A fluid group, Coldwater Road is a one-to-seven piece Vancouver folk band inspired by musicians like Willie Nelson and The Decemberists. Coldwater Road focuses on musical storytelling, making their music lyrically compelling.
Coldwater Road participated in the 2013 Peak Performance Project, have toured Alberta and British Columbia, and enjoy busking on Granville Island. Their first studio album The Woods was released this past July (our review can be read here).
We talked to lead-vocalist, Patrick Spencer, about their recent trip to Los Angeles, what would improve the Vancouver music community, the process of recording The Woods, and more.
G: Lets start off simple, what is it like to see Coldwater Road perform live?
PS: You are going to get some foot-stomping, some love ballads, and maybe a little gun-slinging depending on the local lawmen. With one to seven players, the show is always changing up and every performance is a little unique.
G: Tell us a little about your recent trip to Los Angeles.
PS: A friend of mine from high-school recently got married in LA. The groom works in film and music production and for their wedding they hosted three bands (Coldwater Road, The Mother Jones Band, and Zach Deputy) and threw a wedding festival at the South Coast Botanical Gardens in Palos Verdes. The stage and sound was nothing shy of festival quality, and we danced the day away in our own private meadow, it was surreal. My bandmate, Charles, and I drove down the coast, performning on the street whenever we needed a break from the car. Portland was particularly supportive, as well as Monterey, California. Highlight of the trip was driving through the Redwood Forest and feeling at home in the stunning old growth. We ate burritos for every meal, quite happily I have to say.
G: You were in the 2013 Peak Performance Project, how did this affect your promotion process, performance, and success?
PS: PPP103 was intense and focused on using social media more efficiently. I continue to struggle with some of these tools and media platforms because they don't give me the same instant satisfaction that live performance does. I am more drawn to person interactions with a handful of strangers over sending messages to hundreds of computers. However, with the PPP, I recognize that this work is essential for the future of the band. Now that I've learned more about the work that needs to be done, I have had an easier time finding the right support team to help me. With some help outside the band, I have been able to enjoy music again like when I first started performing. I've gained a better understanding that this process can be overwhelming and the most important thing to do is to enjoy playing music everyday, and tick boxes when you can.
G: Tell us about The Woods, what was the recording process like?
PS: I had a professor once explain that it is possible for a project to be high quality, cheap, and fast - but you can only pick two out of the three. We didn't have a huge budget for recording this album, so admittedly it took the better part of a year to finish. We recorded the drums and bass live at The China Cloud and one of my roommates and bandmates at the time, Steven Beddall, recorded the remainder in our home studio. We had made recordings in the past that were amazing, but at the end of the day, did not sound like our band on stage. For The Woods we didn't want to do too much, but rather let the storytelling come through.
G: Are there any recurring themes on The Woods you'd like to discuss?
PS: Love-lost is a recurring theme in a lot of these songs, as well as imagining or daydreaming ways to fix it. As a young songwriter, heartbreak seems to be a very accessible subject to write about, at least it was for me. Some of the songs from the album have been around for a while, but they seemed to fit well with some of the newer ones like Dear Eurydice, and The Woods. I wrote the title track about my Great Aunt Claire who was married for the first time at age 16. Aspiring to be an actor during the Great Depression, she was whisked off to live in a small cabin in a logging camp on Vancouver Island where her new husband Jack found a job as a treefaller. She died a few years ago, a celebrated radio and T.V. actor out of Toronto, and I learned more about her life in a Globe and Mail article.
G: What are 5 things Coldwater Road can't live without?
PS: Busking. Performing on the street, especially in Vancouver, is a great way to reach a diverse audience from all around the world. Not only have I distributed hundreds of CD's to different corners of the globe, I've been able to practice my showmanship in front of a constantly rotating audience and been paid for it in strange and wonderful coins.
My bicycle trailer. Few things make me more angry than waiting in tragic, and unless Vancouver is underwater, I like to ride my gear to shows and to Granville Island where I perform multiple times a week.
Harmonica on at least two songs on the set list. I started playing the mouth organ before I picked up a guitar, and despite the plethora of instruments at our disposal, I just can't live without it.
Campfires. The reason I taught myself guitar 7 or 8 years ago was strictly to play Bob Dylan songs around the campfire. Without these wonderful orbs of social gathering, we would be utterly lost.
Animals. All shapes and sizes, but particularly the canine and equine varieties. Animals keep us honest and grounded and present, and I feel truly sorry for folks who are not able to mingle with our furry friends on a regular basis.
G: What are your favourite places to hangout in Vancouver?
PS: I'm a multi-tasker. If I'm hanging out to eat, Budgie's Burritos. If we're hanging out to hear some music, The Biltmore Cabaret. Hanging out in the fresh, fresh air, anywhere along those glorious 22KM of Vancouver seawall. Hanging out between busking sets, flagpole hill on Granville Island - my favourite place to hangout on this planet, so far.
G: How do you think the Canadian music scene is seen internationally?
PS: The timing on this question is impeccable. The band traveled to New York this past spring and when we were there a good friend shared his thoughts with us on this very subject. He said something like, "The Canadian music scene doesn't seem to have much of a middle ground between Rush and Neil Young. It's like balls to the wall prog' or three chords." It's funny... Because it's true?
G: Last, what do you think Vancouver can improve upon to create a better music community?
PS: This town needs more all-ages music venues. Not only should the city be hosting more accessible events in our myriad of outdoor spaces, we should start small. We have a great coffee culture here in Vancouver, and I think we could do a better job at bolstering these coffee joints with more love performance. In my experience, coffee time is just a great time to take a load off, put the phone down and just breathe for a little while. I think the guitar slingers and caffeine junkies could really help each other out. Starbucks aligned themselves with music years ago, selling CD's at the til. I think the independent chains could one-up them and bring the real performer in to share with the contemplative and thirsty crowd.
G: Thank you for chatting with us!