JIM BRYSON & MORE

Exclaim! - - FRONT PAGE - BY SARAH GREENE

JIM BRYSON’S EX­CEL­LENT FIFTH AL­BUM IS CALLED SOME­WHERE WE WILL FIND OUR PLACE. It con­cerns the middle years of life; its inherent anx­i­eties, frus­tra­tions, joys, ac­cep­tance. “I think the record has to do with ag­ing,” Bryson tells Ex­claim! from the home he shares with his part­ner and two young daugh­ters in Stittsville (just out­side Ottawa).

“Peo­ple say, ‘That’s very funny, you stayed in Ottawa’ — al­most like it’s a fail­ure ’cause I stayed in my home­town.” Bryson didn’t just stay in his home­town. “The truth is, I grew up here,” he says. “My father tricked me into buy­ing this house seven years ago. It’s good, but it took quite a bit of get­ting used to and ghost-eras­ing.”

Bryson’s first home stu­dio was in the base­ment; he built Fixed Hinge, a ded­i­cated record­ing “shed,” on the prop­erty two years ago, at the ad­vice of Zane Whit­field (North of Princess Stu­dio in Kingston), with whom he worked on Oh Su­sanna’s Name­drop­per.

“We were sit­ting in my back­yard af­ter we had mas­tered [ Name­drop­per] drink­ing whiskey, and he said to me, ‘ You should put a stu­dio right over there.’ And then he drew a pic­ture of it, drunk, and it looks very much like the stu­dio I ended up build­ing.” Not ac­tu­ally a shed, Fixed Hinge is a 400-square­foot build­ing that looks like a Scan­di­na­vian sauna, with multi-coloured wood, an an­gled ceil­ing and win­dows down the side.

It con­tains a multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist’s ar­ray of tools, in­clud­ing a 1960s Rogers drum set, a 1930s Heintz­man upright pi­ano, lots of gui­tars, var­i­ous stringed in­stru­ments — Bryson plays banjo and man­dolin, amongst other things — a col­lec­tion of mini synths and Bryson’s Crit­ter & Guitari Pocket Pi­ano.

Bryson learned pi­ano and drums as a child, sax in high school and stud­ied mu­sic at univer­sity be­fore drop­ping out. “I just want- ed to play re­ally loud, scrappy mu­sic.” He got his wish in the mid-’90s with Punch­buggy, play­ing al­most 200 shows in two years and con­tribut­ing a hand­ful of songs to the band’s 1994 de­but All Nite Chris­tian Roller­skate. “I liked that mu­sic, but it wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do.”

An ac­ci­den­tal side­man, Bryson has since al­ter­nated be­tween his own song­writ­ing ca­reer and “rid­ing in the mu­si­cal side­car,” as he puts it, play­ing and tour­ing with Kath­leen Ed­wards, the Trag­i­cally Hip and the Weak­erthans (with whom he also recorded 2010’s The Fal­con Lake In­ci­dent).

On top of help­ing to in­spire his stu­dio, Bryson’s work with Oh Su­sanna also paved the way for him to do a lot more pro­duc­tion work. He cred­its his friend Dave Draves (who owns Lit­tle Bull­horn Stu­dios in Ottawa) with sup­port­ing him while he was get­ting into record­ing. “He lent me bits of gear and pro­moted the whole con­cept of it.”

Bryson uses Ap­ple’s Logic Pro X and in­ter­faces made by Uni­ver­sal Au­dio, preamps ac­quired from Hamil­ton’s Cather­ine North Stu­dios, a LA-2A-style tube com­pres­sor and a rack unit of eight preamps, along with gear made by big­ger com­pa­nies like Neu­mann and Neve. “I am also treated very well by HHB Canada, from whom I buy far too much stuff,” he says.

Bryson doesn’t have a sound board, just tons of out­board preamps and his com­puter — Fixed Hinge is more of a work space than a stu­dio, a place where he can work on his mu­sic and pro­duc­ing projects. “It works well for me,” he says. “I can record full bands if I need to, but I’m not a com­mer­cial stu­dio.”

For Some­where We Will Find Our Place, Bryson worked with pro­ducer Charles Spearin at four dif­fer­ent stu­dios: Whit­field’s North of Princess, John Dins­more’s Lin­coln County So­cial Club in Toronto, Aaron Holmberg’s Bathouse, in Bath, ON and at Fixed Hinge.

“For a while I didn’t like play­ing my own mu­sic, and that’s why I loved be­ing a side per­son,” Bryson says. “But now I don’t want to be a side per­son any­more, be­cause it doesn’t en­gage me the same way.”

Not that he’s been in a huge hurry to get the new al­bum out. “My joke is that I al­ready had a ca­reer as a failed singer-song­writer, so I don’t need to race back to that,” he quips. “Of course that’s self-dep­re­cat­ing, but the great thing about hav­ing a stu­dio is it lets me do a whole bunch of things that feel in­ter­est­ing to me and I get to choose them; it’s kind of the best of two worlds — two worlds that I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in.”

“HE DREW A PIC­TURE OF IT, DRUNK, and it looks very much like the stu­dio I ended up build­ing.”

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