Five Questions with... Woodpigeon
Singer/songwriter Mark Andrew Hamilton has been offering consistently compelling music under the name Woodpigeon since 2006, but about three years ago he teetered on the verge of packing it all in after an intense relationship he was in abruptly ended.
The Calgary native took the opportunity to do some extensive traveling, spending time in France, Turkey and New York City, on top of criss-crossing Canada twice. Eventually, the impulse to start writing songs reignited during a trip to Argentina, and that first effort, “No Word Of A Lie,” became the catalyst for the new Woodpigeon album, T R O U B L E, released April 1 on Boompa Records.
Hamilton finished writing the bulk of the album while living in a collective house in Vancouver’s downtown East Side, and after his friend and producer Sandro Perri heard the material, he urged Hamilton to start envisioning a new record. The results on T R O U B L E incorporate a far wider range of influences than Hamilton has ever employed before with his approach, mixing a sleek Eighties Roxy Music/Fleetwood Mac vibe and Kanye West-like anarchy with his still largely acoustic-based pop foundation.
Not surprisingly, there are also nods to sounds Hamilton absorbed during his world travels, and lyrically, many of the epiphanies he had while ruminating on sex and sadness. But above all, Hamilton made the album for himself, and as is so often the case with works of art born out of pain, the process not only healed its creator, it produced something truly inspiring.
What sets T R O U B L E apart from anything you’ve previously done?
I think that in the past the focus was on different things—on making a swell within a song by making things bigger, of layering bigger and bigger sounds. This time around, Sandro and I really sat down and tried to explore the concept of less-sounds-making-a-bigger-impact. I can’t really stress enough how listening to a song like Kanye’s ‘New Slaves’ really influenced our decisions. That whole album [Yeezus] is genius in the way it has so little going on at any given time, but sounds absolutely mammoth. So, in that regard, a single plucked guitar could also be something big and more dramatic than a choir and full string section. Plus, I guess T R O U B L E is the sound of someone really not caring about outside pressures or reactions. Not that I was always focused on that, of course, but in the past I did think about how songs were pieced together structure-wise. This time out, that seemed almost irrelevant.
What songs do you feel best capture the musical vision you had for this album?
My first response to this question is to say,‘All of them—they’re on the record for a reason!’ But I guess if I wanted someone who was extremely busy and didn’t have 40-something minutes to sit down and listen all the way through, I’d want them to hear ‘Fence’, ‘Devastating’ and ‘Whole Body Shakes.’ And the answer to that question may very well change tomorrow.
What has been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
Finally moving to Montreal, something I’ve aimed to do for years. Attending daily classes to learn French is also a big life change. It’s not a setting that I’ve been in for quite some time.
What has been your most memorable experience while touring in Canada?
I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of touring in Canada, so in reflecting on this question the first thing that popped to mind was a pretty insane NXNE show at the Horseshoe Tavern where we got to be both extremely quiet and extremely loud in front of a packed audience. After that I just think about some of the funniest moments I’ve experienced touring Canada—having a show canceled at a beautiful hall in Winnipeg and only finding an Icelandic restaurant to play a replacement show in, or touring quite a while back with the amazing Raphie from BRAIDS, just the two of us. The prairies can be hard; it was so good to have the two of us there to laugh about it together.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as you’ve built your career, and what advice would you give?
Above all else I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned—and it’s only been in the last year and a bit, to be honest—was to just follow the muse wherever it takes you. Even if it seems to not make any sense. I know it’s so cliché to say ‘just be yourself’ but seriously, that’s the source of the only music that’s truly interesting. At least to my old ears, it is.