Critically acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Jerry Leger has announced the release of his brand new studio album Donlands on October 27th, once again via Cowboy Junkies’ label Latent Recordings. Whilst Leger was last in the UK in May following the release of his “Latent Uncovers” and “The Time Flew By” EP’s (released in March and April respectively), the release of the new Mark Howard produced album coincides with a run of dates in mainland Europe. Ahead of the release of the album and before he hopped on a plane back to Europe, we caught up with Jerry over Zoom to talk more about the new project.
Appreciate your time today, I guess you’re just about getting ready to head over to this side of the pond, not to here but you’ve got a run in Europe coming up. “Yeah, this time around we just have some festivals and shows in The Netherlands and Germany. I was in the UK this past May and I’m in the early stage of planning to get back with the band in late spring next year. It just didn’t come around this time, everything happened very quickly you know.” Before we fully dive in to talk about the new record, I just wanted to talk about the video for “Three hours Ahead of Midnight” to start off. I love that you shot that in a pub and it’s an old pub with a lot of character, which wis amazing. Me and some of my friends have been going out of our way to find these places in London with lots of history as so many of these cool old buildings have closed down. Firstly, is the Imperial Pub in Toronto somewhere that you, one of your guys of Mitch (Fillion) had spent a lot of time in before where you had some connection to it? “It’s a pub that I have loved for a long time, it opened in the forties and has been in the same family since then. It’s two brothers in the family that run it now, they did what I do and I had been there before I met them but since then I keep it in mind to pop in and have a pint because it is such a great, classic pub. In Toronto, there are some old taverns that are still around for sure, but the cool thing about the Imperial is the wrap around bar, which I love and the aquarium in the middle. They have a jukebox and they only play old swing music, it is such a vibe in there and when I was thinking about where we were going to do this video, it just popped into my head. I didn’t want to do anything literal for the song, I like videos that just try to capture the feel and atmosphere of the song so, that’s why we did it in black and white. I don’t know how long the Imperial Pub is going to stick around, I wish it would stick around forever but In Toronto, like a lot of places there are so many developers and people waving lots of money around to turn places into newer things.”
The record is called “Donlands” which you recorded at the Donlands Theatre but just to paint the Toronto picture geographically, the Imperial is in a different part of town isn’t it? “That’s right, Donlands is in the east end of Toronto, which is where I live, then the Imperial Pub is kind of on the border in Toronto between the east and west end. It’s very close to Yonge Street which is like the middle dividing line or whatever. It’s very interesting because on the outside the area is very touristy, but it’s like a vortex when you go into the Imperial and enter this dimension which seems like everything outside is so separate like it doesn’t even exist. I always love that about it too, it gets very busy round there with a lot going on but you walk into the Imperial and it feels a bit more chilled there.” I could talk about the appeal of old pubs all day long but let’s move to the album itself. You worked with Mark Howard who is this British-Canadian who has left his mark on so many cool projects but he is not who you have typically worked with before on things that you have released so how did the two of you get together to decide that you were going to make a record together? “I got a message one day from a friend of mine called Kate Boothman and she had been working on a record with Mark. She just messaged me saying that she thought you guys would make a great record together from knowing what I do and the kind of music that I like. I got that message and thought if he is into it, I would love to do that because I already had so many records in my collection that I really loved and he had been a part of. One that really stands out is “Real Gone” by Tom Waits, which came out in 2004 and that year is kind of important to me because I had just got out of high school and was going both feet in to try this music thing as a career. He worked on so many records that I love, so it was kind of that combination of I want to make a record with Mark and I want to bring my songs but let him kind of push that into those atmospheres that I want to be in and I think we got that.”
You put out a couple of EP’s this year and there was an extended release last year, then you had been writing plenty more in between, but with “Donlands” from what I understand, you sent Mark a bunch of tracks saying which ones do you like? Then by all accounts, the ones that he liked were the ones that you liked and it sounds like it was ok let’s make a record? “Yeah, I told Kate that I’m into it, I hope we can make it happen, then Mark emailed me saying I hear that you want to make a record, well send me some songs and we will see if we can do it because obviously he wanted to make sure that it was something that he was into. It was pretty cool because I kind of had the songs in mind that I thought would work really well but I wanted to see where he was going to go with it. Normally I would almost co-produce my records without putting my name on it but with this, I just wanted to bring my songs, bring myself and bring the band then let Mark take us where he wanted us to go. It worked out great because I thought we were going to make a different album before that opportunity came about so all of those songs that we were working on previously, I still have those songs plus more that I had been writing which is quite cool that it worked out that way.”
With theming it around the Donlands area and that being where you recorded the record, it sounds like that you hadn’t fully set on where you were recording the record when you sent the songs over. When you had the theme set and working on the record to piece into that mould, did you find that once you had the overall concept that maybe song eight which you both liked was a stronger song overall but may not have fit the vibe of the album as say number fourteen or one of the ones that wasn’t on that initial shortlist? “That happens with pretty much every record. You can record the best song of the whole session and it doesn’t make the album because it just doesn’t fit. We put out a single in 2020 called “Jumped in the Humber” which became a real favourite for a lot of people and that was actually an outtake from the “Time Out for Tomorrow” record that I made in 2019. It was in the running order basically until the last moment and I finally agreed with Mike Timmins, who produced it, that it didn’t quite fit. That was even when it was probably the best song of the whole batch but it was the one that kind of stuck out and wasn’t really part of the story of that record. I think with this one (Donlands) that because we were so focused before we went in and Mark had listened to all that I had sent him, which was like thirty songs, I think we were able to connect the dots between the songs as we narrowed it down where there was a theme running across those.”
I can definitely feel that when I listen to the album. It has like a real seventies sort of vibe with a lot of the melodies and the real comparison I would point people towards is Levon Helm and The Band particularly the “Music from Big Pink” record. The track that stands out on the record and it stands out because it is definitely the most different sounding on the project, which is “You Carry Me”. You said about songs have a way of being a fit for a project, with this song being that bit funkier and sounding a bit different, what was it about this one that felt right for this project rather than finding a home somewhere else? “You’re right, besides that song, the rest of the album kind of floats in a certain dimension but I felt like that song with the way that we did it and the way that it came out was so weird that it was almost like dipping your toes in another dimension. It’s like you are in a room surrounded by doors and you opened the wrong door, you know. I kind of like that bit of a jolt with that song. Actually, that was the only song that was like a last minute decision, we just wanted to bash something out and it felt like we needed to shake it up a bit. I’m happy how that came out and it goes along with the sequencing of the record, I always spend a lot of time working on that and the way that I put the record together, I try to think about it in a cinematic way.”
Thanks a bunch man for your time, I will definitely make sure I come see you when you come back over and can come and say hey in person. I really like the record and love that it is definitely something I love to listen to all the way through as a cohesive piece of art which really paints a great picture of Toronto’s east end. “Well, thank you, I’m definitely happy with it, it’s definitely a record that I think will stick out in my discography and I really got what I wanted out of it. Just one more thing about it as we were talking about recording it on Donlands in the old theatre is that I really wanted to name it “Donlands” because of that and I also love one word titles. Also, Donlands holds a special place for us because when I first got the band together which at that time it was my drummer and I, with a different bass player, we started playing this Sunday open stage jam with some buddies at this place called The Only at fourth and Donlands in 2004. It just felt right as it’s part of our history in a way.”
I had seen through that ‘highly academic source’ on the internet called Wikipedia that is was a movie theatre until the late sixties and then later became a recording studio, if that sounds about right? “Yeah, it has been a few recording studios since then and my buddy Aaron Goldstein has had it for the last couple of years. It was also nice working with him, when we were looking for a place, I thought that I really wanted to work with him and it was within walking distance so there was a lot of things about it that I really dug. Mark hates working in studios but I still think there was a cool enough vibe there, it wasn’t quite traditionally done either.” Again, appreciate your time, best of luck with the record and have fun on this trip to Holland and Germany.
“Donlands” the new album from Jerry Leger will be released via Latent Recordings on October 27th and is available to pre-order HERE. Jerry is also about to head to Europe for a number of shows in the Netherlands and Germany which you can find dates listed below and further ticketing information on his WEBSITE whilst you can keep up to date with everything that he is up to on INSTAGRAMTWITTER or FACEBOOK.
Oct 21 - Ramblin' Roots Fest, Utrecht, NL Oct 24 - Q Bus, Leiden, NL Oct 26 - JuBB, Essen-Werden, DE Oct 27 - Alte Dorfschänke, Rinkerode, DE Oct 28 - Rootzz Fest, Breda, NL Oct 29 - Grenswerk, Venlo, NL (supporting The Sadies) Nov 4 - Take Root Fest, Groningen, NL Nov 7 - Loophole, Berlin, DE
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