On his latest single, Graeme Kennedy reflects on the several apartments he and his wife have shared over the years and how even the worst situations can be made bearable with the right company.
Everyone has an apartment story or two. Lugging a couch up to a third floor bachelor on a hot summer’s afternoon or calling the landlord at 3 a.m. to deal with a faulty furnace in the dead of winter. The places we live shape our reality in ways that are sometimes not revealed until later in life.
On his new single, Graeme Kennedy sums up more than just leaky faucets and noisy neighbours.
“The song was written quite quickly about a year ago after finding a page in an old notebook that said, ‘I had one chair, we gladly shared it.’ The line itself didn’t end up in the song, but it spurred the lyrics that remain,” said Kennedy.
“The song is a chronological recounting of a string of apartments my wife and I lived in as we dated, got married, and started a family.”
The room is so small, we kinda wear it. The kitchen’s down the hall, but we have to share it with those slobs so we don’t go near it.
“The song came out in a sitting or two,” he said. “I played it live for a while, demoed it with Dylan Ward at Shiftwork Recording, and then headed to Ottawa in November of 2019 to record it, along with several others. It was produced and engineered by Shawn Bradley, who did the same for my previous two solo albums, and the bulk of my work over the past fifteen years.”
While his lyrics reflect some of the material highs and lows of apartment life, the bigger message presented through High Ceilings has more to do with the people who shaped our experiences as tenants.
“It’s really about living with someone who elevates you above your circumstance. Whether you’re dealing with a dubious landlord, a mouse problem, or a global pandemic, it makes all the difference,” he said.
“I have a multitude of strange apartment stories. This song could have easily reached Bob-Dylan-verse-count. One of my most vivid memories comes from a time when we lived in a duplex near the liquor store. I came home from work one night, around 2 a.m. to find an extremely loud party happening in the other half of the duplex. After talking to my wife I found out that this had been going on for hours. The deafening music was punctuated regularly by an incredible bang that would shake the house. Pictures had fallen off our walls. She had called our neighbour several times to no avail, so I went over to tell them to turn it down. After some hefty knocking the door opened to reveal a grown man I had never seen before, standing in his underwear, drenched in sweat. I mean sweat was dripping from his nose and earlobes, and running in rivulets down his heaving chest. He opened the door and said, ‘Hey man, are we being too loud?’ And I said, ‘Ya man, you are.’ And he said, ‘Sorry bro, just wrestling. Almost done.’ And then he ran back down the hall like a kid who was missing out on cake, and the door closed in my face. It was too funny to be mad about. One of my sons was born in that apartment, which was special too, but that wrestling party…”
High Ceilings is the first new music from Kennedy in four years. In addition to writing and performing, he is also an accomplished visual artist and a full-time father to three children.
“It has taken me four years to release new music for a few reasons,” said Kennedy. “I don’t do much in a rush, I enjoy life too much. I also enjoy editing too much. There is much less anxiety wrapped up in creating than there is in releasing, so I tip the scales toward creation, for the betterment of my daily life.
“The other factor, and it’s a big one, is that I moved here four years ago and took on the job of being a stay-at-home parent to my two tiny children. In those four years we have added one more tiny child to the mix. It has taken me this long to figure out how to get enough ideas out of my head to keep me from going totally insane, whilst being a present, and (mostly) pleasant parent to my kids. And I’ve had to learn to forgive myself for shortcomings on both sides of that line. I like to say that I’ve been keeping the gears greased for a time when I could hit the road running again. I may not be there yet, but I’m excited to drop a few tunes along the way.”
High Ceilings is out today.
Words and music by Graeme Kennedy
Produced & Engineered by Shawn Bradley
Pedal Steel by Asa Brosius
Artwork by Graeme Kennedy