Published Dec 02, 2011If you've followed Toronto-based Eamon McGrath's career you'd know that he's never been one to rest on his laurels. Still in his early 20s, the Edmonton transplant spits out material faster than a loose-lipped MC. So it's surprising that we've had to wait over a year for his follow-up to 2010's excellent Peace Maker.
Thankfully, the wait is almost over. White Whale Records will drop Young Canadians, McGrath's third album for the label, on March 20.
Recorded at Vancouver's JC/DC studios, the record is culled from four recordings sessions, one which even predates Peace Maker.
"It was a conscious effort to change the approach," McGrath tells Exclaim! "Peace Maker was a record recorded in an afternoon."
His goal was "to get to the bottom of what makes our music ours." He points to collective experiences like where you were when Terry Fox died, or when Sidney Crosby scored his gold medal goal as the ties that bind.
"Those [are the] things that make one of the biggest countries in the world feel like one of the smallest," he says. "Canadian music and Canadian albums are the moments and the songs that are able to do that. This record's about those things and the experiences I've had being Canadian and trying to figure out what about this country defines it."
McGrath traces the record's birth back to the composition of its title track while watching the gold medal men's hockey game during the 2010 Olympics.
"I was drinking Baileys with my Mom," he recalls. "By the time of that goal, I was pretty drunk. I remember just getting this chill. I literally reached over for my guitar and just wrote it. And that's when this record was born."
That it took a year and a half to write is both a testament to the success of Peace Maker, and the realities of assembling such a collection of songs with such a lofty goal.
"I want this record to be the big light at the end of the tunnel. I want this to be the greater whole," he says. "The way we've been conceptualizing this record, if 13 Songs was a book of short stories, Peace Maker would be a novella, and this would be a novel."
Compounding things was the eviction of JC/DC studios, run by McGrath's producers and collaborators John Collins and Dave Carswell. While McGrath was sadly one of the last people to record in the old space, he was also the first artist to record in the studio's new location next to Vancouver's Astoria Hotel, above an operating wood workshop.
"It doesn't even look like a studio -- it's just a big empty room that looks like it's going to be demolished. Then you go to the back of that room and there's all this equipment. JC/DC before was DIY. This was the most fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants session I've done, ever. It was just, roll the tape, let's see what happens."
The harried recording sessions nonetheless fit well with the record's sonic palate. Pulleys and chains and steel girders in the new space were used for percussion sounds while one track employed 16 different effects pedals.
"This is a lot more diverse in sound. It's way more all over the map," he says. "There's a lot of noise on it but then there's some tender country songs."
While spring still seems like a long ways off, Toronto fans will be happy to hear that McGrath plans to play the new album front to back at a one-off gig in early February. Until then Ontario fans can check him out at the dates below.
12/9 Toronto, ON - Bovine Sex Club (Exclaim! Holiday Party)
12/14 London, ON - Call the Office
12/16 Ottawa, ON - Cafe Dekcuf
12/23 Edmonton, AB - Wunderbar