How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
The notebook on my phone is full of random phrases that I think up on a daily basis. I think up things in the car, on walks, when I’m supposed to be working, etc. Normally, I write the melody first then I brainstorm stuff until I get there. I really like to use the the story of how Michelangelo created the statue of David. He was given ruined marble from another artist. He imagined David within the marble and chipped away at it until it was masterpiece. I’m not comparing myself to Michelangelo but I think it’s a good approach to lyrics. Have a vision and chip away at it until you get them.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing in songwriting?
To me, the most important thing is reaching others with my life experience. They always say that music is a language and it becomes more apparent the farther you get into it. It’s this crazy thing to go from writing down a few thoughts or recording a melody line on my phone to having people come up to me in every day life saying how much they love our new song. I think if you were getting into technical songwriting though, I would say that melody is the most important part of songwriting. A strong melody sets up everything else. I spend a lot of time on each melody before I do other things like lyrics and structure.
Are you ever scared of revealing aspects of your personal life/experience to strangers through your music?
I’m more scared of revealing aspects of my personal life to the actual people involved in it! It’s way scarier to talk to my girlfriend or family about my problems. I worry that they’re going to ask questions! I always find that strangers apply whatever I’m talking about into their own life. They don’t take it personally!
What is the best lyric that you ever wrote (the most meaningful for you)?
I have a difficult time giving myself praise with this kind of stuff. I’m definitely my own worst critic so it’s really hard to choose a line that I would say is a favourite.
“So let down your hair
And take off your pearls
It won’t do you any good now
Cause darlin’ I’m done
With all of this mess
My hurt drowns those lonesome songs out“
– Turn Up the Radio
This one from ‘Turn Up the Radio‘ is probably my personal favourite if I had to choose. It’s the Pre-Chorus. I like it because it has a sense of sentimentality to it. I also think that it changes the meaning of the chorus when it’s talking about “lonesome songs”. It’s kind of more that she’s wallowing in it. The original line was “your heartbeat’s all I wanna hear now” which was supposed to be drawing a parallel between her heart and the drum beat but I think this set up the song a lot stronger.
What inspired “Sparks In The Night,” part of your upcoming album “The Robson Street Hymns”?
Sparks was actually the song that helped me create the themes for the album. It was written when I was living on my own in the city for the first time and I used to meet all of my friends on Robson Street in Vancouver to go out. The song was actually entitled The Robson Street Hymn before I changed it. I was meeting up with a lot of friends who were creative and ambitious like me. We used to go to the pubs in our neighbourhood and talk about all of the great things we were going to do. I thought up the idea for a spark in the night by watching people j-walk in car-lights. I though it always kind of looked like they were specters or apparitions mixed with fireworks. That’s basically how I wanted the song to feel. A dying breed going out in spectacular fashion.
And “Girls My Age”?
“Girls My Age” was a weird one. I actually had to rewrite it with Elisa in a day because we didn’t think that the original score would be successful. It was originally an upbeat Motown song similar to “You Can’t Hurry Love“. We had been struggling with it for months ahead of time. It actually worked because I had a relationship that was ending as we were recording the song so I had lots of things to say. I don’t even really think I realized that it was ending while I was writing the lyrics but you can actually look at them and tell that’s what I was thinking in the back of my head. The “Girls My Age” part was taken directly out of my mom’s mouth when I was talking to her about this relationship. It’s really about how most of the people close to you try to make things better when you go through a break up but you are really just hurting and need to give it time.
Do you remember the day you wrote “True North”?
Yep! I wrote it in Toronto while we were playing a festival there. We weren’t supposed to be at the venue until 1 in the morning and we were just sitting around in the hotel room so I started writing. I remember it because I could play the melody and the chords at the same time on the guitar. I’m a super anxious person and sitting around before something big is really hard for me so I think I was just trying to find a way around that.
Is there a link/a common theme among the songs of the new album?
There’s a bunch of them! I think that they are all about growing up really. Moving away from home, young angst, and dealing with new relationships. It was written over a time in my life of great change and exploration. Those are all common themes in the album. I would also say individualism and trying to find who you are as a person really plays a huge roll in this record.
What is the best suggestion your producer gave you?
“It scares me how fast you guys make decisions”. I guess I needed to slow down!
What are your plans for 2019?
Release the record and play a lot. We are breaking into the States for the first time so that is really exciting! We are playing Seattle and the Easter Seaboard so keep an eye out!
To conclude the interview a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes to your mind:
- Define in one word your album “The Robson Street Hymns”: Epic.
- The best show you ever played: We had a day where we had our van broken into, played an insane show to a couple hundred party-hardy college kids at a University, then drove an hour across town and played another show to 250 industry professionals all in the span of 4 hours. It was the most ridiculously fun thing.
- The one thing that you must have in your backstage: 15 minutes to myself to warm up. I never have a good show without it.
- The soundtrack of your childhood: Everything Backstreet Boys. I owned all of their albums and danced to them every day. I’m not even embarrassed.
- Your favourite song lyrically speaking, but not written by you: Ugh. It’s a toss up between Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day and Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.
- Last question is “unusual”, we want to know your best relationship advice: I’ve struggled a lot with my self worth in relationships and dating. I would say that selfishness it too loose a phrase in our society and it’s okay to expect you partner to meet you where you are at. It’s also okay to move on if they are incapable of doing so (in a respectful way).