The Sound Cafe
Canadian Rising Star, Joe Nolan, Pushes His Sound In New Directions On New Album 'Scrapper'
By March 2020, Joe Nolan was a serious musical contender. He’d just returned to his hometown of Edmonton, Canada, after playing a bout of shows in Europe, the culmination of over 170 live dates, in part thanks to his agent Mongrel Music Agency (Chuck Prophet, Lake Street Dive). He’d signed record deals with Rootsy Records in Sweden (John Prine, Patty Griffin, Anderson East) and Fallen Tree Records in Canada (100 mile house, T. Buckley). He’d won trophies, including the Cobalt Prize and a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination.
Now was his time.
Then came COVID-19’s lockdowns.
It knocked him down.
But, he wasn’t knocked out.
Instead he experienced a rush of artistic energy. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist took the setback and channeled it into song, after song, after song.
Eleven songs form his latest heavyweight album, Scrapper. Covering themes of loneliness, the strug- gles of being on the road and the misunderstandings that divide friends and lovers.
Joe Nolan’s honest, intimate, original music can be hard to define. Influenced by folk and blues, compared to Leif Vollebekk and Chuck Prophet, John Prine and Jeff Tweedy, Buddy Miller and Guy Clark. Simply, it’s Roots music, “because that’s where everything I do stems from.”
Coming off his acclaimed, acoustic-based 2020 album Drifters, the ever-mercurial Joe Nolan's latest music is more akin to reflective indie-rockers like Grandaddy and Eels than it is to the path most expected from a twice awarded Cobalt Prize winner (which recognizes blues songwriters), and a Canadian Folk Music Award nominated artist. Yet, that's where Joe’s new album Scrapper takes us – headfirst into the underdog Edmonton singer-songwriter's realm of swirling alternative sounds, as he prepares for his career's post-Covid title fight.
“I’m feeling as if I’m becoming much more myself, and being true to who I am, I have become a better listener and I have less fear of what people think. I am doing what I love, making music, and if I can continue to do that then for me, that’s success.”
The songs cover themes of loneliness on the road, the struggles of not having a rooted home and the misunderstandings that divide friends and lovers. It’s a look outside the ring of a touring musician, with a sadness hidden beneath the melodic beauty, revealing itself as the album unfolds. Perhaps it is the spirit that comes from survival, perseverance and fortified resolve to get out there again.
“It's almost like I don't have a choice,” accepts Nolan. “I don't think I will ever stop, or retire. This is my life, it's hard to explain, but it's something I just have to do.”
By getting back to his roots Nolan took a personal journey through his own family history. Stories from the past came out, accompanied by family photos, some of which have made it onto the album and single covers. They feature his grandfather, a resilient mentor, prominently. And so, Nolan realized the value in those physical connections with family. The links that form when performing on a stage. And he relished the joy of putting a record on the player and reading the liner notes and lyrics.
As for where Scrapper will take Nolan, he’s already booking regional outdoor shows as the restrictions lift, and is looking forward to getting back in the live ring, touring songs not just from Scrapper, but also his album Drifters, released in the early days of the 2020 lockdowns.
Nolan continues to prove on this next offering that he truly is an undeniable artist, dynamic performer, and virtuosic talent that can not be ignored.
As the album Scrapper closes, the final song fades away, and you’ll hear the faint voice of a woman whispering, “I miss you, when are you coming home?”
For Joe Nolan, whose home is on a stage performing for you, the answer lies in the name of the song. It’s called “See You Soon".