Five Questions with... Jim Bryson
It’s not much of a stretch to say that Jim Bryson is the Canadian music scene’s jack-of-all-trades. Aside from the baseball cap you normally find him wearing, he also commonly wears the hats of singer/songwriter, producer, engineer and top rank sideman.
While building a new studio, christened Fixed Hinge, last year at his home outside Ottawa, Bryson dove into working on his own new material in order to break in the new space. The results are about to be released February 19 as Somewhere We Will Find Our Place (Maplemusic), Bryson’s first solo effort since his 2010 collaboration with The Weakerthans, The Falcon Lake Incident.
In handing over production duties on the new record to Charles Spearin of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think fame, Bryson embraced the notion of his trademark unconventional folk-rock taking on even wider dimensions. In the process, Bryson delivered some of his most raw and honest performances to date on songs such as “Changing Scenery” and “Stuck In The Middle.”
The sound of hard-won experience is certainly all over Somewhere We Will Find Our Place, as well as the inevitable echoes of Bryson’s long list of notable work with others. While he’s still probably best known for helping to launch Kathleen Edwards’ career through his contribution to her beloved 2002 debut album Failer, as well as serving in her first touring band, Bryson has also lent his distinct touch to albums by Sarah Harmer, Howe Gelb, Lynn Miles, and others.
His association with Edwards continues, as Bryson will officially launch Somewhere We Will Find Our Place with three sold out appearances at Kathleen’s Quitters coffee shop in Stittsville, Ontario, before heading to Toronto for two sets at The Burdock on Feb. 25. More info can be found at www.jimbryson.org.
How does this album stand apart from your past work?
I imagine the biggest difference in this record is due to the people involved. I worked with Charles Spearin and it was really refreshing, as he sees music in a way I found exciting to be around. This shows itself in the sonic quality of the music and the arrangement ideas and textures. The words and songs are still me, but they are being fleshed out in a new way. With Charles there, I really tried to let go and just hand over the decisions as well. It was rewarding and relaxing to kind of be a part of something and not be the leader this time around.
What has been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
The past couple of years have been part of a transition I am trying where I essentially stop touring as a side musician for the most part and attempt to make my living from recording/production and with my own solo musical life.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
I’m not sure if one song or another is one that means the most per se, but I definitely have times where certain songs resonate more with me. Currently I feel very connected to the lead off song from the new album, which is called “The Depression Dance.” It certainly is a song that is an example of the change in my music that occurred by having Charles on hand. Also, it has words that I’m really proud of, and there’s a musical element to it that I find pretty exciting.
What has been your most memorable experience while touring in Canada?
Many of my memorable experiences are the ones that actually sucked, like getting denied access to the U.S. and having a van held is one I will always remember. The good memories are often of certain conversations, and festivals, and small moments that one carries with them. Also, for whatever reason, the weird shows where almost no one shows up are the ones I have deep connections with. The stress and anxiety of the show is removed and I’m just there with the kind folks that HAVE decided to be there.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on how to survive as an indie artist, and what advice would you give?
Just be nice and kind and be yourself, and help folks out when you can. Also, make music for music’s sake and all those clichés. And learn to trust your own gut, not the thoughts of those telling you what you should do if it comes down to it. Music may not be forever, so make sure you have as many happy memories as you can possibly fit in that part of your brain.