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Jason Collett’s latest album is like ‘letting go on a rollercoaster’

By Michael Dunn
Jason Collett doesn’t mind a few beautiful happy accidents in his artistic process. Photo: Isis Essery

Jason Collett doesn’t mind a few beautiful happy accidents in his artistic process.
Photo: Isis Essery

CALGARY — On embarking on his first Western Canada tour in three years, Jason Collett says he took his time with his new record, Song And Dance Man, in part because he “had a certain ambivalence about tossing something else into the gaping maw of the new masters.”

“We used to tour to support records, it seems now that we’re making records to support the endless touring,” says Collett from his home in Toronto, the happy noise of little kids in the background. “I haven’t been out on the road in a few years, and that’s okay with me, I like being home. I’ve been really fortunate with licensing deals in that I’m able to stay home and work. I like that. I get to be home with my kids, and concentrate on writing songs.”

Collett’s break from touring has given him some perspective on the things younger artists need to do to get the word out. The title track on Song And Dance Man cleverly addresses some of the issues and demands facing artists today, making “light-hearted jabs” at the contemporary music machine, streaming services, and social media, “but jabs nonetheless.”

Collett finds himself “too antiquated for social media. I feel phony doing it; like a used car salesman. No one needs to see what I had for breakfast. You see young artists, and they’re good at the whole thing, but mostly to me, it feels like they’re obligated to participate in creating their own mythology.”

Song And Dance Man is a departure from his past output, the barroom swagger of his earlier releases replaced by a certain lightness, a laid back funky vibe he attributes to a certain playfulness in the studio among the band. Produced by Afie Jurvanen, (best known as Bahamas), Song And Dance Man found Collett letting the band dictate the groove, which took the songs to places he hadn’t imagined.

“There was a lack of pre-production this time. I started with about three albums’ worth of songs, and Afie and I went through them, each picking the ones we wanted to do for sure, and the ones we didn’t agree on, we had to push to have included. So when we went in, I’d play the basic idea of the song twice, that was enough for the band to pick it up. Then when we’d count it off, I’d play up until the vocal came in, and then I’d stop playing, and let the back lead it. It’s a different dynamic, the band usually follows the vocalist, but with me letting go, it’s like, I become more a part of the band and just let it go wherever it decided. It’s like a roller coaster, there are dramatic changes and twists, and you have no choice but to go with it.”

The decision to let the band lead the way can be mostly credited to what Collett calls, “a confluence of relationships, long in the making.” Including Jurvanen on bass, Rheostatics drummer Don Kerr, and “secret weapon” Christine Bougie on lap steel and guitar. This band of heavy hitters inspired Collett to let the unpredictability of recording just happen.

“When you go in, if you haven’t thought about the result too much, you’re more prepared for the beautiful happy accidents of making music.”

Jason Collett plays an onslaught of Western Canada dates in April and May. Catch him at the Fox Cabaret in Vancouver on April 26th, at Festival Hall in Calgary on May 2nd, at the Mercury Room in Edmonton on May 3rd, at Amigo’s in Saskatoon on May 4th or in at The Good Will in Winnipeg on May 5th. His many other dates are available online.

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