Published May 19, 2009Distilled from over 20 home recordings and approximately 150 songs, Eamon McGrath's 13 Songs Of Whiskey And Light provides an accurate snapshot of this Edmonton-based artist. Fuelled by the punk that rushes through his veins and the philosophical yet emotional sentiments of a man who's seen the bottom of his whiskey glass one too many times, McGrath traverses every genre. Blues, folk, punk rock, noise - 13 Songs Of Whiskey And Light has it all. You can hear remnants of Tom Waits in his voice and Bruce Springsteen in his melodies. He's been compared to Neil Young, Black Flag, Robert Johnson and Ryan Adams, and there's a reason this young hellraiser recalls the classics. The album starts with lyrically inspiring yet melancholic folk ballad "Welcome To The Heart," where McGrath mourns the end of a night of partying: "Don't fade away/the night is young/watch the sun wake on your window." But not two songs later "Big River" comes blazing around the corner, its punk undertones loud and angry as hell. McGrath does what he pleases in his music and that's what makes 13 Songs Of Whiskey And Light so creatively impressive. Within the depths of these 13 songs he's speaking to us all: Don't be afraid to crank up your amp. Don't be afraid to scream your lungs out. And don't be afraid to cry.
I understand the songs off your new record, 13 Songs Of Whiskey And Light, were handpicked from your hefty catalogue of previous recordings. Why were these ones chosen?
Over the past two years I've been writing and recording stuff, and White Whale Records selected 13 tracks from over a 150 songs I've put out. Ryder [Havdale, who runs White Whale] picked the tracklisting and the songs and the order and got them mastered. He spent a lot of time listening to a lot of music I've made. He's a pretty committed, devoted guy. How it worked was he said there was no point in going into the studio yet to get a polished studio record when you've got 18 albums we could potentially release. I've got a lot of songs and records out already. You can get some in other cities but they're rare. So to choose the songs I made a best-of compilation of all my stuff, and he made one. The songs I ended up picking were a lot more experimental and when I look back at it now, sort of self-indulgent. I was picking weirder shit. Ryder ended up picking the more pop-sounding songs. He tried to capture who I am as an artist. The diversity and mix of things would've been lost if I had my way.
The title is kind of a contradiction. It's not everyday you associate late night whiskey drinking with hope and happiness. What does the title represent to you?
There are a lot of polarities in the world. When you drink and party there's a kind of sadness to it. I don't think there's good and evil; I think there is just what is in the world. I tend to think about drinking that way too. If you've ever stayed up at party until eight a.m., you're [going to reach] that point when you either go and pass out and wake up with fear or keep drinking because you're going to be hung-over and anxious the next day anyway. You're left in a living room with six people who stayed up all night with you who have blacked out and the sun's coming up. But it's still night time. There's this sort of blue light that fills the house. There's something really beautiful about it, but then this sad feeling of closure and the fear that tomorrow's going to come.
How many records have you made now, including this one?
I think it'll be 24.
So then what does making music mean to you? Typically, artists make a record every one or two years but this doesn't seem to be a trend you follow.
Typically, I record a full-length's worth of material every three months. And depending on how much I want to support it and how proud I am of it that determines the magnitude of the recording. I've got a long discography but there are only five on there that I've actually toured, for example. Those are the five I'm happiest with: Pink Film, Cadillac Rosetown, Wild Dogs, "Ginghamland" and this one. I don't know what drives people to record. For me, songs are like having sketches for bigger albums. I think of them as title pages or chapters. Recording is how I write songs. And by default, I end up recording a lot of stuff. (White Whale)