“It’s in the Words” is the culmination of several years of song writing, rehearsing and recording. It is a project that has intensely excited me since early 2013. I had been writing songs over the preceding three years and had started thinking of recording some of the stronger ones.
I had wanted to work with people that were talented. But it wasn’t just talent that I was looking for. I wanted to work with people who just wanted to make a song sound great and who wanted to enjoy the creative process. I spent some time thinking about my musical journey and thinking about who might fit that bill. In the spring of 2014, I started reaching out to people who I had worked with on musical projects in the past and who I wanted to work with again. Fortunately for me, they all said yes.
My musical journey started with Neil Shankman and the band After Hours. At the age of 16, he approached me at a urinal in a Toronto synagogue and asked if I would be the singer for his band. I said yes and we played many shows together in the early 90’s. His jazz-influenced piano is an awesome thing to listen to. There is seemingly nothing he can’t do with 88 keys. He was a founding member and long time performer in the band “God Made Me Funky” and has had the opportunity to play with such piano greats as Chick Corea.
Randy Milliken is not only a great drummer and percussionist but a master of vocal harmonies. He added his country-infused vocal harmonies to the songs on this album and acted as a vocal coach as well. In the 1990’s we worked together on an annual musical charity show entitled “Lifebeat”, whose mission was to help charities raise money. Many people in the medical community in the Greater Toronto area came together to create a musical variety show for one week every spring.
Wade Sherman and I played together in the mid 1990’s in a Toronto-based grunge band named Wiseacre. The band released an album entitled “Dance if you Must”. Wade went on to play as the drummer in Toronto’s “Beautiful Losers” in the late 1990’s. Wade has a very distinctive, classic rock-influenced style on the drums. His driving beats add a distinct energy to this album.
Darryl Gray is country, through and through. Though he usually plays acoustic guitar and writes his own songs, he brought his steady hand to the bass guitar on this album as well as playing rhythm guitar on “Flatbed”. Darryl and I played together with Wade in “Wiseacre”. His effortless bass lines add a beautiful bottom-end to this project.
Jonathan Steeves is the alternative-rock guy in this group. We played together in an alt-rock band called “Hundred Dollar Shine” in the late 1990’s in Toronto and released an eponymous album. He plays the rhythm guitar on this album and adds his cool groove to the rhythm section. His focus on perfection can be heard in all of his playing.
Kyle Ferguson is a gifted guitar God. He makes the complicated look easy. He has played the blues for many years in the Toronto-based Sidemen, but more recently has written and recorded songs with Paul Reddick in his solo projects. He has played some great venues in Toronto, including the legendary Massey Hall. In the late 2000’s we worked on some acoustic musical projects together.
Joanna Pearl’s voice is a thing of beauty. I first heard her sing when we were involved in a small musical theatre project in Toronto. She was Mimi in the production of Rent that we did together and she always blew the audience away. When I decided that I wanted “Matriarchs” to be a duet, I knew I needed Joanna to sing the part. Her smooth sound added much richness to these songs.
I needed a violin player for Matriarchs. Zack Dulberg, a medical student at the University of Toronto put me in touch with his classmate Pamela Leung. She showed up to our first rehearsal and almost made me cry with how clear her violin was and how she instantly understood the feel of the song “Matriarchs”.
I wanted a cello to round out the sound of “Matriarchs”. I reached out to my musical friends looking for a cello player, but to no avail. I registered on Bandmix.ca, scrolled through dozens of cello players and reached out to Maggie Koncewicz. Her moody cello added the perfect low end to the song.
My wife, Jordanna Bernstein and I, had talked about working on something creative together since we got married. On this project, that dream finally came to fruition in a very special way. In the summer of 2014, on a small rural highway in Nova Scotia, there was a man lying on the flatbed of his pick-up truck. Jordanna said, “This is the perfect idea for a country song”. I grabbed a pen and paper and she recited what would ultimately be the core lyrics to “Flatbed”. As well, she added her special insight to help make the song “It’s in the Words” deliver a more meaningful message.
I met with Steve Gadsden at Tattoo Sound and Music in the fall of 2014 to look for some guidance on the recording process for “It’s in the Words”. He connected me with Dave Clarke who acted as the sound engineer, mixer and producer for this project. Everyone who worked with Dave commented on his calm demeanor and relaxed vibe. That vibe allowed all the performers to give their best performance while recording this record. The facilities at Tattoo Sound and Music were perfect and definitely contributed to the feel of the recording.
I wanted to harness the power of the Internet and social media platforms to help spread the message about this musical project. I knew that I needed a someone connected to help anchor that part of the project as so I reached out to Declan Dawes to act as the social media guru. He is the router of this project.