Singer-songwriter, producer and director, the ever-versatile fan favourite Ian Foster returns with his timely new record Sleeper Years
Take me through the writing process for Sleeper Years. What grabs you, thematically or otherwise, these days?
For me it always ends up being the culmination of a couple of years of writing. I look back at those songs and inevitably because they are written in a certain span of time they do have a common theme that connects them.
That’s kind of how every record has been and this one is similar for sure. There is quite a variety of music on this album in terms of all that happened in the last few years. Ron Hynes passed away and the song that I wrote for Ron is on this record. The stuff that we’ve seen happening to our city in many ways, the growth and lack thereof in certain areas is on the song New Rush For An Old Town on the album … the world is at a state of anticipation in so many ways and there’s a song called Feels Like It Wants To Rain that was written about that. It’s experience after experience and those end up getting turned into songs.
In recent years you’ve put a greater emphasis on producing and helping other artists. I’d imagine it should go without saying that collaborating with so many fantastic local artists has only served to sharpen your skills?
Absolutely, there’s zero doubt about that. My last record was 2014 with The Great Wave. It’s been three years, almost to the month that this one will come out. In that time, I wrote, directed and composed a score for a short film called Keystone that I did. I did a record for Kat McLevey, for Melanie O’Brien, Port of Call. There has been a bunch of acts, so basically through working with all of those great artists I have obviously learned more.
I’m stepping outside of the subjective and looking at my own music as me and looking at the objective, someone else’s song and trying to evolve that song and think about the right approach. Inevitably the more that you do that the clearer visions can become or the more you can see what works and what doesn’t work and so on. I definitely think that both the film work and production work have both played into this album. It’s definitely an amalgam of those elements.
What do you think about Newfoundland and Labrador as a music culture these days, in comparison to when you first started out?
I think we’re in a really cool place yet a very interesting place at the same time. When I started making records back in 2006 that was I think around that period of the beginning of crazy growth of local albums.
If you look at albums that came out of here pre-2000s and then the ones that came out post-2000, it would be a crazy jump and that’s an understandable shift. Recording technology has advanced to the point where it’s cheaper to make a record now. It used to cost like, a house. That was obviously an impediment.
I also think the industry has shifted since then, since the Napster revolution if you want to call it that where the point of entry, both in technology and the industry, has changed. You no longer needed a record deal to be in ‘the game.’ The quality of the music and amount of music that has come out of here in the last decade and a half has been a huge shift.
Take me through the idea and concept of Sleeper Years. What does that name mean to you?
The concept to Sleeper Years to me is that we move through a period of our lives maybe less aware of what really the present is and what the future might hold for us. I think a little on my 20s, but I’m sure that is different for a lot of people. You can look at any period of your life as sleeper years.
You’re slowly and maybe subconsciously becoming yourself and you’re not really thinking about it. You’re making choices, doing things for life and those things are defining who you are, but you’re not realizing that. Then one day you’re turning around and it’s almost like waking up and you say wow, I’m in this place and I didn’t know that I would be here or can’t think about how I got here but here I am. I think that everybody has experienced that at some point in their lives, probably multiple times.
I liked the title so much because it seemed to encompass something about all of the songs. Like I mentioned all of the songs feel very different and they’re about very different subject mater, but in many ways if there was a really broad thing you can pull from it, they’re often about that, they’re about pivotal moments. People, a city, or whatever, becoming what it is, maybe despite itself. That’s why I ended up calling it that, because it seemed to capture a little something from all of the songs.
Ian Foster’s ‘Sleeper Years’ will be released May 5th on physical and digital formats. The St. John’s release show, with special guests Melanie O’Brien and Maggie O’Connell and more takes places May 7th at The Ship Pub. Visit ianfoster.ca for more information.