It's been a few years since his last album, 2005's Night Flares, but Winnipeg's Greg MacPherson isn't one to sit back and wait for the action to come to him. He's getting ready to hit the road, and on August 17 he begins a tour in Trois-Rivieres that will take him through Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The singer-songwriter - often dubbed Canada's Bruce Springsteen - plans to begin recording his fourth album when the tour is over. Exclaim! recently had a chance to catch up with MacPherson as he got ready to once again hit the road.
You're about to hit the road with Horses - what are you looking forward to?
There's a lot to look forward to: playing music every night, seeing old friends, test driving new songs, swimming in the ocean, eating my mother's food for a few days in Cape Breton, listening to new music on a nice car stereo, etc.
What are some of the challenges associated with bringing a band along? How about advantages?
As a solo act, the expense of hiring a band for the road can be prohibitive. I believe in paying people appropriately for their work and I ask a lot of them; they're pouring themselves into my songs and it's important to me that they come away feeling good about what they've done. Factor in renting extra equipment, paying for a larger vehicle, the cost of accommodations for three or four men every night and the difference between touring solo and with a band becomes apparent.
The advantages of a band are primarily artistic; other musicians bring their own voice to my music and there are songs I've written and can only play with a rhythm section. I've always played with an interesting assortment of people, musicians with very distinct aesthetics, excellent record collections and a million stories to tell. As an artist I find this kind of exposure to new ideas and sounds invaluable.
Your popularity has been increasing, but at a somewhat moderate pace. Is this what you've been aiming for? If not, how comfortable are you with the trajectory your career has taken?
I don't pay much attention to my popularity in the grand scheme of things. I push myself as a performer; I try to find something different in every show and to always write better songs. In that pursuit I've had enormous personal success. On the business end of my work I think I've come from nothing and done quite well for myself, all things considered. I haven't always made the best decisions in terms of putting food on my plate but I'd rather be a performer with artistic integrity than a well-fed entertainer.
Have you begun writing songs for a new album?
I still have to write a few more songs and record some demos before I can move forward. I've got a lot of new songs, I did a little recording in Winnipeg last week. It's interesting for me because I've been writing volumes over the last few years and I don't think it's a coherent streamline of songs that could be one record, but maybe two. I have enough for a solo record and enough for a band record, which would be really good.
Are there any plans as to who is going to release it?
I'm just looking around. G7 and I had an nice discussion; they're my friends and they want to see me do well. They've already proposed that we do a record together. That's an option I'll consider seriously, but I'm also of the mind that it would be interesting to try something different - we've had a good run together. We haven't had a split, but variety is a nice way to treat your music. I think my work would probably benefit from trying to work with other people. I like the idea of being on a label that makes more aesthetic sense. G7 and I have the same ideals with how we want to see the world, but when I look at my music, it could be out of place. I see myself on a label where I like the bands aesthetically as well as personally, not that I don't like G7 bands, but I would like to be with a label with bands that sound a little like me; it would make more sense to tour with them. I toured with Propagandhi, and while that was interesting and one of the best times of my life, I feel bad when the people that go to those shows aren't always open minded with my kind of music - it's like that with all music. People expect something like Propagandhi and I don't fall along those lines.
Does G7's recent announcement that they aren't going to press CDs anymore have any weight on any choices you might make?
No, because the idea that I have is not to do CDs, but do really high grade MP3s. the quality would be much higher than you would get on CD. The bit rate will be higher than 44.1, which is what every CD is recorded on. It'll be a bigger download but you'll hear music the way we hear it in the studio, which is pretty cool. What they are doing is pretty commendable and in tune with modern times. They re thinking of the environment and in terms of the future, they are thinking of the possibilities that MP3s bring. Even quality-wise, MP3s don't sound as good if they aren't large files, but the technology is coming very quickly. To couple that with the bands themselves being able to press whatever they want - limited runs of vinyl or CDs where the expenses are lower and the money would go on manufacturing, so I would spend and make the money and they would make the money from downloads. That's why I'm not saying that I'm dropping G7 for any reasons - I don't think they're doing anything wrong. They could be on the edge of something great. They've thought outside the box. I think we'll be working together in one way or another for a long time.
Everyone seems to be switching to downloads. There's a whole generation coming along that don't buy CDs, but there are still people like us who prefer vinyl - I like the aesthetic of it. I still buy CDs, but I'm 34 years old and people like us aren't the huge market that record labels go after. It's aimed at people in their teens and 20s.