Canadian Musician - May-June 2022 - Page 35

The Versatile Marianas Trench Leader Shows His Many Sides on First Solo LP

talented people . No one ’ s going to need any hand-holding . They ’ re all great players .” During the writing and recording process for The Josh Ramsay Show , Ramsay constantly challenged himself to get out of his comfort zone . While he ’ d always planned to make a solo record at some point , when the pandemic put the brakes on Marianas Trench ’ s touring plans , Ramsay decided the time had come .
“ I needed something to do in quarantine , and with no deadlines , I could just tinker away at it .” By tinker , Ramsay means producing the record , playing all of the instruments ( except the orchestral parts ), and creating a record that essentially serves as a “ calling card ,” displaying all of his skills as a producer , songwriter , arranger , multi-instrumentalist , and singer .
To a degree , it also displays Ramsay ’ s love of the album as a format – something that ’ s always driven his work with Marianas Trench . In the past , Ramsay has said that dribbling out singles doesn ’ t inspire him . Typically , what does , is creating a self-contained universe for each Marianas Trench record , such as the Goonies-esque , ‘ 80s action / adventure movie aesthetic behind 2015 ’ s Astoria album and tour , or the “ haunted by a dead lover ” theme on 2020 ’ s Phantoms . It ’ s something the band ’ s fans have come to expect and love .
“ For me , specifically , if I listen to albums where every song is just chasing a hit or single , it ’ s like putting too much sugar in a cake . It doesn ’ t feel complete . On this ( and on Marianas Trench albums ), if I know a song doesn ’ t sound like a single , I don ’ t have to make any choices that would push it in that direction . I can artistically stretch out because that song ’ s not going to be played on the radio , and you know what ? I almost end up pouring more creative energy into that stuff .”
To be clear , Ramsay ’ s not passing judgment on any other approach or release format – it ’ s just that albums make a statement about where an artist is at – artistically and personally – at a given point in time . “ Every album I ’ ve written , if I go back and listen to it , it kind of feels like a scrapbook , a snapshot of my life at that time . For me , from the beginning of an album to the end , I want to feel like I ’ ve gone on a journey of some kind . I didn ’ t do that on this album in terms of storytelling , but I certainly have on other ones .”
Granted , there are some similarities on The Josh Ramsay Show to his past work . Not in terms of the overall sound , but in the creation of a singular , coherent sonic experience out of wildly different genres and textures — a feast for the ears , a blend of deep orchestral textures , badass synthesizer work , soaring vocals , and elements of old-school hard rock .
“ There are parts of the album – and this is only for me , no one else is ever going to get this – I get these sensory memories , where I was when I was working on it , the headspace I was in when I was working on a song . It ’ s like when you eat some food that was your favourite as a kid and it kind of takes you back to being a kid for a second .”
While The Josh Ramsay Show doesn ’ t have the same kind of narrative Marianas Trench records typically do , each song offers a glimpse into Ramsay ’ s life , musical development , and preoccupations . And there are several tracks that are decidedly personal touchstones for Ramsay . “ The three big ones are ‘ Like You Do ,’ which I wrote about proposing to my wife . That ’ s more important to me now than it ever was . Then there ’ s ‘ Spellbound ,’ a song for my mom , and ‘ Miles and Miles ,’ for my dad . Those three really centre the record for me ,” he explains , adding that both of his parents passed away during the pandemic .
On “ Miles and Miles ” and “ Spellbound ,” however , instead of sorrow , Ramsay expresses his gratitude for what his parents inspired in him and celebrates their lives and the musical gifts and lessons they passed on to their children . His parents , it ’ s important to note , are Miles Ramsay , a writer-producer and co-founder of Vancouver ’ s famed Little Mountain Sound Studios , and Corlynn Hanney , a highly-regarded vocal coach and background singer for the likes of Tom Jones , Fifth Dimension , The Payolas , and Leonard Cohen .
“ I learned so much about orchestration and arrangement from my dad but didn ’ t want to write a lament – that ’ s not his style at all . What I think he ’ d have wanted , and what I thought was the best way to remember him was for me to show off everything he taught me . So , I wrote him a symphony , and the only fitting person to sing on that with me was my sister , Sara .”
On “ Spellbound ,” Ramsay pays tribute to his mother ’ s spirit and musical legacy . “ My mom was quite a magical lady and quite goofy ,” he says , laughing , adding that she was a member of Leonard Cohen ’ s band for a time and came up in music during the Beatles / post-Beatles era . “ So , I wanted to do something like The Beatles ’ George Martin stuff – a simple pop song with symphonic instruments and make them a bit magical and a bit goofy .”
The intent , he adds , was to create something uplifting rather than melancholy . “ Losing your parents is a tough thing , but even the songs about that , I didn ’ t want them to feel like grief . I wanted them to feel like love .”
As importantly , Ramsay wanted to ensure the record sounded , and felt , like him – no matter how varied the music . Anyone expecting a
JOSH RAMSAY DURING ORCHESTRAL ARRANGE- MENTS AT THE WAREHOUSE STUDIOS
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 35
PHOTO : COURTESY OF 604 RECORDS