Celebrated singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Brad Tuck returns with his new collection of home-cut tracks, Stages, in our latest album deep dive series
From Shanneyganock and Fairgale to the trappings of a successful solo career, Brad Tuck is one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most tireless artists.
Whether behind the drum kit or standing center stage, Tuck has earned well deserved clout as a multi-talented musician and entertainer, with his first two solo efforts On These Waters and The Rocky Isle earning critical adoration.
Now Tuck is back once more with his latest collection Stages, sitting down with The Herald for our latest album deep dive series for an in-depth exploration into the songs, stories and meaning behind the music.
Madeline’s Might is the first song I wrote for this album. It was written about two years ago, and recorded shortly thereafter. It tells the story of a reliable, old fishing vessel hailing from Fortune Bay, NL.
The boat may not be new and shiny, but when push comes to shove its crew knows she’ll always guide them through any storm or trouble at sea. Fishermen are some of the toughest, bravest people on this planet, and they rely on their vessels, big and small, old and new, to guide them home after each trip.
This was my inspiration for Madeline’s Might, a sturdy longliner that will always see its crew returned home safely to their families. It turned out to be a fun, upbeat song, and I figured it was a great way to start the album.
Irish All Along
This song features a melody I had been working on for quite some time. I could never find suitable lyrics or the right song idea to fit this melody so I sat on it for a couple of years. A good friend of mine, Ryan Snow, recorded a song several years ago with his band, Shiela’s Brush, called Irish All Along.
We were speaking about that song one day and I began humming those words to the melody I had been banking for a while. That night I started writing lyrics focused on a hardworking Irishman, a jack of all trades, who had relocated to Boston. A young lady finally discovers his secret one evening, that he had indeed been Irish all along. It was a really fun track to record, with a unique instrumentation section in the middle featuring Kitchen Parti’s Terri Lynn Hickey on tin whistle.
This is the final song I wrote for the album. I had been stuck on nine songs for a while and knew I needed to write one more song to round out the album. My fiancée was seven months pregnant at the time and was off having her baby shower in New Harbour. I wrote this song on my father in law’s guitar as I passed the afternoon away.
The opening line of this song is particularly important to me. A lasting childhood memory for me growing up in Hant’s Harbour is the sight of bed sheets blowing in the wind on my mothers clothesline, which ran from her steps down to a pole in her garden, where two lilac trees bloom each spring.
My father’s old blue Ford F150 would sit in the driveway next to the steps, and in the breeze the bedsheets would often flail across the hood of the pickup. I don’t know what was so pivotal about that but it always stuck with me, and I’m happy to have that memory included in this song.
The title, Stages, touches on two points. First, there’s the obvious nod to old fishing stages and the role those buildings played in many of our childhoods, mine included. Many life lessons were learned in those old buildings, passed down from one generation to the next.
Secondly, the title refers to the stages of our lives. From child to parent, from parent to grandparent, and so on. It all happens so fast, and it’s up to each generation to eventually pass the things they learned as children onto their own children.
So as we all make that transition from student to teacher, “It seems we all wind up back in stages after all.” I thought this message was pretty powerful, and after some thought I decided to name the album Stages as well.
The Red Violin
I had been wanting to write a song about the life-cycle of an old instrument for a while. I decided to focus on a violin and with Remembrance Day approaching in 2020 I tied the violin’s story to that of a veteran. In the lyrics, this violin had been passed from the veteran’s grandfather to his father and then to him, and he played it with pride. After a war injury prevented him from playing any longer the violin sat on a shelf for years, only to eventually get a second chance at life due to a chance meeting.
It’s the first song I’ve written in 3/4 timing and it was a new approach for me. I’m quite happy with how it turned out – perhaps my favourite of all the songs I’ve written thus far.
Battle Harbour Bound
“Just a family man with two keen hands for a waltz around the stove.” My Grandfather, William Pitcher, was a cook by trade. He would travel on The Kyle to Frenchman’s Island and Battle Harbour, a thriving fishing port during those days off the coast of Labrador, to cook for the fishermen there. I thought It’d be a neat idea to write a song about that.
Most Newfoundland songs revolve around fishing and fishermen, so I thought it’d be a unique angle to write a song about the people who fed the fishermen. Although he had passed away before I was born, my mother and Uncle often speak of my grandfather’s trips to Battle Harbour when they were children.
Today, Battle Harbour is a raging tourist destination. I’ve been in contact with the Battle Harbour Trust and I hope to visit there next summer to perform.
Tie Me Down
I worked on an album with Jacob Lewis a few years ago, a terrific singer/songwriter from Bay Roberts.
We became great friends through that process and I was eager to collaborate on a track. One day Jacob played me his version of an old Ryan’s Fancy song that caught my ear. Penned many years ago by Allister MacGillivray, the song was right up Jacob’s alley. I began working on my own arrangement and asked Jacob to sing it with me, and thankfully he was quick to agree. I’m very happy with the end result and I hope to team up with Jacob for a live show sometime soon.
These lyrics were originally a poem, written by English poet and Priest, Charles Kingsley in 1851. The poem was adapted to music many times through the decades, and I heard a lovely version by Stan Rogers a couple of years ago. I thought the song would be a perfect finishing track to this album. It’s a somber tale of three fishermen who go to sea never to return, and the resulting impact their loss has on the ones left behind.
It’s a reminder that although we may sing plenty of light-hearted sea shanties, when it comes to earning a living from the sea, there are numerous tales of loss and sadness as well. I was happy to have Gabie Toner-Godbout perform cello, and my good friend, Stephen Green, perform piano on this track.