Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Old Man Canyon

Old Man Canyon
Jett Pace constantly evolves and finds himself through his song.

Although frequently celebrated for the placement of his songs in various acclaimed television programs from Suits to Shameless, the Vancouver native’s true accomplishment is his evolution and self-discovery that includes experimentation with hip-hop alongside Colyn Cameron from Wake Owl to his current project with Old Man Canyon. After releasing his debut EP ‘Phantoms & Friends’, Pace is still after the idea of satisfaction and expanding his sound into territory that separates himself from the man that was initially billed at the Winnipeg Folk Festival this weekend.

In the early morning of the Festival, during which he performed alongside the likes of Bry Webb of The Constantines, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Corb Lund in various workshops, Pace joined us to discuss his struggles with identifying himself and working with Danger Mouse.

AMBY: What are your thoughts on the whole folk reemergence? Where it seems in this post-Mumford world that the care for music has reemerged.

OLD MAN CANYON: I think it came from a lack in any real meaning behind what the music was trying to say, the lyrics, the overall feel of where the music scene was going. I think it was a very stagnant point where people just wanted to hear something that told a story and that had a melody again, that you could sing along with. I think that is kind of what instigated the whole folk reemergence is just that kind of desire to experience real music.

AMBY: Is that something that you thought you would be doing when you were in The Magi Three?

OLD MAN CANYON: (LAUGHS) We always sung choruses when we were rapping, so I guess that was kind of the part we liked the most. The rap kind of faded away.

AMBY: Do you intentionally blend any of those ideologies into your projects?

OLD MAN CANYON: I think so, yeah. I think that the musical part in hip-hop is pretty sweet. I definitely find myself using that a lot and singing on over, so I don’t know. It’s definitely stuck with me.

AMBY: Any hip-hop shows or performers that you’ve taken note of?

OLD MAN CANYON: I saw Shad not too long ago, he’s really good. I love Shad. I haven’t been to too many hip-hop shows lately.

AMBY: That line between what is folk and what is hip-hop or rap is not too far off.

OLD MAN CANYON: It’s not really too far off at all, no. I mean, that’s what rap was. It was folk music for the folks.

AMBY: Reading earlier, you mentioned that part of this Old Man Canyon project’s intention was to find confidence in yourself. Have you reached that point yet?

OLD MAN CANYON: I don’t think that I have, quite yet. I mean, for myself yeah, but not for the people that I am surrounded by. It takes a while to find the right people to create the same vision of you and the band with you. It started all from me just writing some songs and trying to find the right people to bring it to life. It’s kind of an ongoing process.

AMBY: Do you feel like that point of satisfaction is attainable?

OLD MAN CANYON: I hope so man, I hope so.

AMBY: Do you ever take time to wonder that when you reach that, figuring out what to aim for next?

OLD MAN CANYON: I don’t know. Maybe it will always feel kind of out of reach. I guess that is what keeps you reaching for something greater. I don’t know.

AMBY: How do you keep yourself from escaping from getting frustrated, not reaching that?

OLD MAN CANYON: That’s a good question. A lot of the time, I guess I probably don’t. (LAUGHS) I’m just frustrated. I think you just have to keep writing and keep trying to explore your sound and try and add elements and dynamics that hopefully get closer to that ideal that you have in your mind.

AMBY: A question I’ve asked a lot, wonder what your take on it would be. Do you feel like you could take that album that you feel creatively satisfied with, bury it away for nobody to hear and still be satisfied yourself?

OLD MAN CANYON: Make an album and nobody to hear it? Yeah. I think that’d be the truest art form. There is a crazy dragon fly on you! Oh, now it’s gone. Yeah, that’d be the craziest. That’s like the zen gardens, the huge ones that they’ll spend weeks doing their beautiful design and artwork and then they’ll just destroy it that day. There is something beautiful in not needing recognition for your creation. Not needing that ego, like “Yeah. I made this! Love me for it.” But, I probably won’t do that. (LAUGHS)

AMBY: Is it the audience that keeps you going to fulfill what you are desiring, ultimately?

OLD MAN CANYON: Half of the vision is to learn why it is that I am creating this art, what it is that I am really trying to host as an experience for the listeners and myself and what ideas that I am trying to get across to people. I think that’s half of it. And the other half is obviously performing it, because you have to host that space, but that is a whole other beast that I still have not quite mastered.

AMBY: Do you remember the moment that you started feeling that way, when it came into full realization for you?

OLD MAN CANYON: I think as soon as you start performing, as soon as you start playing shows you have to realize really quickly what needs to happen and for it to be a more genuine experience. I think you just have to experiment and push the boundaries and get out of your comfort zone and try different things.

AMBY: How do you find that when you’re in isolation working on your record?

OLD MAN CANYON: I don’t know. When I wrote the EP, I wasn’t really visualizing performing it. I was at this weird place where I didn’t even know if it was going to do anything or if it was going to be something. In that sense, when I started performing it, it was kind of not perfect for how I envisioned performing music because I wasn’t thinking about performing it when I wrote the songs. So these new songs that I have been writing and all of this new material that I will hopefully get out soon is much more centred around the live performance and making sure that it is more on point.

AMBY: Are these entirely songs that you have written since releasing that EP or are there some songs from before?

OLD MAN CANYON: They’re all new and they’re all very different. I have been playing some of these at this festival, they’re very not folky anymore.

AMBY: Do you feel like you’re violating some kind of unwritten law here or something?

OLD MAN CANYON: Kind of, yeah. Yesterday, it was kind of like, this is synth-pop now.

AMBY: What led you into that direction? Was it thinking about the live aspect?

OLD MAN CANYON: It was more of the live aspect and I just kind of, not that I got tired of folk, but it was just because so many bands were doing this acoustic guitar strumming, harmony blasting sort of vibe. I didn’t get sick of it. It takes to find the sound you really are going for, sometimes you have to experiment with other genres that pop up. I’m kind of at this disco-folk place, where a lot of it is more rhythm-based with no more acoustic guitars. It is all electric guitars.

AMBY: Are you listening to music that is different than before?

OLD MAN CANYON: Definitely, yeah. I don’t listen to any folk music really, anymore. I’m listening to a lot of Michael Jackson, Prince and that kind of stuff and obviously The Beatles. I’m just trying to mesh those, that authentic kind of vibey, dancey experience.

AMBY: Are there plans to record differently this time around?

OLD MAN CANYON: Oh yeah. It’s going to be very different, I think.

AMBY: What do you have planned? Hide away somewhere?

OLD MAN CANYON: Yeah, that’s kind of what I want to do. There’s a couple of producers that had some interest, like Danger Mouse. But I don’t know. Part of me wants to do it on my own. I did an audio engineering school a few years ago, so I understand the recording process pretty well. I have a little studio.

AMBY: How did that go about, did Danger Mouse call you up one day?

OLD MAN CANYON: My manager is really good friends with his manager, so it is all intermingling where people hear stuff. I don’t know. He’s so influential when he produces an album, I love his stuff and you can tell what he produces.

AMBY: But you don’t want to have your own self taken away in that?

OLD MAN CANYON: Exactly. Exactly. We’ll see man, but I don’t know.

AMBY: Some people could be so tempted by that though, by the name “Danger Mouse” – I’m in! How do you control that urge?

OLD MAN CANYON: I just try and feel what feels right.

AMBY: If you listen to his Broken Bells project, that sounds like what you’re talking about with the disco-folk.

OLD MAN CANYON: Oh yeah. I think they’ve been kind of a big influence on me in the past and some of the new stuff as well. I just want to create. I write all my own, do my own demoes and what I do is play all of the instruments, alone in my basement in my studio. Then I bring it to the band and they just expand the parts, because I’m not too good at drums and bass. But the demoes are almost sounding at the point where I almost want to release the demoes. It is also nice to have a producer that has a different outlook on your songs and hears things that you don’t hear and wants to bring little parts out. I’d like to maybe get a producer to maybe hide out with me in this cottage and be more open to sharing.

AMBY: Or do it up Yeezus style, complete it yourself then drop it off at Rick Rubin’s house to strip it down.

OLD MAN CANYON: Yeah, is that what he did? I’d be down for something like that too.

AMBY: Just to get one last thing from you – What would be three summer records or songs specifically for this summer that people should be listening to?

OLD MAN CANYON: Let me think. ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, I don’t know if you’ve heard any of them. Really good. Really good song. I’ve been listening to a lot of MGMT lately, surprisingly again. ‘Electric Feel’ is always good. And then Father John Misty, I’ve been listening to ‘Nancy’. That’s a great song.

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Thank you Old Man Canyon, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Colton Eddy |

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