Toronto-based roots outfit The Young Novelists are touring their latest album, Made Us Strangers, released in April 2015. The six-piece have edged aside their Ian & Sylvia-like vibes for a snappier sound. Frontman and acoustic guitarist Graydon James says they wanted to create a band album; a more integrated feel rather than previous recordings, which showcased James and his wife, singer Laura Spink’s hamonics. The band was originally called Graydon James and The Young Novelists, but James, (an actual published novelist), chose, I’m guessing, to have everyone on the same page so to speak.
“I know I consciously wanted to make an album that sounded more like a full band album,” says James, “and I think we had a bit more comfort as a group so that everyone felt like they knew their role a bit more and could step up when they wanted to and craft a part that really fit well, or step back when they wanted to and let their be more space. And probably having Carlin Nicholson (Zeus) as our producer helped us channel a bit more of a classic rock feel than we normally do, and that was a good stretch. I think working with him increased our sonic palette by more than a few shades.”
Also adding the various shades were Alex Dodd on piano, organ, John Law on acoustic and electric guitar, Shawn Jurek on bass and vocals and Michael Paddage on drums/ percussion
For a frontman James, oddly, started out behind the kit following a family tradition but over time gravitated to the storytelling tradition of folk and bluegrass guitar to express himself.
“My dad played drums and we had drums in our house, so when I started making music it was by putting headphones on, listening to an album, and trying to play along with it. Thankfully we lived way out in the country and no one could hear me. In high school me and my friends started writing joke songs about our teachers and classmates; terrible, terrible songs that should never see the light of day, but I think that was my first experience realizing that people can write songs. It took me a while to write something serious, though,” he says.
That something became an EP, a debut album, a live album and The Young Novelists. Plus working the skins for a variety of other bands as well as his published work. He clearly has the Southern Ontario work ethic down pat, an asset in a business that requires more and more perseverance. He also has the desire to learn, and better not others, but his own work he says.
“I think there is a certain catharsis to the creative process, getting something finished and sort of dusting your hands off and saying, ‘Well, there's that...’ And there is a certain enjoyment I get from playing music with people. Something in me seeks out that feeling of creating together in that moment as a group. And I think I have a drive to someday write a song that I think is up to snuff, because I don't think I've written one yet that is and I'm not sure if I ever will. Those things add up, although I'm not sure that entirely explains why I keep going or creating,” he says.
But what he does say keeps him going and creating is a marriage of sounds, of making the right connections between the various elements of songwriting.
“I think it's the confluence of particular stimuli; not to get to esoteric about it. I started out as a drummer so I definitely have an appreciation for a rhythm that catches you and makes you move, even involuntarily. I also love harmonies and the way voices can blend together and touch on a dozen different emotions. And I love language and lyrics, things that make you re-think experiences and elucidate something in a way that is new. So I think a great song gives me a lot of joy in a lot of different ways, and that's what has me hooked,” he says.
Hooked on the feeling as they say, integrated as a band now.