In The Know...Interview With Jason Collett

>> Monday, 15 November 2010

Last time Jason Collett played Winnipeg, he took the stage with Zeus and Bahamas; together, the six musicians tackled songs from one another’s catalogue. Dubbed the "Bonfire Ball", the evening was a loose, playful, and spirited affair.

This time the Toronto-based songsmith leaves those five guys at home, travelling across Canada without a backing band. As part of this "Undressed Tour", Collett stops by the Park Theatre on Wednesday night, armed with just a guitar, some heartfelt, compelling stories and a brand new record, Pony Tricks, a collection of previously released favourites stripped down to their bare musical parts.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Collett over the phone (from his home in Toronto), and asked him  how Pony Tricks came into being, how preparing for a solo tour differs from a full-band tour, and what his plans are for the rapidly approaching New Year.

Painting over Silence: First off, I want to ask you about your new record, Pony Tricks. It consists of nine previously released songs completely stripped-down plus two unreleased tracks. What made you revisit and strip this past material down to the skeletal parts and release the results as a proper full-length album?

Jason Collett: The idea came about because over the years people have asked at solo shows if I have any recordings reflective of a solo show. You know, stripped down. This being my most extensive solo tour to date, it made sense; it takes very little effort to make a record like this because of the nature of it, so I made it as a companion piece to the tour. I don’t see it as a proper release because it really isn’t – it’s more of a tour exclusive.

Having said that, I got into doing it – it proved to me just how random recording actually is: different time, different place, and different results. I think good songs should be fluid and open to interpretation, much like solo shows are. They allow people a different insight into the songs and change the context in which they are performed. It can give a whole other dimension to a song you’re familiar with.

PoS: So the entire tour is a one-man show?

JC: Yes.

PoS: Because last time I saw you perform, you were with Zeus and Bahamas.

JC: Right, the Bonfire Ball! So this is the polar opposite of that.

PoS: What was it about these nine previous recordings that made you want to rework them?

JC: These are the ones that lend themselves to being reinterpreted; I could’ve done a lot more, though, and may actually go on to do a Pony Tricks 2. There’s room to continue doing this, once in a while. Each song sort of has its own beck and call to be reworked, and it all kind of came out slower and dirge-y.

Accidents happen, as they often do in studio. I intended to go in and knock this out in a couple days on my own at the Zeus studio and those guys were finishing rehearsal every day when I arrived. They typically lingered. They typically had ideas. They typically joined in. So there’s a smattering of other instruments on there, as well, but it all sort of tumbled out in an organic way. It worked.

PoS: The album also houses two previously unreleased tracks, “My Daddy Was a Rock ‘n’ Roller” and “Pulling the Sun Down.” When were these two songs originally conceived, and what made them a good fit for Pony Tricks?

JC: I wrote “My Daddy Was a Rock ‘n’ Roller” about a year ago, and “Pulling The Sun Down” I wrote over the summer, after doing a fair bit of reading on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t know why I originally wanted to write a song about that since it’s not an easy subject to delve into it, but for one reason or another, I was compelled. I’m happy with the results.

In fact, I actually woke up this morning and got an email from a woman who came out to a show. She has Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder from a violent assault and came up to me after a show and chatted a bit about it, and sent me a thank you letter. Even though this song is about a specific soldier, she really related to a lot of the commentary in regards to what it feels like to go through that. I have no idea what’s it like, and I can’t imagine what it feels like, but from the accounts that I read, it is quite a huge obstacle for anyone to have to deal with in their life. What she was saying added a whole other dimension for me that allowed me further insight into it - how one of the hardest things for her, she said, was to let go and let others have control of her life.

Beyond all that, it makes the album a little more relevant, having a couple of new tunes on there.

PoS: What’s the meaning behind the title, Pony Tricks?

JC: It’s really a gut level thing, much like the title of the latest EP (To Wit To Woo) that came out with Rat a Tat Tat. I just like it. *laughs* It just came to me while mixing the record.

PoS: You’re going to be in Winnipeg as a solo performer this time. How does preparing for a solo tour compare to preparing for one backed by a full band?

JC: It doesn’t differ so much for me, other than rehearsals with the band – that gets your act together. It’s really difficult for me to practice. I’m inherently lazy about it. Part of the problem for me is whenever I sit down and practice tunes - simply so I remember the lyrics and chord changes - I get distracted very quickly and tend to want to start writing.  Ultimately that’s what I love to do, and it feels like I’m always robbing time from potential new songs by practicing old ones. *laughs*

I don’t prepare too much is what I’m saying. Perhaps I should be a little more professional and be a little better prepared.  At the same time, I think it can get in the way of just being in the moment, being too prepared. Same goes for writing. Same goes for recording. There’s this intangible mystery to it all and sometimes it’s better not to resolve it.

PoS: I guess that, in turn, makes each live performance a one-off event.

JC: Yeah, more or less. I’ve been coming up with more stories and stuff to make the show more engaging, some different insights into the songs. It’s ultimately about trying to communicate when you’re performing; it serves that purpose, and it makes shows that much more intimate.

PoS: And finally, 2011 is just around the corner. What can fans except from Jason Collett in the New Year?

JC: Well, Zeus and I head off to Australia on Boxing Day. We’re doing festival season in Australia until mid-January. Then I’m home for a little bit, and toward the end of February I take off for some solo touring in Europe through to the spring. Beyond that, I don’t know – but I know that come next summer I’ll begin the process of making another record.


Winnipeg Computer Master 16 November 2010 at 06:32  

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