Tony Dekker Talks about Great Lake Swimmers’ upcoming Album & Tour

The Subject: Tony Dekker
How Do You Know Subject:
Lead in the band Great Lake Swimmers
Subject’s Reason for Speaking: Album “Lost Channels” being released March 31, 2009
Why Do We Care: Because it’s the Great Lake Swimmers new Album, damn it!

So Tony Dekker has been a good sport for a few blogs and offered up some interview time to bat around a bit of “Q & A”.  Well with the new album spinning on the proverbial playlists around Slowcoustic HQ for a few weeks, I have waited on posting this interview until a bit closer to the actual release date and launch of the tour.  Well, this is close enough, the tour has started, and the album will be out in a couple of weeks.

The “Lost Channels” album is still new to me, and while I do enjoy it immensely, I feel it is the start of a new chapter for GLS.  If anyone has been following Tony & Co. for the last few years – you will find that what I consider their signature sound, seems to be melding with a more modern full band approach.  This evolution of the band is often necessary to grow and this new album has shown much growth for these Canadian Icons.  Do not fret, there is still the signature hushed deliver of Dekker on many tracks (New Light, Concrete Heart) along with transitional songs (Palmistry and Everything Is Moving So Fast) to the full newer sound (She Comes To Me In Dreams and The Chorus in The Underground).

The album finds great folk roots at its heart, but it brings with it the flowering of blue grass and even countrified slide guitar.  In listening, you could place the songs on different sides of the same coin (if not a vinyl release) as you might almost feel it being two EPs, fused into a full solid release.  While I will always enjoy the lone acoustic GLS, there is something to be said for the ability to flex your sound to something that might possibly “rock the house” at any specific moment.  I am sure the live show is going to be spectacular, especially for this album.  Well enough, lets hit the recording backstory then follow it with interview below!

Backstory on the recording of the album:

“…their fourth album set for release on March 31st, finds them once again recording at historic locations. This time in the Thousand Islands region of Ontario and New York state, telling tales of hidden histories, still “mining for light in the dark wells,” still “tuned to an instrument of greater and unknown design….  Dekker chooses to record in old churches, community halls, abandoned grain silos and rural locations. It’s easy to hear why. His voice doesn’t need any studio embellishment, standing at its strongest when bathed in natural reverb and enriched by the historical context surrounding it.”


Tony Dekker Interview:

Slow:  Being a Canadian Blogger, I don’t consider it a label but consider it a part of my persona, do you see Great Lake Swimmers as a “Canadian Band”?

TD:  I like to think there is something Canadian in what we do, especially in that a lot of the songwriting centres around themes of the natural world. I love being in Canada and living here. But I think that music and ideas don’t necessarily have borders.

Slow:  What was the point where you decided “This is my life, I am a musician now”?

TD:  July 14th, 2008. We opened for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in Toronto, and after the show Robert Plant shook my hand and told me I had a great voice. After that I figured that I was in the right line of work.

Slow:  Musically, what was the key inspiration for “Lost Channels”?

TD:  I had been listening to the songs of the original Carter Family quite a bit and was fascinated by their ability to get a full idea into a 3 minute song. I wanted to use the medium of the song to try to get a concise thought in a relatively small amount of space. I wasn’t always able to do that but that was one of the inspirations.

Slow:  I noticed there is a few more “up tempo” tracks on the album, is this a progression for GLS, or is this just something that was needed on this release?

TD:  After I had finished writing the songs, I think that I was more open to the collaborative process in figuring out the instrumentation. It was interesting to me to watch the songs transform from guitar and voice to the way they ended up. It wasn’t a overly conscious thing but just how it developed.

Slow:  I know you are now touring in support of the new album, what keeps you going while on tour?

TD:  Staying healthy, trying to eat right and being surrounded by good people definitely helps.

Slow:  What are your favorite places to play? Remember I am from Calgary and you are here March 26th…. ;-)

TD:  My favorite place to play in Calgary on March 26th is Grace Presbyterian Church. But seriously, there a number of places that I also really like, such as the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, QC and the Aeolian Hall in London, ON.

Slow:  What artists do you enjoy and do they influence your songwriting/crafting?

TD:  I’ve been listening to the new Timber Timbre record a lot lately – it’s amazing. I also listen to a lot of old country and folk records, like the Louvin Brothers, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, and Hank Williams. I listen to these records as a music appreciator, so I wouldn’t say that they necessarily influence my songwriting.

Slow:  Your album is released on March 31st, what albums are you most looking forward to this year?

TD:  I haven’t really been keeping tabs on what’s being released this year. New records by Will Johnson are always appreciated though.

Slow:  The first song I truly loved by GLS was “Moving Pictures Silent Films” – I know we all listen and decide we know what it is about, but what is it truly about?

TD:  If I told you what it was about, it would sort of ruin it, wouldn’t it?

Slow:  Thank you Tony, to end, name something you want readers to know about GLS?

TD:  Come see us play on this tour – we’re really excited to be on the road again, and the band is in fine form!

There you have it.  Visit Great Lake Swimmers on their Website and MySpace.  Check the dates for the tour folks, they just might be visiting a location close and there isn’t any reason you should not be there.  Now, just to pick up the “Lost Channels” Bonus Material EP…