As a songwriter, I look for phrases and sayings that get me thinking. It’s hard to say why one collection of words can hold a wealth of different ideas, but those are the things I look for. “The unconquerable past” leapt off the page when I was reading Patrick DeWitt’s The French Exit, and I was instantly intrigued. George Santayana’s oft-misquoted phrase “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” comes to mind right away; the idea that we forget important lessons from the past at our own peril is a feeling I can’t shake. Most of the songs on this record were inspired by or connected to this phrase somehow and, if I ever get to meet Patrick DeWitt, I owe him a drink (sadly Oscar Levant is no longer with us).
My favourite saying about making records goes something like this: Records are like sausages – and if you enjoy consuming either of them it’s best not to watch them being made. There is a lot of truth in this because the micro-focus and the extreme repetition of recordings will drive even the keenest fan to drink. Personally, I love all aspects of making records, although the ones that go smoothly are definitely more fun.
I met Scott Nolan several years ago and was struck by his sense of calm and focus overlaying something altogether darker and more intriguing. The music business is full of sheep in wolf’s clothing but Scott was clearly cut from different cloth and I was determined that we would do something together. Fast forward a few years and I found myself flying to The Song Shop in Winnipeg to start recording a batch of songs with the ink still drying on the pages. It’s nothing to brag about, but the past several recordings I have made have followed short, intense periods of binge writing and though I wish for more calm and more time in my life, I have noticed that the headlong-rush method does have advantages. Working with Scott and the great crew of musicians he assembled for this session, was akin to knocking very gently on a large door and having it open and open and open instantly. It happened with a minimum of fuss and bother and I only recall getting stroppy once (and that was because I hadn’t slept well…). Though I am a Capricorn and do like to understand everything, in the past 50+ years I have learned to trust my instincts and not second-guess myself, and so this album was written, recorded, produced, and created in under five months… Folks seem to like it too, so I guess I’m going to have to try and break that record next time (no pun intended).
The Unconquerable Past
Recorded at The Song Shop (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Produced by Stephen Fearing and Scott Nolan
Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Jamie Sitar (Outta Town Sound)
Stephen Fearing – Vocals, acoustic guitars, backward piano, BG vocals
Scott Nolan – Electric guitars, Wurlitzer, harmonica, BG vocals
Julian Bradford – Acoustic, electric bass
Christian Dugas – Drums, percussion, BG vocals
Jeremy Rusu – Piano, Wurlitzer, and Rhodes
Jim Hoke – Pedal Steel, Hammond B3, Accordion, Tin Whistle
Andrina Turenne – Harmony vocals, BG vocals