Bry Webb’s solo work charts the hopes and fears of fatherhood
by Chris Morin
When Bry Webb first stepped away from making music with his much-beloved band Constantines, it was because he wanted to start a family.
Now, that family is the reason the Guelph musician writes.
Webb found a burst of inspiration after the birth of his son Asa. A year after the Cons announced their hiatus, Webb released his first solo album, Provider. A soft-spoken LP filled with minimal acoustic folk, Webb rejoices in fatherhood with a newfound lullaby-softness.
But he’s on a bit of a different road with his follow-up, Free Will.
“The first solo album I did was made when I was in a very blissful state of life over our son, and that he arrived healthy,” says Webb. “Watching him discover the world was really beautiful.
“For us, or me anyway, one year after that blissed-out state, it changes,” he says. “I saw him start to be aware of the world outside the house and our little family unit. And I started to get more anxious and fearful and outwardly critical and even angry about things he was going to have to face in his life. So there’s more of that on the record — less idealism and more darkness.
“I guess it’s bringing fear and paranoia back into folk music.”
Webb’s latest material is stark and subtle, but no less tense or haunting than his past work. Free Will is full of light, atmospheric drones and countrified lap steel flourishes. His rough-hewn, blue-collared vocals are dialed back, opting for melody over indie-rock mayhem.
But it’s not all nods to dad-rock: Free Will contains a couple of delicious bursts of noise and pedal-play, a brief glimmer of sonic boom that Webb says was the result of a collaboration with fellow Constantine Will Kidman.
“I’m not inclined to make a folk record in the purest tradition at all,” he says. “I like more singular songwriters. I’m trying to do something that’s more distinct and has its own voice. And I really like guitar feedback: I prefer it over a guitar solo, and adding that to the song seemed to take it in an interesting place.
“That came from Will Kidman, who was living in Haida Gwaii at the time. I hadn’t seen much of him in the last several years. He was in town when we were making the record, and I picked him up. We drove into Toronto and had an evening of hanging out, and the feedback was a bit of a look back onto our own past days together.”
Webb and his bandmates in Constantines have since made a triumphant return back to the stage, and have announced a string of tour dates in Western Canada. While they’re mostly testing the waters right now, Webb says he’s interested in pursuing the reunion further — and while new recordings aren’t yet planned, they are a possibility.
“A year ago — six months even — the Constantines wasn’t even a possibility or a part of any our lives. I know that we all mean a lot to one another; it was always a family feeling within the band. We were all anxious about being able to pull it off, but even on the first day when we first started to play together again, it was there and we could feel that muscle memory kick back in and the sonic memory return.
“I didn’t know people still cared about this until long after we had stopped playing. It’s really nice to know that there’s still an audience, and that the band meant something to people.”