Interview: Doug Tielli
Published on October 17th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Doug Tielli missed a flight back to Toronto, set up camp in Keresley, a village and civil parish in Coventry, and wound up making a beautiful follow-up to his Swan Sky Sea Squirrel album of last year.
With our four-quail review of Keresley still hot off the press, we sought to find out more about this intriguing tale…
Congratulations on a wonderful new album. It sounds like your approach to music is not dissimilar to the way a painter approaches his canvass; improvisational, abstract, unbound by traditional structures. Is that fair to say?
Well it is certainly a nice impression to hear. I have spent a lot of time painting; most often watercolour, but for a time oils as well.
Your question reminds me of something I found as a teenager painting: it is very difficult to recreate something you found by accident! Often the time spent not knowing and exploring end up giving a lot of richness and depth to what eventually sharpens into focus and becomes an artistic discovery.
Afterwards, pleased with what I’d come up with, I would try to do it again but it would be a superficial attempt… I could not recreate all the under painting and mucking about that was beneath the surface of what I loved.
With these two records I’ve put out, I go into a song with varying degrees of clarity about how it’ll turn out… And I’m definitely open to being surprised.
Keresley was very much unplanned. The foundation was set in six hours in a studio called Far Heath. I like to really take my time and let things unfold as they may, but this recording session was exactly opposite to that.
I had a lot of ideas, and not very much time…it was a bit of maelstrom, and what I ended up leaving the studio with was a collection of songs I would never have put together if I had had the time to consider it, and those songs were the bare bones of what turned into the album.
If it were a painting it would be the kind that happens by making a sudden bit of mess and then spending a long time looking at it to see what there is to see in it, and bringing that to the fore, rather than the kind of painting in which there is a clear vision before starting.
Was ending the album with its most traditional kind of ‘song’ (“A Dream That I Am”) an intentional move?
In some ways yes and some ways no. It is quite a conventional song compared to the others. It has a very simple and heartfelt message which felt like a good way to finish, and it calms down all of the wildness of “Lovelovelove” that precedes it by being so familiar, but really it was just a matter of putting an order together that worked for all of the songs.
How did you miss the flight back to Toronto? Why did you decide to set up residence in Keresley, and how did you go about it?
I had been in England for over a month playing a few shows with Two Wings, and a few on my own in Finland and Estonia. I had some downtime and decided to go back to Estonia for a week to reconnect with a friend I had met there. When I did so, I borrowed a bag from Rich who runs the record label Tin Angel which puts out my records; he lives in Keresley and he hosts me when I am in England too, so that answers the second part of the question.
All went according to plan and I had repacked my luggage from Rich’s bag and was getting on the bus at 4:30 am, when, as I was throwing my bag on to the bus I knew that my passport wasn’t in it. I got on the bus anyway, emptied my bag just to be sure, and there was no passport in it.
The driver let me off at a petrol station a half hour down the road just before dawn and after a while of waiting around, a very generous man named Ganesh (quite an auspicious name; the Hindu deity known to remove obstacles) stopped and, although he was going in the opposite direction, offered me a lift back to Coventry.
A week later I had a dream about my passport and when I woke I recalled where I had put it last: in a small pocket on the side of Rich’s bag.
Who plays the brass instruments on the album? Did you arrange them or leave them to it?
The brass is all trombone, and I played and arranged it all. This was mostly a one-person recording project with some help from Euan Rodger on drums and Joe Carvell on bass.
Where was the “With You And Without You” video filmed?
That video is recorded and filmed on Glen Cedar Bridge which spans the valley in Cedarvale Park in Toronto. It is a really beautiful ravine park that is near my house.
Have your thoughts turned to your next album yet? If so, what can you tell us about the direction it might go in?
There is a collection of country songs and also R&B-ish songs that are dangling around, as well as many I’d put into the category of ‘abstract’, but I like that circumstance always has an input into what is created. I do hope that this next record will be less of a solo act though.
Finally, have there been any albums from 2013 that you’ve particularly enjoyed?
The first thing that comes to mind is Glenn Gould playing the Bach Goldberg Variations…though that may not be what you meant. I was given it on cassette, and it has been my driving music for the last several months. It is amazing; virtuosic with technique at times, and with distilled feeling at others.
As for music released in 2013, I haven’t listened to much except a record I played trombone on by Devon Sproule and Mike O’Neill called Colours, a collection of catchy and intricate songs with good heart.
Doug Tielli, thank you.
Keresley is out now on Tin Angel Records.