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Song percolated in Matthew Dray’s mind following jam session in 2016, forthcoming album release set for spring
Ask any Newfoundlander and Labradorian living out of the province what they want.
The majority of them will tell you they want to be home.
That gravitation back toward the North Atlantic ran strong for Matthew Dray as he was touring Atlantic Canada, when he decided to come off the road in April 2016 and return to St. John’s, where by chance he got involved in a fundraiser to support the families affected by the Fort McMurray fire.
He was fortunate to pair up with Allan Doyle (Great Big Sea) and Chris Andrews (Shanneygannock).
“We were sitting around jamming and when it came to my turn, I started with a hook and in the back of my head I thought maybe I better shelve that, as I thought it had potential,’’ Dray said.
“So I put it away, went about the rest of the night that helped to raise money that built a school,’’ he added.
He continued to work with the song idea and a few others, drawing on the influences of the aforementioned bands, and wrote a few other tunes he describes as traditional rock. When he was finished, he had a single titled “Itty Bitty Island,” which will be on the self-titled East Isle Wind nine-track album the band is releasing this spring.
He credits Doyle and Andrews as huge influences, in addition to the legendary Ron Hynes.
The single is available now and strikes to the heart of Newfoundland culture. It sings the praises of the place all the band members call home.
“I believe it truly, from the bottom of my heart, there’s no place like Newfoundland, anywhere near or far,” the lyrics say near the end of the track.
East Isle Wind is comprised of Dray on vocals and guitar, Chris Collins on drums, Leah Vokey-Sing on vocals and fiddle, and bass player Scott French.
The album was recorded at Record Time Productions in St. John’s and produced by Rick Follett and Ken Pinhorn.
The video for “Itty Bitty Island” was shot and produced by Collins’ friend, Nate Doucette (rap recording artist N8 Douce). In addition, the track features Ronnie Power of Irish Descendants and Celtic Connection fame.
Dray said Powers is a huge influence on his music and it was an honour for the band to secure his services for the track.
“I met Matthew last year and we set out to play a few shows together,’’ Collins said about how the band started.
“After a few shows, we knew this was something for us to pursue.’’
At that point, they knew additional personnel were required to make a band.
“I had just moved back to St. John’s in September after four years away at school on the West Coast,” Vokey-Sing said.
“Someone gave the guys my name. I went out and played for them and they invited me to join the band.’’
As for French, he is the last addition to the band.
“We are still figuring out his groove,’’ Dray said with a chuckle.
“He’s a real mystery to us, but he’s groovy,” he added.
Anyone requiring additional information on East Isle Wind can obtain it on any social media platform by entering East Isle Wind.
The band has a number of shows already secured, starting on July 1 on Canada Day in Holyrood, the Blow Me Down Festival in Lark harbour on July 27 and Smallwood Days in Gambo on Aug. 3. Additional shows will be added and those will be advertised on the band’s multiple platforms.
“The ECMA’s are here in 2020, something we are looking forward to,’’ Dray said.
“Hopefully we can have enough success to be considered for a spot there. We are available to play anywhere, any time.”