The Mile End Sessions, David Usher’s seventh solo album, is comprised of hits and live favourites spanning his solo career, reinterpreted in stripped down, acoustic arrangements. “I woke up one morning with the idea of an acoustic album.” explains David. “I visualized the songs with new arrangements. I left room for space and air for the vocal and melody to breathe, tracing my way back to when the songs were first written.”
The 14 tracks on the album include well known hits such as Black Black Heart and Alone in the Universe with their recognizable hooks and melody lines intact, but sparingly and tastefully arranged with acoustic guitar, piano, and strings.
One of the two new titles on the album is the stunning track, Je Repars. This is David’s first French language recording and the lead single in Quebec. Je Repars cracked the Top 10 after only four weeks at radio. “It’s actually a re-record of sorts,” says David, “although it’s hard to think of it that way when it’s so different. My friends Marie-Mai and Fred St.Gelais wrote French lyrics to I’m Coming Down from the Hallucinations album. The song morphed from an English first person narrative to this amazing French duet that Marie-Mai sings with me on the album.”
Interestingly, the newly recorded I’m Coming Down is the first English language radio single and has created a great synergy between the two songs that tell different stories, but come from the same place.
Marie-Mai comments on writing and recording with David; “Working with David was a blast, as it always is! He has so much talent and creativity. Translating this song from English to French was a lot of work, as we really wanted to respect the original feel and emotion of the song, while trying to bring a new perspective.” She continues, “Getting David to actually sing the entire song in French was a process indeed, but was also the best part of the whole process. David and I have different musical backgrounds but mixing our voices really proved that music is music, and when you have a great song, it has no boundaries.”
“Marie-Mai and I have recorded and played live with each other in the past and I love working with her. Creating a French track was really important to me,” agreed David. “I’m a Montrealer, this is my home and where we’re raising our family. I want to be a part of the community as much as possible.” David and his wife returned to Montreal a few years ago after a stint in New York. Their children go to French school. “I’m working on my French, but it doesn’t seem to come easily for me. Releasing Je Repars has put more pressure on me to work even harder.”
The second new song on The Mile End Sessions is the driving, acoustic track Fall To Pieces. Fall To Pieces echoes the pace and sentiments of life on the road. One of the many highlights on this album is Everyday Things featuring singer-songwriter Beatrice Martin, perhaps better known as Coeur de Pirate, a special guest who brought beautiful backing vocals to the song.
The Mile End Sessions is produced by David’s guitar player and recording engineer Jonathan Gallivan, along with David and long time keyboard player and collaborator Kevin Young. “Jonathan was a natural choice to produce the album. “ says David, “The recording process was really about trying to capture the intimacy of where the songs go to in the live show and building that intimacy around the guitar and voice. Having Jonathan, who is on stage beside me during every live show, put that together was perfectly natural.”
There are plans in the works to tour The Mile End Sessions. David explains; “I love doing the big rock shows and festival stages and that will continue to happen, but I’ve been hoping to put this acoustic album together for a while now. I look forward to touring with a stripped down show including minimal accompaniment on stage leaving room to let the songs speak for themselves. We’re going to take this show into theatres and intimate venues where the songs can be shared in a different way than they have been in the past.”
“The title of the album,” says David “is a nod to my neighbourhood in Montreal – Mile End. We’ve been back there for a few years now and it’s where these songs were reshaped and where much of the album was made. Originally, I thought I’d spend a week or two putting it together. Sometimes, as in this case, a week turns into a year and life leads you down many paths. The fun part is that you never know what’s around the next corner.”