The album that loomed weightily in my mind, consciousness, soul and in the dusty sound-hole of my Sigma acoustic for almost two and a half years is finally ready to be set free. These songs are about a very specific period in my life, and for nearly a year, I struggled with my desire to even make this album happen. Many of the songs were based on a concept that was linked to my real life. In the spring of 2013, I traveled alongside Matt Mays and his band for a few shows to film some social media videos. After 3 shows in southern Ontario, I headed back to work for my dad’s accounting company in Ottawa, and the band headed west to Alberta. 4 days after I left the band, Jay Smith (a guitarist and epicentre of the group) was found dead in his hotel room in Edmonton.
It was hard to know what to think or what to feel, and many of my musical friends from Halifax, and the greater music community of the east coast, were shredded. But I sort of went through that process as an outsider; I only knew Jay for a couple of days, and we only had one lovingly, laugh-y conversation about a mutual friend (Dave Marsh). In that short time, though, I saw that he affected many people in a direct and heavy sense. He was a master songwriter and a vicious guitarist. It was a month or so after Jay’s death that I separated from my ex-wife, and knew that my life needed some massive changes. And so, in the upheaval of such a massive and traumatic event, I was enduring personal traumas of my own. People seemed to be dying all around me. A great friend of my brother’s passed away that summer from leukemia, along with my friend Dan’s father in the spring, and another kind man and accountant from my dad’s company later that summer. I was struggling to find meaning or solace in the wake of this monsoon.
The songs of Jaybird aren’t really about Jay or any specific person – although that event is a flash-point for the theme of the songs. In 2015, my friend Paul Myers (a journalist and musician) posted a photo that he took with an iPhone app in Singapore. The photo is of a large bird flying away from him, as he views it from behind – and I realized that Jaybird was about a very fleeting and momentary idea. People can bring such colour and beauty and brilliance and power and creativity and inspiration and laughter and love into our lives – and in another instant, they can be gone. I started to see this truth also become evident in the seasonal nature of friendships, and how the good ones will last through storms – but the ones that are not very rooted, or worth much weight, can dissipate in the smallest spring shower.
But despite the deluge, Jaybird is ready to be let out of doors from its dark cabin basement dwelling to see the unrelenting and hopeful light of day. 15 songs were first tracked by Tom Brown and Steve Gaw in August of 2015 in Gaw’s basement – and the song count was later whittled down to 9. Tom captured a great overall deep guitar and drum sound for the beginning of the record, and Steve recorded one of the most sonorous tracks of the record with two microphones on one take.
It was after this pivotal point of making the first dent that I began to see another bird - one that was flying to me. After many years of searching and waxing and waning, I found Jillian in the fall of 2015 (October), and we clicked instantaneously and started a beautiful love relationship. And in the spring of 2016 (early May), our daughter Sloan started winging her way into the world and joined us on December 24, 2016. The song O Little Plum is Sloan's bright spark of new things amidst the sorrow, and a breaking point in a long night.
The super-talented band I play with (The Dirty Hustle) added master strokes to this record. Steve Gaw (bass, keys) and Justin L Purvis (drums) played on nearly half the tunes, and Ben Mullin (guitar) was able to get his sweet licks on to one, but in the end, I ended up rounding out the remainder of the project on my own. My old camp friend Jason Germain (of Jason Germain Mastering in Nashville, TN) also added some incredibly skillful fine-tune brush strokes to the main meat and rough edges of the sound, and he really put forth a wizardly powerhouse effort to get these songs finished.
I hope you find some peace in Jaybird, or at least a tiny twinge of hope.
It did that for me.
May it find you well – wherever you are.
released April 8, 2017
Engineered and Recorded by Tom Brown and Steve Gaw.
All bass by Steve Gaw, and alll drums by Justin Purvis (except 'Blue Butte').
Guitar on Channelsurfing by Ben Mullin.
All other instruments and vocals by Graven (Matt McKechnie).
Mastered by Jason Germain Mastering (Nashville, TN).
Cover art by Paul Myers.
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