Saint-Jack’s JE Sheehy talks about the influences that led to his latest EP, Acadie Truck.
Moncton musician JE Sheehy embraces the liberties that come with having a solo project. As a member of several bands including Deep Fryer, Beard Springsteen, The Trick and High Street Boys, Sheehy knows the limitation of experimentation that often exist in a group setting. Everyone needs to be onboard or else the boat just isn’t going to float. But that’s not the case when it comes to making music as a solo musician.
On his latest release Acadie Truck, the follow-up to Saint-Jack’s debut EP, Birmingham, Sheehy leaves behind the synth leads and electro influences that initially formed the project’s backbone and instead, he drops the tempo and cranks the amps.
We asked Sheehy to chat a bit about this change in direction and how it came to be.
Acadie Truck introduces a new sound for this project. What can you tell us about the influences behind this new EP?
Oh man. Yes! Saint-Jack was born out of an unreleased Off Season album, which has always been more influenced by electro punk, anthemic pop, etc, but once I started writing new songs for Saint-Jack I was naturally going more towards an Americana/grittier sound. I’m definitely going back towards some of my more folk and punk influences. In French, I was listening to a lot of early Avec pas d’casque, Richard Desjardins and Plume Latraverse, whereas in English, I’ve been on a big Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams and Uncle Tupelo. It definitely shows.
Defining what I wanted to do with this project was definitely a challenge while I was writing the first songs of Saint-Jack, but gradually, I ended up with a very organic and authentic sound that really gathers all the different things I do well: strong accessible melodies, lyrics which are as funny as they are sad, and a more urgent and punk delivery.
Would you say this is a major benefit of having a solo project? Being able to shift gears and musical directions on a whim is certainly a plus.
Yep, it gives me more room to explore and figure something out. I think it also makes that process faster and more drastic at times. All of my other bands are evolving in a very natural way since everyone contributes something to the sound and shape of our music. In a solo project, the changes that people hear might seem like a dramatic departure, but on the other end I’m also influenced by outside factors. I didn’t play a single Saint-Jack show before recording Birmingham and after playing live quite a lot, my approach to performing definitely kicked in and shaped my songwriting. I also did a songwriting residency in Quebec last summer which had some impact on how I approach this whole thing. So as much as it seems like I did a 180 turn overnight from Birmingham to Acadie Truck, there’s a nice and constant evolution, from those songs, to some material which I wrote but won’t necessarily be playing live or recording, to this. Plus the other thing, by being a solo project, it also means it’s a very personal and solitary endeavour, so it’s probably easier to express certain things in a very specific way or sound. Makes sense?
Do you think Saint-Jack will continue to explore new (to you) territory on future releases or is it too early to say?
This project will always evolve, but I feel like I’ll be building more on the sound of Acadie Truck instead of departing from it. As I mentioned earlier, there’s been a steady evolution which ended up bringing me to this way of expressing myself and it’s something that fits my vision for Saint-Jack. Now, I want to take all these good things and work on them and make them the best that I can. As much as I don’t necessarily have a big final destination in mind, I do have an idea of the path I want to take.
In my day job as a radio host, I get to talk with musicians about what they do, and often, as cliché as it sounds, change is the only constant in songwriting. The challenge is more to find a common thread through everything, so I want to spend time crafting the latter, instead of going from one extreme through another. Plus, I’ve got different bands keeping me busy which gives me room to do that kind of stuff.
Acadie Truck was released August 25, 2017.