Tag Archives: Jane Siberry

Scott Merritt Emerges From The Cottage

by Bill Monahan (photo courtesy of Randy Sutherland)

If you are someone who recognizes the name Scott Merritt as a songwriter of promise from the 1980’s who toured with Jane Siberry and recorded with Daniel Lanois, then it’s as if you’ve been let in on a special secret.

Despite releasing only three albums in the past twenty-five years, Scott Merritt is still considered one of Canada’s best and most underappreciated singer-songwriters.

After some commercial airplay of his early songs, he was signed to Duke Street in Canada and IRS Records internationally.  Unfortunately both labels folded not long afterward.   A legal mess with IRS prevented him from recording for several years but he wasn’t entirely frustrated with the situation.  He hadn’t been particularly comfortable being marketed as a commodity.

“Yeah, my hands were tied, but I wasn’t in much of a mood to raise a stink to be honest,” he explained to Innerviews, “I had become SCOTT MERRITT in capital letters and it didn’t feel real anymore. There was a toxic feeling to it at an artistic level. So, I.R.S. had me in a position, but I wasn’t in any position to record anyway. I didn’t want to go back into that factory. I had really got to a place where it wasn’t fun and I had to promise to myself — something most of us do, but never keep — when it’s not fun to do, do something else for a while. So, at the time, the idea of a career wasn’t very attractive. I lost my taste for it.”

Since those early days, when promising record deals bloomed and withered with the vagaries of the business, Scott Merritt has spent most of his time working as a producer in his Guelph studio that he calls The Cottage.  Artists like Suzie Vinnick, Stephen Fearing, and others have made their pilgrimage to The Cottage for his producing services.

While he has released relatively few records in his career what they have in common is that every one has been greeted by effusive critical praise for an artist whose music and lyrics both come from a unique and moving place.

When he was young and riding high, Scott Merritt had a reputation and something of a guitar and effects wizard which stood alongside his reputation for evocative and poetic lyrics.  He never thought of himself as a commercial artist.  It took him by surprise when his second independent album “Serious Interference” in 1981 ended up on some commercial radio playlists and labels came calling.  The tours and awards were short-lived and strangely unsatisfying.

Immerse Yourself in Jenn Grant’s Dreams at Meaford Hall

Jenn Grant stops at Meaford Hall this Wednesday, June 21, as part of her cross-country tour to promote her latest album “Paradise”.  This new album is a sonic departure from her previous album, “Compostela”, which garnered JUNO nominations for her songwriting and Contemporary Album of the Year.  That album enjoyed international success which kept her on the road for three years.  When she returned home to Lake Echo, Nova Scotia, she began, with her songwriting collaborator and producer (and husband) Daniel Ledwell, to explore new soundscapes.  The result is a record of ethereal beauty which entrances the listener with sound while engaging you with lyrics that tug you in different directions.  Listening to it you can understand the comment from Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald that it is the “work of a painter born in paradise”.  Co-incidentally, she is a painter, often designing her own album covers.

As she told Exclaim’s Brock Thiessen, “The delivery of songs has become crucial to me. For some of these new songs, I decided to approach singing more like a whisper, to get a feel for it’s softness.”  The result is sometimes reminiscent of Jane Siberry, and it has the effect, after a few tracks of putting the listener into a pleasant quasi-dream state.  CBC has called it “intimate and otherworldly”.  She told the CBC she was inspired to write many of the songs on Paradise after waking up from lifelike dreams.

“I take a lot of inspiration from my dreams,” she says. “So a lot of songs from this record came from when I was asleep. I have so many vivid dreams that I feel like they’re half of my life.”

The first single is a track called Galaxies, of which she said, “I pictured a group of people. They may be the last remaining humans on Earth, and they are looking to the stars for answers. They are trying to find a home, because maybe Earth is not their home anymore. They’re together with their arms outstretched to the sky and they’re being called home to somewhere.”

“I feel like the more attention you give your dreams the more elaborate they become,” she told Tom Power,  “Then they become lucid dreams and incredibly vivid or kind of maybe psychic dreams. They’re like visits from people, so I think that’s tapping into another layer of creativity for me that I want to access.”

Meaford Hall provides the ultimate setting for the audience to relax into this dream world and absorb the conscious and unconscious messages that inhabit it.

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To listen to “Paradise” and browse or buy Jenn Grant’s music, click on album cover: