Two outstanding musicians who have joined creative forces are making a City stop next month.
Canadian singer/songwriter Stephen Fearing met Belfast troubadour Andy White backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1998 and the two began yearly co-writing sessions at Fearing’s home in Guelph. Local audiences will be able to hear what they’ve been up to during a concert at the Elks Lodge on Feb. 5th.
Presented by the Central Music Festival Society, the show begins at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, back in the early days, the guys would play a few shows and spend the rest of their time trading lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and arrangement ideas, crafting a body of songs that was different from either of their solo work. After a decade of these sessions, they recorded their 2011 debut, Fearing & White.
“It’s a pretty special thing, and we both acknowledge that,” explains Fearing during a recent interview of how well he and White complement each other.
For their follow-up, Tea and Confidences (LowdenProud Records), released last year, White and Fearing decided to take a different approach. With Fearing having relocated to Nova Scotia, and White living in Melbourne, Australia, it was clearly going to require planning. The new CD started with a session on New Year’s in Halifax.
They reconvened later that summer and wrote the bulk of the album in a four-day sprint of inspiration between two west-coast festival weekends in Vancouver and Salt Spring Island.
Six months later, they booked into The Cottage studio in Guelph, with drummer/percussionist Gary Craig and guests Jeff Bird on harmonica and Ray Farrugia on drums.
All told, it proved to be a relatively quick process.
“I don’t think the pressure is a bad thing,” said Fearing of the tight production timelines. “It’s just the way it works – but what’s hard is when you are in a pressure situation with real unknowns, like working with someone you didn’t know.”
At this point in their lives, both men have such a remarkable ability to create music that it’s not an overly stressful experience. “When I’m feeling particularly dry or devoid of any creative ideas, I just sit still, relax and don’t worry about it. It will come,” says Fearing. “If you are trying to call down an idea, or generate an idea, it’s much less likely that they are going to come. But even if they don’t, don’t sweat it. That comes with experience. But songwriting is equal parts a mystery and a craft.”
And even though they are strong artists in their own rights, blending those talents is pretty much a seamless process. “In general, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what the song should sound like and how it should go. Andy’s a great bass player; a great rhythm player and he plays a little bit of keyboard. I’m really interested in trying to find different electric guitar textures to bring to the table.
“So we try and do as much of it ourselves as we can – partly because it’s fun and partly because it’s sort of the way we’ve defined it so far,” he says. “The main difference between this record and the first record is drums – we really felt that the material would benefit from having a drummer.”
Originally from Belfast, White has been honoured with many of Ireland’s most prestigious songwriting awards. He is an author and songwriter who has collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor and Neil and Tim Finn.
Fearing is a multiple Juno Award-winner who has become a hero of the international roots and folk scene through his solo performances, as well as his work with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.
Born in Vancouver, Fearing spent most of his growing up years in Dublin. After a stint in the U.S. he returned to Canada, and is now long-established as a fixture on the folk and festival circuit in North America and the U.K.
Music was an intrinsic part of the Fearing household from the get-go.
“Music is in my DNA – it has always fascinated me. Everything else just sort of fell away, and I just realized this is what I’m doing.
“As a kid I remember going with my mom to recitals where she was either onstage or in the audience. I also clearly remember sitting beside my father on the organ bench during church services.”
Not surprisingly, his career – thanks to his musical giftedness – unfolded naturally. And as a young adult, he became increasingly familiar with the singer/songwriter, coffee house folk world.
It’s certainly been a fulfilling path to walk. The joys he derives from his craft certainly outweigh any challenges and the less attractive parts of the job.
“It’s not the easiest way I know of to make a living,” he says. “But really it’s about playing music – I love being onstage. There’s always something – it’s very rare that everything lines up for a given show – but even so, the magic of being onstage and playing music for a living is a real privilege.”
For ticket information, check out www.centralmusicfest.com.