Underneath their arena-sized riffs, Big Wreck’s songs have always seemed to be the product of a singer/songwriter’s soul. That’s finally been fully revealed with the recent release of bandleader Ian Fletcher Thornley’s first solo album, Secrets (Anthem Records), which finds the Toronto native taking a fresh and compelling approach to his sound.
Although Thornley had been contemplating a solo acoustic project for many years, Secrets quietly emerged out of jam sessions he undertook with Blue Rodeo drummer Glenn Milchem and Big Wreck bassist Dave McMillan. The deeply personal nature of the album was then fully brought out through the participation of producer Mark Howard, best known as Daniel Lanois’ longtime engineer, who recorded the trio live off the floor at a northern Ontario cottage.
The location proved an ideal reflection of Thornley’s songs, emphasizing different aspects of his renowned guitar skills, from Nick Drake-style acoustic virtuosity to Mark Knopfler-like
atmospherics. The freedom to experiment even prompted Thornley to include a new arrangement of one of Big Wreck’s signature songs, “Blown Wide Open,” which nonetheless fit nicely alongside other standout tracks such as “Feel,” “Just To Know I Can” and “On My Way.”
Secrets probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Thornley’s background as a Berklee School of Music graduate, and his admiration of other Canadian singer/songwriters such as fellow Berklee alum Bruce Cockburn. Still, the album provides a welcome new perspective on Thornley’s overall abilities, and could possibly foreshadow the next Big Wreck release, which Thornley promises will arrive in the not too distant future.
What in your view sets Secrets apart from your previous work?
The overall tone, the recording process, how personal it is, the subject matter, really just about everything. It’s a totally different type of record for me. It was more about capturing the feeling than anything else. We’d run through the tunes maybe once or twice and then record them, so it’s very much like a snapshot in that way.
What has been the biggest change in your life in the past year?
I’m actually going through a divorce right now, which has led me to re-evaluate every aspect of my life, from family to work to lifestyle and everything else. It was never my intention to do a “break-up record,” but some of the new songs inevitably reflect that. The hardest part was conveying those emotions in the moment, which is how Mark Howard makes records. It’s still hard for me to listen to parts of the album, because of that rawness.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
I think that’s an impossible question, they all mean a lot to me and each one has its own memory or experience or whatever attached to it. I think a fan would be able to give you a great answer to that though.
What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I am a really good cook!
What has been your most memorable experience while touring in Canada?
The first one that pops to mind is the bus named “Ruby” we had at the beginning of the last Big Wreck tour for Ghosts. It was freezing and the bus was screaming and rattling 24/7. The generator kept breaking, the lights were flickering, the windshield was cracked; it was a total nightmare and we were all scared for our lives. Poor Ruby.
Ian Fletcher Thornley - Secrets (LIVE acoustic feat. Alain Johannes)
December 9 – Montreal, Café Campus
December 11 – Ottawa, Mavericks
December 12 – Waterloo, Maxwell’s
December 13 – London, London Music Hall
December 15 – Hamilton, Molson Canadian Studio
December 16 – Toronto, The Mod Club
*2016 dates to be announced soon!