Herald’s Q&A: Steve Maloney

Acclaimed local singer-songwriter Steve Maloney defies convention on his emotive new solo record The Memory Game

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve sat down with you. How long have you been working on The Memory Game?

We actually made this record last summer. It’s been a bit of a process battling with performances and track orders and trying to find that sweet spot. We had I think 12-13 tracks completed, mixed and out the door and you sit with something so long and you start picking at it more and more. One song would fall off and then another song would fall off and now it’s down to basically an EP instead of a full-blown record.

 Take me through the recording. Who were the key players?

It was at a place called Dream Date Studio in Toronto. Honestly this record is probably 30 per cent me and 70 per cent Josh Van Tassel, who set up the recording in the first place and approached me to do it. He produced the thing, engineered all the recording and mixed everything. He’s been closer to the project than I have. I came in last summer and we did two blocks of bed sessions and laid down like guitar, piano, voice and some percussion. The rest was really on Josh. He had other players and did a lot of work himself to flesh out the bones of what we had there.

 Take me through the title The Memory Game. Any significance? 

It kind of has multiple meanings for myself personally, but in terms of this album specifically the idea was originally to do a full band record. I sort of had my head in that scale of things. Around the time we were getting ready to record our drummer had a knee injury and was waiting for surgery and he couldn’t do it.

The recording time was booked and set aside and I had a bunch of clips and demos and little bits of pieces stored away on my computer and my phone and things to work on in a solo realm. We sort of took a couple of the songs the band had been working on and re-arranged them …I find I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my own music, but with this I really didn’t know what I wanted specifically. I knew we were going into that solo territory and I knew I wanted some more sombre tunes we could potentially work on, but I was really hauling from bits and pieces and a lot was put on Josh to make it work.

I think people will notice when they listen there are shorter songs or fragments of songs, sort of the memory of something that wasn’t there, a vestige stuck in place. So for me it was not only trying to remember these songs I had half written and tucked away but it was to keep my own ideas in check and open up the gates a little bit for myself and my control issues.

Does it feel any different being the lone name on the marquee and venturing into semi-solo territory? 

It’s extremely nerve-wrecking I’m finding lately to use my own name. Every little misstep or whatever is magnified times ten knowing your signature is going to be on the final product. That’s been the biggest battle for me, coming to terms with my face being the face of whatever the end result is. I don’t really enjoy doing the spotlight thing too much. It’s definitely a learning process going forward on how I want to approach this stuff.

 Conceptually did you have any big ideas for the theme of the record or how the songs may interlock?

The initial idea was to do the band record and I did have a real idea where I wanted that to go. We almost certainly will be making a record in early 2018, and do the record that was sort of meant to be this time around.

When we did change gears and went to more solo territory there were like two years of little things tucked away on my phone. I’m terrible for not naming recordings so that was a process. The title sort of hearkens back to the tracks themselves. A lot of the sentiment and overall feeling of the songs we did choose is that of nostalgia, longing, loneliness, sort of this long-arm to the past. That also works with the title we landed on at the end. Definitely not a bright and sunny record by any means, but sometimes that’s what you need to do. It was a nice sort of cathartic experience for me and a great learning experience to take and move forward.

 You always have several irons in the fire. What’s the game-plan heading in to the fall and 2018?

I believe this next year will be mostly branching out into some new territory, myself personally. Not straying from music – the record with the band is definitely in the foreground for sure. I’m going to do a play at the end of September.

We’ll see what happens down that road. I’m doing a lot of writing for screen and just branching out into other mediums and finding creative satisfaction in other ways besides just sitting behind a guitar or piano all of the time. Having said that I do have my sights set on this full band record, something a bit more complex, more drive, a fuller sound.

I think my sad boy phase is tapering off to be quite honest. I think too I struggle with the idea of art and entertainment and how the two react.

I don’t think one is exclusive to the other, but I certainly try to lean more towards and  artistic pursuit or vision and whatever that may entail.

Steve Maloney releases The Memory Game September 7th at the LSPU Hall. Visit stevemaloneymusic.com for more. 

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