Pretend you’re in a quiet corner of a dark bar, with a full beer on the table and nothing but time on your hands. Then settle in to read this very candid interview with musician Christopher Cape. He delves deep into the struggles of making a meaningful place for art in one’s life and the sacrifices that are made to pursue a passion. From drug-fueled writing sessions to online dating, this interview is heartbreaking, encouraging, funny and totally worth the 10 minutes it will take you to finish.
Stream his album, The Biggest Lie, here while you read: http://christophercape.bandcamp.com/
First off, from where do you make your music?
The Portland of Canada. Guelph, Ontario
So you used to be in a band and now you’re on your own. What’s different about being a solo musician? Will you be looking for a band soon?
I miss my band, we had some amazing times…three in the morning curbside pizza parties, smoking weed till we couldn’t feel our legs, and, of course, playing music together. It is really nice when you are on stage and people have your back. A band makes it easier for the audience to understand and get behind your songs. When the arrangements of songs are filled out with various instruments they become more palpable to the listener. There is so much more power and energy with a band. On the other hand, going solo is so much easier to organize. I never have to worry if people can or can’t make it to the show/practice. Plus, I get to play so many different types of venues on my own as well. More house, campfire, and backyard shows in my life seems like a step in the right direction.
I’ve been craving playing music with others…
Ran into this character, who has come to see me play a few times, today. I was on my way to the teashop and he stopped me and just started babbling non-sequential stuff about his life. Out of the blue, he just started telling me to try to find people at the local university to play music with. Then he told me to move to Hollywood or L.A. to find musicians. He is normally pretty unstable, mentally, but was being very coherent in telling me about how, “if I was serious, I should move to California to play music.” This conversation has been fucking with me all night. The last two months have been a struggle trying to figure out what to do with this album. This is my last year teaching rock climbing in Guelph, and I need to move somewhere. California has been the somewhere that keeps coming back to me.
One weird thing that I noticed about being a solo artist is the amount of friends that I end up making after a show. I must be way more approachable. I like that aspect a lot. Someone said to me it is because I am a Gemini and I enjoy being social. If it is in the stars, who am I to disagree?
Do you do music full time?
HaHa. Such a loaded question. I feel most musicians would say that they work three jobs. One being the craft of making music, two, the marketing of your project, and three, the other job that you use to pay the bills. I spend as much time as I can playing, usually starting when I first wake up and ending the day, before bed, with my guitar. I think that the dream of making money at music is why there might be so many heartbroken/jaded musicians in the world. The idea of making money off this album is something I am really struggling to let go of. It’s the business of music that makes people stop playing music. I am people, and I am trying to keep a healthy perspective on this release. That being said, it seems that daily I have to beat down the dreams of being a rock star and traveling the world for music. It is something that has been ingrained in us since the first time we pick up a guitar or paintbrush or any other artistic pursuit and decide to create something. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t being truthful. Good luck to all us deadbeat artists out there. Don’t give up the struggle.
How long did it take you to complete this album?
The album took two years to finish. The first year was spent writing new songs for a solo EP that I wanted to release after the band I was in called it quits. People need to get on with their lives and music isn’t always the thing they want to keep getting it on with. I went into the studio February, 2012, full time. Stopped working, stopped partying, just the producer and me recording and mixing.
I shopped the EP around and it got picked up by a small European label, but they wanted a full-length to release. I went back into the lab to create some new songs, went back into a different studio, with a different producer and some friends. Recorded, mixed and mastered a finished full-length for European release.
Problems arose when the deal they were offering turned out to be so horrible. Thinking back on it actually brings tears to my eyes. The fact that I sacrificed a lot of important family troubles to complete the album and make the release deadline, while they were just trying to take advantage of me has really pulled the carpet out from me. They emailed me again a couple weeks ago, and we still couldn’t find a happy medium. Maybe they thought I had become desperate releasing it on my own? Fuck it, it is way more punk rock to self-release anyway. Right? Also way more work to do too.
It is so strange to think that the single off the album “Divorcee” would never had been made if the label hadn’t spurred me on to write more songs for a full-length release. The world works in strange ways, I find myself blindsided when I think I have it figured out.
Who’s in your CD player or playlist rotation right now?
That seems like such an important question. I just joined an online dating site, for purely anthropological research, and the profile question about the music that I listened to was the the hardest question to answer.
YouTube these songs, if you are feeling them we can be friends for sure. If not, well, lets just put some time in and make the friendship happen anyways.
Shy Fx: Soon come
Midlake: Roscoe-Beyond the Wizards Sleeve, remix
Jessie Ware and Sampha: Valentine
OV Wright: I’ll Take Care of You
Syl Johnson: I Hear The Love Chimes
Ben Howard: Black Flies
Fugazi: Waiting Room
When and where do you write songs? Do you have a process or a preference on how things go down?
The first six months of this year for me were spent in a huge drugged out haze. Just an absolute stupor. I couldn’t handle what life was dealing me. I was creating songs everyday, writing down ideas on napkins and cigarette packs and losing them the next day. It felt really cathartic and therapeutic, just spending every evening going through my brain and making music out of what I found. Whether it was good music or not, who knows? I quit smoking cigarettes and weed this summer and it has taken me up until now to remember what it was like to write sober, or at the very least, moderately intoxicated.
I feel like every time I start to get a method or plan for writing music, any aspect, it starts to get shitty. The moment I have an equation for musical output it stops becoming musical. There is a kind of magic to playing music without a plan, just letting the chaos take over. For me that is always where the best stuff happens. When you can write a song that continually sounds fresh and unrehearsed every time it is played live, no matter how many times you play it.
I think one thing that has really helped me is to always write down ideas, whether lyrical or musical, while they are happening, is this story of Joe Strummer. He went into the studio to record some new songs and pulled out a handful of scrap papers. He had compiled this mass of paper in the previous months, writing down different lyrics and ideas for songs as they came to him. Instead of starting and finishing a song, then moving onto the next, he chose to work organically. I think the better a songwriter gets, the more they recognize when they are in that magic space where great ideas just seem to flow. It isn’t so much working hard to make a great song but relaxing enough to let that song to come out of you when it is time. I think the same could be said for all artists, any medium.
Do you tour? How is that life? Should we be expecting you in San Diego soon?
I haven’t been on a tour in two years, and to be completely honest, I miss it so much. I have been working on this album the whole time and it feels like it has been crushing me a bit. All I have had time for is a few local shows a month. The touring life is awesome. I feel like a cowboy living in the wild west, minus the brutal violence and meat eating. I plan on making a tour happen in February of 2014, I just haven’t decided where yet. The idea of driving across the frozen tundra of Canada, in my poor little diesel Volkswagen, sounds scary. Does that statement make me soft?
I would love to come out to the San Diego/West Coast area. If anyone reading this wants to have me play a house/backyard show where they live, send me an email. I will drive wherever. I want to live like a hobo again. I have really been excited about driving to Oregon and hitting up all the sweet skateparks as well. It seems that in every forest an amazing bowl resides. Even just a road trip, all I need is destinations. I want to try and keep this album/tour as far away from mass marketing and spam as possible. There is nothing worse than going to see an artist, who’s album has really changed you for the better, only to find out they are a douche bag trying to sell you something. Not to say that if you work in sales you’re a douche, cuz you’re not 🙂
Get in touch with Chris on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/christophercapemusic