From the rocky barrens to the deep dark woods

Justin Brake
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Placentia songwriter and former Human Soundtrack singer Steve Haley returns on solo tour

Brad Lannon (left) and Steve Haley are shown in this submitted photo. — Submitted photo

Sometimes when things don’t go as planned they go better. This is the case for Placentia-native and songwriter Steve Haley who, in 2009, relocated to Nova Scotia with his friends and band mates in St. John’s rock band The Human Soundtrack.

They thought the move would afford them better opportunity to travel and tour their music to more cities and towns.

But for various reasons they couldn’t keep the band together, says Haley.

So he and his wife settled in Amherst and bassist Brad Lannon, also from Placentia, landed a job in Halifax.

The withdraw from Eastern Newfoundland’s rugged barrens and submersion in Amherst’s “lush country life,” says Haley, inspired a change of course for his songwriting and music.

“The water’s different, the trees are different, and I spent a lot of time in the woods,” he recalls.

“There’s a bird sanctuary here in town and I was getting totally into the nature side of things and, as opposed to writing about ghosts and witches and stuff (like) I did the year before, I decided to explore the human-nature relationship that exists all over.”

“Two Steps in the Dark” and “Birdsong,” recorded and released independently in 2009 and 2010, reveal qualities of Haley’s singing and writing that being and playing in a rock band didn’t.

Songs like “Forest, Oh Forest, Protect Me,” “Flee Into The Autumn Dark” and “The Woods Look Different At Night,” for instance, are elegantly dark and conjure fantasies of mysterious beings and possibilities of unchartered subconscious territory.

Last fall Haley began to sense a latency in some of his new material, so he and Lannon recruited fellow Placentian Marc Fagan to play guitar and banjo and, from Nova Scotia, drummer Reid Shepherd and bassist Travis Hatcher so that Fagan could focus on mandolin.

Under the name “Banded Stilts” Haley and his new crew debuted at the In The Dead of Winter music festival in Wakefield, Que., last February, showcased at the East Coast Music Awards in P.E.I. in the spring, and opened for B.C. songwriter Pat LePoidevin in Sackville, N.B.

“We went into the studio in March and just took two weekends to record the EP,” says Haley.

“We just did it live off the floor and ... tried to capture a live feel because we’d been practising together for the winter.”

The result, an EP called “By The Back Stair,” is the band’s first recording and, says Haley, will be followed up with a full-length album this winter.

Having just returned from a Halifax-to-Vancouver VIA Rail tour that included stops in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, plus two shows a day for passengers aboard the train, Haley is returning to St. John’s for shows Aug. 4-6.

And he is bringing LePoidevin with him. LePoidevin is known for incorporating a variety of instruments in his music and has released and toured three albums across the country, but has never been to Newfoundland.

The two, joined by local guests, perform at The Levee Thursday, The Rose & Thistle Friday and the Inn of Olde in Quidi Vidi Saturday.

For more information visit www.myspace.com/bandedstilts.

Organizations: Inn of Olde

Geographic location: Placentia, Nova Scotia, Amherst Halifax.The Eastern Newfoundland Wakefield P.E.I. Sackville Halifax Montreal Toronto Vancouver

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