Tim Chaisson is having his moment.
Even if he weren’t perched firmly on top of the most accomplished record of his career – the many-sided roots/folk/pop opus Lost in Light, produced by Band of Horses wunderkind Bill Reynolds – the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist would have countless career highs to celebrate.
Where to begin? Three knockout showcases at Austin’s famed South by Southwest Festival last spring and subsequent dates supporting alt-rock legends the Goo Goo Dolls. That spot at the Mariposa Folk Festival covering Gordon Lightfoot under the approving gaze of Lightfoot himself. The SiriusXM INDIE Award nomination for Collaboration of the Year for “Beat This Heart” with Serena Ryder, lifted from Chaisson’s much-feted 2012 Colin Linden-produced disc, The Other Side. Producing the debut album of acclaimed East Coast folk singer/songwriters Amy and Rachel Beck.
And let’s not forget Chaisson’s wildly successful 2014 PledgeMusic crowdfunding campaign which helped underwrite Lost in Light, Chaisson’s sixth disc overall and easily his most confident and ambitious. For immediate proof of that claim, survey the rootsy pop corker “Crushed,” the album’s focus track complete with accompanying video.
Considering Chaisson’s accolades also include multiple East Coast Music Award nominations and wins, a Top 10 single on CBC Radio 2, a COCA Award for Best Music Mainstage Act 2013, opening dates for Canuck country star Johnny Reid and outstanding performances at marquee folk festivals across the globe, it’s clear our man has an insane work ethic.
Yet the 12 skilful songs on Lost in Light sound effortless, natural.
As Chaisson explains, near-constant touring over the past few years – including five trips to Australia with dates opposite Diesel and Tim Freedman – sharpened his writing while extensive demoing in his home studio (“My girlfriend kept asking if I was ever coming out,” he howls) ensured Chaisson’s new material was fully primed by the time he entered the Chalet Studio in Claremont, Ontario last June for two intense weeks of recording alongside Reynolds.
“I had all the songs ready and once I started working with Bill, things moved really fast,” Chaisson confirms. Though he hadn’t met Reynolds before they began on the album, Chaisson says “I have been a Band of Horses fan for a long time.
“I was on the hunt for a producer and I loved what he’d done with Lissie (producing the American singer/songwriter’s 2011 release, Covered up with Flowers). So we started emailing, chatting and it felt like the right fit.
“He was into making a record that had a bit of a country feel and a bit of a pop feel but with a nod to my Celtic background. Plus this time I wanted more polish. Bill was totally down with that. I was like, ‘Alright let’s do this!’ So he came to Canada.”
As with previous records, including 2009’s Broken Hearted Beat, produced by Big Sugar boss Gordie Johnson, Chaisson’s calling card on Lost in Light is his stylistic dexterity, the product of a literal lifetime spent performing solo, in bands and with various members of the sprawling and virtuosic Chaisson clan.
That may also be why the Prince Edward Island native – who plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and piano on the new record while handling lead vocals - found it so easy collaborating with others.
“I love writing by myself but it’s also exciting writing with other people and happens a lot when you are on the road,” he says. “In the past, songs I have co-written always ended up being the songs I loved best.”
Witness then the quietly propulsive, conceptually bent “Animal,” co-written with L.A.-based Simon Wilcox via Skype and the knock-kneed romp “Loses Its Shine” penned in Nashville alongside fellow ECMA winner Gordie Sampson over multiple glasses of wine.
Six other tracks – “Goodbye July,” “Miss Saying Goodbye,” “Bad on Me,” “Cajun Moon,” “Life After the War,” and “No Getting Off Easy” – feature Chaisson’s Newfoundland-based pal Chris Kirby while Toronto’s Meredith Shaw abetted on “I Can’t Live Without You” and the above-mentioned single, “Crushed.”
The elegiac, acoustic ballad “Cajun Moon” is especially near to Chaisson’s heart.
“It was inspired by the Expulsion of the Acadians on the East Coast in the mid-1700s. The British came and kicked all the Acadians out of their homes. Many were killed and many were expelled, landing in Louisiana, which resulted in the Cajun culture there. I come from Cajun ancestry and it’s a heavy story.”
At the other end of the spectrum is “Bad on Me,” which Chaisson describes as a kind of “modern-day John Hartford song,” name-checking the legendary American bluegrass fiddle and banjo star. “Basically, we all hopped in the room and stomped and clapped after I recorded the vocal and fiddle. It’s rare these days to hear a song that stripped-down. “I don’t know if musical versatility makes me cursed or blessed,” Chaisson laughs, coincidentally adding that along with banjo-wielding first cousin Cody Chaisson and guitarist friend Jake Charron, he’s been fiddling to raves lately in traditional instrumental Celtic combo, the East Pointers.
Chaisson continues: “I’ve always listened to everything – I love country but also pop and folk and Celtic music and roots music. I am a huge James Taylor fan but I also I grew up as a fiddle player and I find it really hard to write a song that only focuses on one genre.
“With this record, I was ready to explore all these different sides. Finishing it is the highpoint of a pretty great year,” which will include even more dates in Australia, the UK, the U.S. and across Canada stretching well into 2015. Enthuses Chaisson, “I can’t wait.”