Interview: Preparing for our Winter Coat with Northcote

Photo Credit: Bjorn Lexius

Northcote is back with sensational new album Let Me Roar. We got to catch up with him via email and ask how he’s been making out during the pandemic and what’s inspired him over the years to keep making the magic…

Have you struggled with creativity or been more inspired during the COVID-19 pandemic?

This year my attention has been scattered to many areas. I think I am not alone in this experience. As the virus continues I am more aware of how privileged I am to be home and safe and have food in the fridge. Along with the virus, this year has also brought Racial Injustice to the foreground. Like so many others, I have spent time working internally and searching about what is important to me and how I want to act in the world.

I have explored this scattering of thoughts in song with moments of both clarity and disorientation. I have had bursts of writing and then some spells where I have focused my attention on other things in my life such as my day job, personal health, and time with my spouse and our dogs. I think creativity has been helpful this year for me in reflecting, while focus has been difficult for me to maintain.

Do you find yourself frequently writing? Even if it’s not music or lyrics, just something that you want to get written down…

Yes I make up songs throughout the week. Depending on my work schedule I will devote 2-4 blocks of focus time to start something from scratch or to edit. At the moment I am in the middle of gathering song sketches to edit and focus on, while also being open to new lyrics and melodies that inspire. So it’s an odd gathering and expanding zone for me right now. In the past few months, when I have not felt very in touch or focused in a familiar way, I have accessed songwriting for some levity, making up songs that I find funny, like songs about favourite cafes, or the idea of heli-skiing.

These days I am recording more melodies than words. In the past I have come to songs with a lyric first, and so working from melody to lyrics is a new style I am trying to learn these days.

What’s on your current playlist?

Sza, Miley Cyrus, Beverly Glenn Copeland, Ruston Kelly, Italian pop hits from the 60s (recommended by a neighbour) and Anderson Paak. I have come back to Gillian Welch lately as well. I have been going to her songs to find my bearings for a long time. My wife and I went for a long drive the other day and listened to Celine Dion. My wife is amazing at remembering lyrics, it’s unreal. While working around the apartment or getting ready for a music session I have been enjoying instrumental music, contemporary pianists and some electronic soundscape recordings.

Do you have a special warm up technique or practice method that keeps you focused and ready to go for your performances?

I have always taken moments before a show to handwrite a set list. I write the number of songs on the top of the list and circle it. Then write the name of the city where we are performing and underline that. I include option songs on the side of the set list that might help me loosen up or if I feel I am in a rut on stage and need to refocus. It used to be alcohol, jumping jacks and air punches! On the last tour we did before the virus, I found a vocal warm up and some quiet breathing helped me get into the moment, so I could open and sing as best as I could. Before going on stage to perform, a moment of togetherness is helpful. A hug with friends and the band, or some eye contact and a fist bump.

Do you perform better to a small crowd or larger crowd?

Off the top of my head, I do not know. I think in the past I have done more yelling at larger crowds and more quiet sharing with smaller crowds. I think larger shows tend to be more fast-paced while smaller shows can find a comfy rhythm of their own that is unique. Larger shows may be more planned out and smaller shows might be more suited for requests and improvisations.

What changed the most and what changed the least comparing your new album to your last release?

What has stayed the same is the instrumentation. We made the bed tracks for the record playing together with an individual controlled monitor system. This allowed Mike (drums) and I to find the feel for the song and bring in the mix of what Eric (bass) and Stephen (guitar) were writing, playing whenever we wanted to bring them in. We played the song together for long stretches and focused on different instrument voices as we went along. This was different to stacking instruments one by one. We had more of a circling method. I think this allowed the style of the players to shine through and also captured more accurately how the four of us sound together. There was additional production done to the record in mixing.

I think this record is more collaborative than previous ones and at the same time the most self-produced. We worked with Jordan Koop at Noisefloor studios in Gabriola Island, BC. He engineered the session and guided us along with choices, however it was the players who brought their voice to the record and I guess I decided when things were done and when to move on to the next pieces.

Written in the wake of a low point in Matthew Goud’s life, Let Me Roar charts his journey out of darkness. Now not quite into the light, but at peace with the messiness of the things he cannot change, this Canadian troubadour shares stories of loss, addiction, friendship, parental sacrifice and more to portray his own journey of personal growth and self-acceptance with intimacy and immediacy.

“Feeling hollow and burnt out, I entered an educational retreat on Gabriola Island, BC,” shared Goud. “In the weeks following this retreat I pulled together the material and made plans to record what would become Let Me Roar. When I think of this record, I feel frightened by that period in time and also comforted by the memories of my friends and I recording together.”

Listen to track “Streets of Gold” below…

Originally a poem, “Streets of Gold” pulls the curtain on the homelessness and ongoing opioid crisis in his hometown. Working with marginalized and at-risk communities while he’s not on the road, Goud sees all too often that property is often valued over the well-being of your neighbours.

Let Me Roar is a complete look at Goud following one of the biggest challenges of his life, and a testament to the resilience and perseverance he found within, something that’s abundantly clear on the album.