Victoria, BC-based singer/songwriter Rollie Barrett certainly doesn’t.
In the summer of 2016, Canadian recording artist and producer Leeroy Stagger was invited to a backyard “house concert” event in Victoria, BC. The featured artist for the event was the indie-roots singer/songwriter Rollie Barrett and his band. As the evening unfolded and Stagger listened to a wide selection of Barrett’s songs, he repeatedly asked the venue’s host;
“Is this his song? Did he write this?”
Stagger liked what he heard. He was drawn to Barrett’s unique, heartfelt storytelling and complex song arrangements. It didn’t take long for post-show introductions to lead into discussions of the possibility of recording an album together.
That opportunity arrived in late 2017, and Barrett travelled to Stagger’s “Rebeltone Ranch” in Lethbridge, Alberta. Stagger enlisted the talents of his “usual suspects” in the recording studio – guitarist Russell Broom (Jann Arden) drummer Brady Valgardson (Corb Lund Band), Bassist Tyson Maiko and pianist Michael Ayotte. Introductions were hastily made, and any further “get to know you’s” would have to happen on the studio floor as the band set to work learning previously-unheard material.
Two days of “live off the floor” recording yielded the “bones” of ten songs, with further work on the would-be album following Barrett back home. Victoria’s virtuoso Daniel Lapp was enlisted to add layers of horns to the ode to nomadic freedom “No Enemies No Friends”. Lapp’s wonderful fiddle contribution added further shape and colour to “And It Feels” and “Heaven’s In The Wind” . Backing vocals and harmony duties would be shared among Stagger, Barrett, a mainstay of the Victoria music scene, Elli Hart, and the “Hard Truths” own, Brad Robinson.
Final mastering touches were applied by three-time Grammy Award winner John Greenham.
The album is a diverse yet cohesive collection of stories of surrender, triumph, love, life on the road, the fragility of being, the resurrection and embrace of a lifetime of memories, and, for good measure, a satirical look at relationships. Each song resonates as a tribute or remembrance of the lives of people close to Barrett – “Heaven’s In The Wind” is an homage to a father and son’s steadfast refusal to bow to adversity, instead choosing to both literally and figuratively follow new horizons wherever they might lead. “I’d Be The One” is both a universal lament and tribute to a life of obligation and service in the armed forces, a narrative Barrett knows well, having served 14 years in the Royal Canadian Navy before altering the direction of his life to that of a professional musician.
The album completed, Barrett continues to perform as “resident musician” for an array of Vancouver Island resorts, wineries and a host of venues which continue to foster and support local musicians. Over a thousand shows performed has not tempered his love for performing. He’ll be the first to admit that it is the live setting where he finds inspiration – through the many chance encounters…and people he meets, friendships new and old. These connections are the very fabric of “Dark Hearts And Other Stories”. The opportunity to bring his original songs to the stage offers an important connection for him and it’s in these moments, he’ll see it in the faces of his audience, their appreciation, their whispers to one another;
“Is this his song? Did he write this?”
Barrett has found a workable balance in the current musical climate, as he describes it, keeping the live performance “high-end, low maintenance”. As the only other mainstay in in the group, the original “Hard Truth” Brad Robinson’s contribution of drums, keyboards ad backing vocals are the ideal compliment to the delicate, sweeping sonic landscape Barrett has created. When opportunity arises, the group will expand to a trio with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jon Baglo. Rollie Barrett And The Hard Truths are firm believers in the nomadic spirit found in many of Barrett’s compositions. Plans are afoot to follow that muse, to support the release of “Dark Hearts And Other Stories” on the road – across Vancouver Island, across the water to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia…once again, following new horizons wherever they might lead.