Call & Response: Bry Webb
On Provider, Bry Webb shakes your bones and spirit with his lonesome voice and elegant guitar work. Drawn out of shouts from his time as lead vocalist of Constantines, Webb closes you in a world of tender thoughts and poetic wonder. The songs in Provider are personal and are sung from the perspective of a true storyteller with a warm, quiet soul. Each strum tells a kind of hardened, living history and every word that follows Webb's melody is a fleeting hush that's special if you hold onto it.
In this week's Call & Response interview, we talk to Bry Webb about the making of Provider, fatherhood, working with Feist and more.
Tell us what the name Provider means to you.
Taking responsibility for someone other than myself. Calling the record "Provider" was kind of just about putting a big reminder to myself up in a place that I couldn't ever forget or ignore it.
In past interviews, you've mentioned how you create your songs "in the moment", and your songs seem to resonate with this feeling when you listen to it. Can you talk about how you capture these moments?
I actually have no system for writing songs. It often takes a long time. The few times I've been able to write a song quickly or in the moment, were pretty unique. On this record it involved having taken a trip to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory to play music at the music festival up there. I had a great feeling up there, hanging out with incredible people, doing what I wanted to be doing. I knew in that moment that I was completely free. So writing the song, "Rivers of Gold" just kind of came out in a moment of thinking back on that experience. But I guess it's just about trying to put yourself in good situations. I've been pretty lucky.
There's something special with the way Provider opens with the lulling "Asa", a song inspired by your son. How is fatherhood reflected on your album and how has this new role changed the way you look at music?
I had stopped making music for a while when our son arrived. I couldn't figure out what to sing about, for a while there. But a few months after Asa arrived, I wanted to write him a lullaby that included all of the meanings of his name. That was the first song I had written in a year and a half. I started making music again with only him in mind. He's a little healer.
Which song from the album would you say got Provider going and which song made it feel complete?
"Asa" definitely got me thinking about making music again, but "Ex-Punks" was the song that filled the last gap in the album. Rich (Burnett) and I stayed up pretty late figuring out that lap steel part - pretty late for a couple of dads. That was the last song written for the record, and it talks about everything I love about punk rock and rock & roll and making music or art or anything creative, things in my past that I've had to let go of, and other things that I can't let go of.
How do you feel working with Feist? - collaborating with her on Metals and vice versa with Provider?
It was a real pleasure. She's been very kind to me. Definitely gave me the boost in confidence to record again and release a record on my own. She's been able to hold on to the notion that creating things is fun, which seems rare for someone with that level of success.
Any plans to work with her again in the near future?
No, but I'm always excited to hear what she'll do next.
"Undertaker" has a well-worn and weathered-down tone to it, in part thanks to Colin Stetson. What was it like working with him on this song?
Colin is the man. I was lucky to have met him when I was living in Montreal. Absolutely one of the most sensitive players I've ever heard, and his range is astounding. He came in and just put down like eight layers of these long baritone and bass saxophone notes throughout the whole thing, and it really made the song. Then he whipped out a French horn and took it to the limit with that, too. Incredible guy. I'm going to release a sax-only mix of that song someday soon.
What did you learn from making this album and what's next for you?
It's better to write a song than to think about writing a song. For now I'm just playing a few shows, working at a local community radio station, and hanging out with my family as much as I can. I'd like to get on some of the more remote festivals in Canada this summer so we can take some sweet family vacations.
Catch Bry Webb tonight at The Music Gallery (197 John St.). Two shows: 7pm and 9:30pm / Tickets $12
Photo by John Teeter
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