To Mend, is the first single off Fowlie’s upcoming sophomore album produced by Canadian guitar great Ariel Posen.
Even though the sessions behind Colin Fowlie’s forthcoming sophomore album unfolded during the early stages of a global pandemic and involved a total of four weeks spent in self isolation, the real story behind East of Nowhere is one of new friendships, optimism and one musician’s desire to create something meaningful despite the world slowly shutting down around him.
Hope, risk and determination carry equal weight in Fowlie’s emerging music career. In fact, if you scroll out far enough, his life in music almost sounds like an upcoming Netflix mini series.
A man quits his job of nearly twenty years to become a career musician. Not long after, the entire world is infected with a deadly virus. Tours are postponed and festival dates are cancelled. To top it all off, his forthcoming album easily has what it takes to carry his career to the next level. Easily. But it will take a lot of work. Is he up for the challenge?
The answer is, yes. If the story behind this album reflects anything, it’s that Fowlie has the motivation needed to survive as a musician in an unpredictable world. And the music speaks for itself.
East of Nowhere began to take shape in Fowlie’s hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick. After a chance meeting with Winnipeg guitarist Ariel Posen, who was in town performing with Del Barber as part of the Living Roots Music Festival, the two struck up a friendship. Later that year when Posen was back in Fredericton performing at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival with his own group, the two found a few minutes to meet up, catch up and do what musicians usually do – talk about music. So when it came time for Fowlie to get serious about recording the follow-up to his debut album Party Music, Posen was his first choice as producer.
“My wife and I were driving in the car and she asked, ‘Why are you breathing heavy?’ So I told her, ‘Ariel Posen just texted me back to say he’ll produce and play on my next record.’”
“I started thinking, who could I get involved and would return my calls,” said Fowlie during a January video chat. “But even if he wouldn’t return my calls, Ariel is one of my favourite musical minds and I had him in my contact list so I reached out.”
A simple text message set things in motion.
“My wife and I were driving in the car and she asked, ‘Why are you breathing heavy?’ So I told her, ‘Ariel Posen just texted me back to say he’ll produce and play on my next record,’” said Fowlie.
Fowlie’s admiration for Posen and his work is immense. And rightfully so. The Winnipeg guitarist was born into a family of musicians, took up the guitar at nine years old and never looked back. He’s traveled the world as a member of The Bros. Landreth, has backed up numerous musicians over his career and released a pair of critically acclaimed records of his own. He was also named one of the top ten guitarists in the world by the leading industry website Music Radar. For Fowlie, knowing Posen would be involved was a huge boost to the project. Not to say this album will make or break for his career, but as someone who came to music later than most, Fowlie recognized the important role his next album could play in furthering his musical journey.
“I’m really proud of my first album,” he said. “But I was still working full time when we were recording it, ducking in and out of the studio over the course of ten months. It accomplished its goal and it was great working with Stephen [Lewis] and Jay [Merle] at Marshall Studios, but I really wanted to do things differently this time. I wanted to shoot for higher production values. I’m 43 and I know I can’t play at this too long before I need to start making some solid moves in the development of my career.”
“Colin is such a great songwriter and he’s just so on the ball. A lot of people care about their music but are also lazy about it by not being open to constructive criticism or putting the work in. Colin is the opposite.” – Ariel Posen
Things moved quickly once Posen signed on and began working his way through potential tracks for the recording.
“Colin is such a great songwriter and he’s just so on the ball,” said Posen. “A lot of people care about their music but are also lazy about it by not being open to constructive criticism or putting the work in. Colin is the opposite. He sent me about 20 songs and I thought twelve of them were really good and ready. I’m very much a believer in, ‘let’s take these songs and make them the best,’ and these songs were already so great.”
The two decided the recording would take place in Winnipeg. Posen then booked a studio, assembled a band and waited for Fowlie to arrive. This all happened in August of 2020, which meant two weeks of quarantine for Fowlie upon his arrival. Holed up in a rented bachelor apartment, Fowlie filled his time doing pre-production work with Posen. They examined each of the album’s potential tracks over several Zoom sessions and discussed the best way to bring these songs to life. These sessions paved the way for each song’s tone and delivery so by the time they entered the studio, all the musicians involved had a pretty solid idea of where these songs could go. All the bass and drum tracks were recorded on the first day, leaving the rest of the week to track guitars and vocals. Then it was back home to New Brunswick for round two of quarantine.
For Fowlie, working with one of his favourite musical minds was both an honour and a learning experience. Back at home during his second two-week quarantine, he had a lot of time to reflect on the experience and digest some of the important lessons he learned, including Posen’s many philosophies on songcraft and what makes a song connect with a listener.
“People respond to things in three different ways, musically,” said Fowlie, recalling one of Posen’s guiding principles. “When somebody sings a really high note or when somebody plays something really fast, those actions generate a conscious response. You know why you’re reacting when you experience either of those scenarios. But the most important response comes as the result of a song’s dynamics, the building and taking away that aligns with the story you’re attempting to tell. We spent a lot of time exploring the stories behind each of these songs and what dynamics we wanted to implement to highlight them.”
East of Nowhere is as much a collection of songs as it is a collection of short stories, each with a narrative based around a very human experience. Fowlie has a keen sense of observation and his ability to reveal a story in a way that keeps listeners waiting to see what comes next is a big part of what makes each of his songs come to life. And he’s only gotten better since Party Music. Simply put, the narrative flow on East of Nowhere is beautiful. In addition to having the full support of an admirable crop of musicians who have helped elevate things on a musical level, the album marks a significant step forward in Fowlie’s own songwriting and his strength as a masterful storyteller.
“I think this record really holds its own against anything. I’m really proud of it,” he said.
With East of Nowhere, Fowlie has undoubtedly crafted one of the finest roots albums we’ll hear this year. While it will be a few more months before listeners will get the chance to enjoy the record in its entirety, the album’s first single, To Mend, is out today. Give it a listen. Give it a share.