Newfoundland-Born, Halifax-Based Songwriter Don Brownrigg Releases New Single 'The Same Time'
“I could never see a pathway clear before me,” Don Brownrigg sings on his shadowy 2019 track, “Take a Rest,” his raspy voice floating over a weary shuffle. “I will never be an answer that’s found easy.”
Nothing could be closer to the truth. And yet, like the line testifies, the Newfoundland-born, Halifax-based songwriter evades simple definitions or easy categorization. His music is both intimate and acutely observational; he’s a classically trained pianist through The Royal Conservatory but learned to really play during the musical east coast kitchen parties his family threw when he was growing up; and as a frequent and prolific collaborator, he’s able to shift styles and moods as the music demands or he sees fit.
It’s Brownrigg’s occupation of liminal spaces, an instinctive resistance to being pinned down creatively, that gives his work its powerful, timeless touch. When he moved to Halifax from his tiny hometown of Upper Ferry, Codroy Valley in his early 20s, he ended up at a loss for what to do and how to be. It was then he turned back to music, performing a handful of his own songs at open mic's around town while keeping the whole endeavour a secret from his friends. The stage provided a place to be himself and yet, be liberated from whatever version of himself he had to live with day-to-day. And eventually, when he started working with bands as a side player, it was a training ground.
Music was “the most comfortable place,” as Brownrigg puts it. The stage was somewhere to experiment with different identities and styles, like the introspective, intricate folk of 2008’s Wander Songs, or the lush, melodic Americana of 2013’s It Takes All Kinds (To Make This World I Find). It was a space to act and to figure out what felt right. “To this day, as soon as the show starts, I become the most complete version of myself, he says. “Which is a weird thing for a shy person.” At the same time, he was learning about his own queerness, a trip that added its own layers to the question of identity.
In the end, the answer, as usual, is in the process itself: Brownrigg contains multitudes. Setting his life aside for a moment—which has since included a stint puppeteering in China, dabbling in theatre, and the pursuit of an osteopathy degree—those formative years provided fertile ground for a multi-faceted artist to blossom.
As a songwriter and musician, Brownrigg has proved himself a tried-and-true collaborator through work with acts like Rose Cousins, Jenn Grant, and The Fortunate Ones, among many others; he’s lent his voice to hip-hop hooks; and his song “Just Breathe” was featured on both American Idol and Blacklist.
Most recently, Brownrigg’s dial has been tuned to the sophisticated pop of “The Same Time,” a co-write between himself, Kyle Mischiek, and Erin Costelo, who pulled quadruple duty on production, backing vocals, and keys.
“The Same Time” pairs its hypnotic melody—rounded out by Costelo’s dreamy harmonies—with glowing synths and a guitar that chugs like a quiet heart, while Brownrigg asks, cheekily but seriously, too: “Who am I? You decide.”
His most recent full-length album, 2019’s Fireworks, drew on a couple life-altering romantic relationships in which he found himself changing, again, as the person he was with changed, too. Fireworks winds through moments as divers as dusty disappointment (“From You”), gossamer meditations on escape (“Nowhere at All”), and slinky, surreal grooves (“Tom’s Diner”) to ask heavy questions about mental health and sexuality, and earned Brownrigg numerous accolades. His songs have been streamed more than 10 million times on Spotify, and half a million times on Youtube; he’s played for the audiences of the Calgary, Regina, Lunenburg, and Philadelphia Folk Festivals, as well as supporting Chely Wright at World Pride.
As Brownrigg continues to honour his many sides, listeners can expect much more to come in 2022.