you are suddenly back down again. Even the end of the song is meant to be somewhat anti-climactic.

Some of my favourite guitar tones on the record. Oh so many guitars!!! Big ballsy ones, quiet wash-y ones, roomy ones, close ones. All Vox AC30 and a couple of Telecasters. I think the only constant in the entire song might be the chug of the bass.

Brad Madden – Bass
Chris Clarke – Drums
JS – All other sounds

Song-A-Day #6: How Can I

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This is an exercise in how my brain works.

Chris Kirby has a series he puts off called Whose Song Is It Anyway. I was involved in one particular production of that series where he had assembled 4 songwriters and we were each supposed to cover one song from each of the other artists. But he put a twist on it this time and asked fans and friends for ideas for a lyric or title that we would each have to use in a song. Chris settled on the line “How can I ever miss you if you won’t ever leave?”.

I had the line in front of me for about 3 minutes before I decided I wasn’t going to write a break up song even though it was the route that jumped out at me right away. No. My brain had to go as dark as it could. I always go to the darker place if there is an option. I live to look for pathos and catharsis.

I wrote the song and recorded it five minutes later to use as a demo in case I forget something. The song was rough and extremely vulnerable. I only played it at that one show. It got a great response but it was so quiet it would never survive a bar show. And it wasn’t properly recorded yet so any listening room shows would usually focus on songs that were commercially available.

But every once in a while I would play it at home. It was an anomaly. I could never replicate (exactly) how vulnerable and broken that original flawed take was. So I decided rather than try to replicate that recording again I would just use that original one. Flaws and all. Exactly how it sounded five minutes after I wrote it.

Thanks Chris and random fan who suggested that line for helping me write another sad sad song.

Song-A-Day #5: Ring Finger


In the spring of 2010 I began experiencing pain in the ring finger of my left hand. As if that wasn’t ominously metaphorical enough I had also gone through a break up mere days before. So the irony was slapping me in the face. I assumed that the pain was caused by some sort of repetitive motion injury due to basically spending three years always playing gigs, touring or recording. I consulted a number of doctors and specialists about the growing spreading pain but nobody had any answers for me. The only answer that I seemed to get that they all agreed on was that, whatever it was, it was probably going to get much worse before it got better. In fact, several of these experts told me I should make peace with the idea that I may eventually lose the ability to play guitar or piano ever again. I can’t say I have made peace with that notion but it affects me every day and to some extent fills my every waking thought.

So I did what any self-respecting songwriter would do and wrote a song about it. I chose the mandolin as my main writing instrument. I wanted to see if I could make the usually light and airy mando dark and aggressive, especially seeing how I am not very adept at the mandolin. Before going into the studio I had played the song once or twice with Ian Foster accompanying me on an acoustic guitar, a pattern which I really liked so of course he was press ganged into playing on the recording.

I didn’t want to put too much into the song but I had always heard a simple yet huge drum pattern being a constant dirge throughout the tune. And I knew before I even finished writing the song that I wanted to have strings on it. Brad Madden supplied the artistically groaning and grainy bowed bass line, complete with incredible grunts and I paired that with some violins and cello to sweeten up the painful darkness of it.

Between the original writing of the song in 2011 and the recording of the song in early 2014 I finally got a diagnosis. An auto-immune disease called Psoriatic Arthritis had my body attacking itself. Finally getting that diagnosis was supposed to be comforting. I could finally put a name to my assailant. But it didn’t. It only made them more real.

Lyrically I liked the imagery of the wedding ring. I didn’t want to take the song into sad breakup territory but I wanted to use the metaphor so I hint at it here and there. Now I don’t usually write extremely literally. But for some reason I felt this one should start off factual and formal. Even the tone of the text was almost educational. But gradually as the song progresses, like my disease has, it becomes more personal, more painful and certainly less formal while it also grows more aggressive.

In a weird way I feel the song actually has a sense of hope about it. Even though the chorus is unarguably bleak repeating a line like “It’s getting worse everyday” I feel that there is an unbroken hope in that while it may be getting worse everyday it isn’t done yet. I also hope that the angrier aggressive singing comes across less as frustration and more of a gritting of the teeth while digging in. I tried to show this by having the song seamlessly jump back and forth from sitting in a darker A Minor to showing a slightly uplifting near resolution at the end in C Major. The real life pain works in several ways. There is a constant dull pain. But randomly there are these sudden washes of pain and the only thing to be done is dig in and wait it out.

Chris Clarke – Drums/Percussion
Brad Madden – Bowed Upright Bass
Ian Foster – Acoustic Guitar
Janis Campbell – Violins
Naomi Kavka – Cello
JS – String Arrangement and all other sounds