By Liam Prost
EDMONTON – There’s a wide-skied, blue-eyed optimism in the words of Braden Gates. His quick witted, fast-picked, friend-folk songs start from the heart and work their way to the sleeve in a trail of family anecdotes and street corner romances.
Gates himself is a soft-spoken, clean-cut Edmonton boy, with a keen ear for the quirks of the everyday. At the tender age of 24-years-old, he’s releasing his third full-length studio album, Much Rather Be Sleeping. But more about that later.
Gates is a prolific live performer, playing around Edmonton and Western Canada, recently springing to Calgary for a few sets at Wide Cut Weekend. He often sits with his audience, swapping between guitar and fiddle, cracking jokes as he plays. There’s a polish and wisdom to his words that fit well beyond his years, likely due to his heavy catalogue that puts most songwriters to shame. In addition to studio albums, Gates often records on his home computer webcam, throwing new and familiar songs to his friends and admirers. This past year, he put out six volumes of material via the Edmontone Demo Series, so named after studios where they were recorded.
Gates self-describes the series as “demo-y, weird, eccentric things.” In his effort to hone his craft, the series found Gates “playing around with the creative process a little bit,” a result of “[becoming] a little bit obsessive with songwriting last year.”
Playing and writing often has helped polish his work, but he still finds value in the studio process.
“There’s a lot more that can be said in a better way if you spend more time with it,” Braden attests. “There’s a lot to be said for audio engineering and production.”
That said, Much Rather Be Sleeping is a rather sparse offering, “recorded live off the floor with a bass and fiddle” and only a few overdubs. Written before the Edmontone sessions, and recorded in 2015, the collection of songs developed while Gates “was living on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton and indulging in the scene.”
The record is humble, centred on small sentiments, built around family and the practise of the everyday. Gates doesn’t shy away from the big ideas, most notably the ‘L word,’ but he manages to handle these movements and moments with a casual friendliness, like a letter from a friend. It’s a quick and rewarding listen, with a level of completeness that’s not immediately apparent.
Braden isn’t done yet, and is headed back into the studio, “recording in November” for a new album due next year with a mix of songs from the Edmontone sessions as well as a few new ones. He’s got a few more ideas up his sleeve as well. Taking a break from being a full-time musician, Gates has taken to washing dishes, a job which offers “lots of space to think” and write songs in his head. This has led to some charming and humorous blue-collar anthems about the greasy porcelain.
“I am actually working on a ‘Songs from the Dish Pit’ album,’” he says. “[It’s] not even close to being done.”
You can catch a few of these tracks on the Edmontone sessions, but the truth of the matter is that the work of Braden Gates is not collapsible into a song, an album, or a movement. Gates is a hard-working, fast-fingered, songwriter-next-door, and we can’t wait to see what he brings next.
Braden Gates performs April 21 at Jeans Joint in Red Deer, April 23 at Culinary Funk in Canmore, and at the Blue Chair Café in Edmonton on April 28th.Blue Chair Cafe, Braden Gates, Culinary Funk, Jeans Joint