Sometimes, if you’re a musician caught in a cycle of writing, recording, playing and touring, you just need a break.
And if you’re Matthew Hornell, that break might come in the form of six months living in a shed in Mill Cove, N.S..
Hornell, a native of Grand Falls-Windsor, found his way to Halifax by “following his heart” about a year or so ago. Having spent the better part of the previous two years touring the country, working on and releasing a CD and earning four MusicNL awards, he needed the type of breather he couldn’t get in a big city.
“It was too noisy and really busy, and I wanted to move away from that,” he said.
When the place he had lined up fell through, he moved into his buddy’s shed.
“I just thought it might be a good way to cool down. I’m not like Bubbles from ‘Trailer Park Boys’ or anything,” he said, laughing. “I’ve had a lot of work to do and have been keeping my head down. It’s cliché, but I can walk out and stare into the waves and I like it.”
Hornell’s going back to Halifax to officially release his second CD — this time a solo effort — called “Have It All” on Feb. 19. In the meantime, he’s coming home for a mini-tour of the island between tonight and Saturday, with shows in Grand Falls, St. John’s and Corner Brook.
Three years in the making, “Have It All” is a lyrically-driven, bare-bones, honest record, and Hornell said his goal was to create something live, with movement and a groove. Recorded over the last two weeks in May 2012, the album is a little over 40 minutes long.
“It was hard to let go, very much so,” Hornell said of the record. “There’s stuff on it like vocal flubs and times when I sang the wrong lyrics. The whole process was like, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ live takes and I couldn’t go back and change it, but it feels like there’s a real conversation happening.
“I hope people listen to it. I hope you give me 40 minutes of your time, since I’ve given you three years of mine.”
Hornell is releasing the record on CD, digitally and on vinyl, and divided the tracks up carefully to make for interesting first and second sides of a record. Each
tune offers something different: “Crimes” is deep and layered with a ’70s guitar riff/keyboard sound, while “Midnight” is a greasy tune with a lot of drums. Each of the songs shows a definite maturity since Hornell’s last record and takes more risks, with the bodhran and uileann pipes blending with violin, organ, harmonica and banjo.
Inspiration for the songs came from everywhere, Hornell said.
“Sometimes I have a riff forever. I write lyrics down at different times. Sometimes it’s just a feeling,” he explained. “I’ll write everything down, sometimes in jot notes, and I’ll filter it later.
None of the original Diamond Minds played on the new album, having grown apart in 2011 due to other life commitments. Musicians on “Have It All” who’ll be accompanying Hornell on tour are Adam Pye, Andrew Sneddon, Matthew Gallant, and Tom Terrell of Modern Grass, with whom Hornell toured last summer.
Hornell will play two shows tonight at Kelly’s Pub in Grand Falls-Windsor, one at 7 p.m., the other at 11 p.m., with special guest Marshall Borland. On Thursday, he’ll play at new restaurant The Club at 223 Duckworth Street at 10:30 p.m. (cover charge is $10 at the door), and he’ll perform to a sold-out crowd at the LSPU Hall on Friday night, with Katie Baggs, Joanna Barker and Meg Warren of Repartee singing harmonies.
On Saturday, Hornell will play at Whelan’s Gate in Corner Brook with special guest The Heavy Horses, starting at 10:30 p.m.
Hornell will have copies of “Have It All” available for purchase at the shows, and the record will be available in stores after Feb. 19.