By: Jordan Coaker
Rock Eden: Art of the Confessor is your third solo album. How do you feel that you've grown as an artist through this recording?
Chris LeDrew: Working with a dedicated producer was a big opportunity for growth. I've always either produced or co-produced my own material in the past, but this time I turned over the reins to producer Joshua Grange who really whipped my material and performance into shape like I’ve never had done before. He was brutally honest about the quality of my material going into the album and what would need to be changed in order for the record to stand up artistically. So I feel I’ve grown quite a bit as a result of Josh’s guidance and stoic honesty. He nixed a lot of my songs that I’d presented for consideration, and that hurt at first. But I placed my trust in him to carry forth with the vision he had for me. That was a key element of growth for me as well.
RE: Take us through your writing and inspiration process. Do you draw any inspiration from your photography work when writing your music or vice versa?
CL: The material for this album came from about 18 months of voice memos spawned from a creative burst that came to me after a long dry spell. I had become a father in 2005 and once again in 2009. During that time, I was also working on a Master’s degree in English and teaching, so I sort of fell out of touch with my creative side. Songs and ideas started come back to me in 2014 out of the blue, so I began to compile them on my iPhone. Much of the album’s material came from these tidbits and ideas. The main parallel I draw between my photography and my songwriting is the concept of composition. It overlaps in a big way between the disciplines. It’s what I like most about photography, lining up the elements in the frame and having them all exist there for a reason. It’s the same with music composition. Everything in the frame must have a purpose that supports the larger picture.
RE: You recorded this album down in Nashville with renowned producer Joshua Grange who has an extensive list of amazing musicians that he's worked with including Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks. What are some of the highlights from the recording process?
CL: Josh and I were friends for a long time before we worked together musically, so it was a thrill, in general, to take our friendship to the next level artistically and experience first-hand his style and approach. We co-wrote much of the material, which was in itself a learning experience to watch him create on the spot and see which way he would go musically when trying to compose different elements of a song. In the studio, while recording, I was struck by his capacity to multi-task and create brilliant parts while doing so. Often he would only take one or two passes at a piano or guitar part, and it would always be fully-formed and emotive. He also engineered the record, so he mixed as he went – which was incredible because by the time we were finished tracking we were also finished mixing. We recorded and mixed the whole record in ten days. Working with Josh was an opportunity to watch a consummate pro in action.
RE: You've been a big part of the beautiful Newfoundland music community throughout the years. How do you feel about the current state of the music scene in Newfoundland?
CL: I am astonished at the amount and caliber of great Newfoundland artists working right now in and out of the province, and I’m equally astonished at the success of many of these acts abroad. At no time in our history have we had so many successful touring artists who still live here. I’m proud to be a part of this community, and I am looking forward to reconnecting with all these great artists as I tour and promote my new album in 2017.
RE: Favourite local artist(s)?
CL: Ron Hynes will always be my favourite Newfoundland songwriter, and the guys in the Grand Band, in general, are all my idols. Glenn Simmons is one of my favourite writers. I’m a fan of the rock band Fairgale, who have a great debut album full of catchy rock tunes. Beauwater are also a promising new band with a solid debut recording. Many of my favourite NL musicians are also my best friends. Many live away now but will always identify as Newfoundland artists. Barry Canning is one of my favourite NL singers, as is Paul Lamb. Mick Davis has been putting out CDs like wildfire in recent years, and they are all full of killer songs. Cory Tetford just released a great new album, and we hope to tour together in 2017. Andrew Pike is another of my favorite songwriters. There are too many to list. I feel really lucky to have such talent as great friends. It’s hands-down the best part about being a musician in this province.
RE: Any advice for aspiring musicians?
CL: Be consistent with your personality. Be nice to everyone in the business: fellow musicians, sound techs, lighting techs, bartenders, ushers, promoters, and most importantly the general public. Be friendly, upbeat, and kind. I spent most of my 20s going around with a bad attitude, thinking I was too cool and knew everything. I thought that “mainstream society” was out to get me, and I was hell-bent on being a rebel and not giving in to some perceived societal conformity that didn’t even exist in the real world. I found that as I got older and improved my attitude, my opportunities increased and my relationships in the business improved. You will find that mediocre musicians with great attitudes will get a lot more work than virtuosos with a bad attitude or work ethic. There is a reason why you see the same musicians on all the big shows, while others sit around wondering why no one is calling them to do anything but $100 bar gigs. Also, be on time. Nothing will kill your reputation like being consistently late. A text saying you’ll be late does not negate the lateness. Do what you say you’re going to do. Keep your word with your fellow musicians. Don’t make promises at 2am in a nightclub with a fellow musician that you know you can’t keep in the sober light of day. I refuse to talk business in a bar and will tell anyone who tries to conduct business with me in this environment to call me the next day and set up lunch. Also, support and promote your fellow musicians. It’s not a competition, leave that to the athletes. Talent is worthless without the capacity to work well with others. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: know the difference between practice and rehearsal. You practice alone, before the rehearsal.
Chris LeDrew will be joining Corey Tetford in concert at Holy Heart Theatre on March 8, 2016