Since they released their second album, “Row Upon Row of the People They Know,” last month, the members of The Once say people have been approaching them, telling them something in a hushed voice, as if afraid: “I think I like it better than your first one.”
“They think it’s going to offend us, but it’s what you want people to say,” said The Once member Phil Churchill, chuckling.
“Musicians are so terrified about the second record. Third one doesn’t matter, fourth one nobody cares about. First one has no expectations anyway. It’s only the second one that’s really, really terrifying. There’d be nothing worse than touring something for two years, being nervous about the new one, putting time, blood, sweat and tears into this thing and people going, ‘I liked the first one better.’”
After a national album release with a sold-out show at Hugh’s Room in Toronto last month and a cross-Canada tour of intimate, unadvertised pop-up shows, The Once — Churchill, Geraldine Hollett and Andrew Dale — will hold their third annual “Once and For All Christmas Time” in St. John’s this week, which they’re turning into the official Newfoundland and Lab-rador release of their album.
The event has sold out in previous years, hence the addition of a third show this time around.
As in previous years, the “time” will include hot apple cider and homemade sweets as well as special guests; this year it’s actor Rick Boland, and musicians Andrew James O’Brien — recent five-time MusicNL award winner — and Emilia Bartellas. Boland will tell a few Christmas stories, Churchill said, while Bartellas will join The Once on fiddle. O’Brien will perform some of his original tunes and some Christmas songs before playing some songs with the band.
“For us, where it’s just the three of us all the time, any opportunity to just put a couple more bodies on stage and make us not feel alone is good. It’s nice to have other people to play with sometimes,” Churchill said.
As for their performance, The Once members plan to go half and half with the poignant songs and harmonies from “Row Upon Row of the People They Know” and Christmas tunes.
The band is also planning shows in Churchill’s hometown of Corner Brook and Hollett’s hometown of Burin before Christmas. On Boxing Day, they’ll leave for the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia.
“Once and For All Christmas Time” will be held at Gower Street United Church in St. John’s Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Tickets are $20 in advance, available at Living Planet and O’Brien’s Music on Water Street, or at the door for $25.