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Steve Maloney - Sophomore Recording

Location: St. John's, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: Professional Project Grants Program
Amount Funded: $6,065

Steve's Studio Space

 

Project Dates: May 18 to August 18, 2016
Artist Website:
http://www.stevemaloneymusic.com
Artist E-mail:
stephanmaloney@gmail.com

Coming off the success of a self-titled debut in 2014, Steve Maloney and the Wandering Kind, Maloney is in the midst of preparing his sophomore record. But long before that Maloney was making a name for himself participating in showcases, songwriter series, and making videos. Heavy Weather filmed a single take recording of Forest Fire on Signal Hill in 2011 showcasing Maloney’s vocally driven folk music in an enchanting way, pulling in the sounds of seagulls and the scene around him while he croons over St. John’s; it would be the first of many such videos Maloney would record.

It makes sense, considering Maloney’s bio summarizes his creative goals when writing and recording music - create atmospheric, vocally driven folk music. And, based on the successes he’s seen over the last number of years, it’s working for him and his group. MusicNL recognized him with five nominations and he won the Rising Star of the Year award following the debut’s release; it was also shortlisted for the Borealis Prize and received two ECMA nominations.

In the years since, multiple tours and performances have taken place including a dozen date fall tour in 2014 through Atlantic Canada, Ontario, and Quebec as well as the Summer/Revival Tour in 2015 which included 22 stops. The road has taken them to various high profile festivals including the Halifax Pop Explosion, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, Lawyna Vawnya, the Sound of Music Festival, Harbourage, and Writers at Woody Point to name a few. They have also shared the stage with the likes of Amelia Curran, Hey Rosetta, Hawksley Workman, Wintersleep, Bahamas, By Divine Right, The Wooden Sky, Basia Bulat, Joel Plaskett and more.

Steve Maloney at the mic

 


The debut record also landed an opportunity to participate in an international shoot for TV in Barbados for Flo Network and Bell in 2015, as well as placements in short films, a slot in a national CBC special, and additional touring throughout Canada.

Looking forward to the new recordings, Maloney expects they will show a growth in his musicianship and songwriting with new melodies and arrangements. While still rooted in folk music, Maloney is seeking an ambiguity in his sound, aiming for an escape from easy classification. They hope the new materials will create a “wash of feeling” as opposed to being boxed into a specific genre. The result are folk songs at their core, delivered in a new fashion that includes affected guitars, emotive vocals, driving rhythms, lush string arrangements, and synthesizers.

The new material is also set to include found sounds tucked away for added ear candy. The songs themselves will speak to themes of nostalgia, an understanding of anxiety and loneliness, and the complications in human conditions, according to Maloney’s project brief.

The grant awarded from ArtsNL has supported the creative development of Maloney’s project, which he is working on with award winning producer and musician Joshua Van Tassel. There are also already dates being booked throughout the latter part of 2017 that will see the new recording toured throughout Canada, with plans for further touring across the pond.

In our latest feature, we chat with Steve (who is presently working on another project through a residency in Dawson City, YK) to learn more about the album and his process…

Q and A with Steve Maloney...

ArtsNL: How did you start the process of working on your sophomore release – what kicked off the inspiration, and what were your next steps?

Steve: Through the past two or three years of touring and writing I found myself with a wealth of songs and ideas, tucked away in notepads and voice memos. Joshua Van Tassel had approached me about making a record after our debut release, and kept in touch. Eventually, I felt it was time to develop and document a new collection of songs. I enjoyed Josh’s production skills and sensibility. He’s also a great drummer/percussionist, and I had high respect for his musical projects in Toronto. It seemed like a natural progression to link up with him for a sophomore effort.

ArtsNL: How did you first connect with Joshua Van Tassel, and can you share a little more about him with readers?

Steve: I met Josh through the ECMA conference around the time of our first release. We got along well, and he seemed genuinely interested. I later checked out his solo electronic recordings and was very impressed to say the least. We kept in touch from there and one thing led to another. Aside from being an incredible producer and engineer, Josh is always busy playing with Toronto folks. Well-respected artists like Donovan Woods, Rose Cousins, Sarah Slean, David Myles, Great Lake Swimmers, and more. He’s also a member of Amelia Curran’s band. I believe Amelia may have had a hand in introducing us, though the memory is a little foggy.

Steve Maloney at a festival

Photo Credit: Tom Cochrane / Old Crow Magazine


ArtsNL: What are some of the themes being presented in your new recordings? Are there any particular tracks that stand out or have a particular attachment for you?

Steve: There are certainly themes of anxiety, depression and loneliness, but more from a place of understanding and reflection. Songs of nostalgia, walking through past lives. I wasn’t expecting this to be such a personal and cathartic experience, but I’m glad it was. Also, aside from going over demos while in studio, we picked at a few other ideas I had developed in the spring/summer (we were recording in June, and again in August). There were a few unfinished pieces that Josh loved. So, I finished them in-between our sessions and we recorded them. Those tracks stand out as my favourites. I’m usually quite protective and stubborn for arrangements of my songs. This was a nice release from that. I think that fresh connection helped breed excitement. The production has also really helped these songs shine in new ways. It’s really just as much Josh’s record as it is mine.

ArtsNL: Do you have a title or artwork for the new record, and if so can you share it with us? How are you developing them?

Steve: No finalized title yet, though I’ve been kicking around a few and believe I’ve recently come to a conclusion. I’ve been in touch with local artist Cheryl Cashin to discuss artwork. I found her on Instagram (what a world!) and we’ve since done a show at Eastern Edge together. I feel her work pairs nicely with the themes and tones of this album. I’m excited for the final, tangible record.

ArtsNL: Who are some of the folks that you’ve worked with in the process of developing this recording?

Steve: I’m really excited that The Weather Station (Tamara Lindeman) is involved, singing on a few of the songs. I love her albums, and her set at Halifax Pop Explosion (2015) remains one of the most memorable live shows I’ve ever seen and heard. Also, Drew Jurecka (violin/viola) has absolutely blown me away in this process. His playing and arrangements have really unlocked the potential in some of these songs. I was also fortunate to have Brett Higgins (Great Lake Swimmers) on upright and electric bass. Robbie Grunwald also added some Rhodes to a song that I believe will be a single. AE Bridger laid down some 12-string electric guitar as well. Along with producing and engineering, Joshua Van Tassel also played a wealth of synthesizers, drums and percussion instruments. 

Recording studio setup

 


ArtsNL: What kind of events, performances, and launches do you have planned in support of the new record?

Steve: I’m planning to use a PR company for this release, which will be a huge help. Our last album was completely independent, which I’m proud of. But having extra help will ultimately see it shine brighter and farther. I’m also looking at releasing this album through potentially interested labels. We’re taking our time. Our last release seemed like such a rush. We got the physical copies back, had a release show, and sped off to an ECMA conference. I think it was handled relatively well, but could have benefitted from more careful planning around the release. I’m currently booking dates for a Canadian release tour, with sights set outside of Canada in the not-so-distant future.

ArtsNL: What are some of the unique challenges you faced as you worked on this project, and how did you overcome them?

Steve: Originally, this was to be a full band effort with the Wandering Kind. However, our drummer (Josh) had complications from a knee injury arise around the time of recording. So, instead, we shifted to a solo project. Listeners can expect to hear fully realized arrangements throughout the new release, but I don’t consider this to be a Wandering Kind record. The idea of that band name has changed over the years, but it’s come to represent something I share with a close group of musical friends. We tour together, rehearse together, and are all friends outside of our musical lives. I felt calling this a Wandering Kind release would do them an injustice.

ArtsNL: If you were to have a conversation with an up and coming professional musician, or someone who hopes to follow that career path, what’s the best advice you might offer them?

Steve: Learn another skill (or skills) that you love and can monetize, while working on your craft. This will keep you afloat when gigs and money aren’t as plentiful, and save you from fruitless side jobs. It’s extremely hard to just be a songwriter, or just be a singer these days. If you can do that, and also use a camera well, or act, or teach, then you can find meaningful employment when you’re not on the road, or off an album cycle.

ArtsNL: If you could work with anyone during the recording process, or in a performance, who would that dream person/group be and why?

Steve: I feel like working with Daniel Lanois would be cool. Likewise with Aaron and Bryce Dessner. Would love to talk arrangements with Johnny Greenwood. Would love to sing/work with Feist. You said dream, right?! It would also be a dream for one of these tracks to make it on CBC’s The Signal with Lori Brown! I’ve loved that show since high school. It’s introduced me to a lot of new music.

ArtsNL: At the core, what inspires and motivates you in your professional creative work the most and why?

Piano in studio for recordings

 


Steve: Hearing and seeing other artist’s work that I respect and enjoy, touring and all that comes along with it, conversations with friends, social interactions between others, ambiguous emotions, it certainly varies from day to day. I’m also in love with Woody Point, NL. I’ve been making a point to get out there every summer for the past six or seven years. There’s really no place I’d rather be (most days).

ArtsNL: When do you think the new record might be released?

Steve: May 2017!

ArtsNL: Briefly shifting away from the new record, you’re on a residency in Dawson City at the moment – can you share a little more about what that’s about and your experiences thus far?

Steve: I’m the songwriter in residence with the Dawson City Music Festival (January 2017). I’m here going over mixes for the album we’re discussing, while writing new material and arrangements for another recording project in February at McGill University in Montreal. Outside of performances, I’m also leading songwriting workshops with local high school students, and getting involved with the radio station (CFYT).

Dawson is truly awesome. It’s currently covered in a thick blanket of white and everything is incredibly still. Most days end with a wild pink sky. It’s really a frozen world all to its own. Quiet streams of smoke slipping off into the air from house to house. The days are short, and the lack of daylight is a real adjustment. But the people here are so generous, and friendly, and good. There’s an amazing arts community too. It reminds me of home in a lot of ways. Last night I ran under the northern lights, thick, and green, twisting and spilling off behind the mountains.

ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the Professional Projects Grants Program help?

Steve: This project would not be possible otherwise. We’re so lucky in Newfoundland and Labrador to have the support networks that we do. It’s no secret that independent touring musicians don’t make much money. Programs like the Professional Project Grants Program make it possible for plans and ideas to form into polished final products.

ArtsNL: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Steve: Support the arts! Challenge your government! Challenge yourself!