Prolific songwriter and local favourite Mark Bragg talks the release of his forthcoming studio album Winter in our latest Herald’s Q&A
Local legend around the music scene in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mark Bragg has dipped into the well of creativity with his latest effort Winter, an album which friend and Hey Rosetta! frontman Tim Baker called “a gutsy, stripped-back departure for the St. John’s legend…” and one that is “delicate yet gruff, sad yet playful, humble yet grand.” Amazing praise from one of our very best singer-songwriters.
The Herald caught up with Bragg, who now calls Corner Brook home, for our latest in-depth Q&A.
We’ve wanted to speak with you for some time – a long overdue pleasure. Winter is a gorgeous record, but one that’s hard to pin down.
This one is a tricky one. It is very much all over the place. Sometimes it’s a challenge. When you’re trying to promote yourself, people really like categories. Ultimately, I’m not stressing about it so much anymore. You build your own thing. For me this is the year of the listening room. I’ll get back to the rock thing, but this is very much a listening space kind of record. I’ll be playing a lot of piano this year I think.
This is quite the moody, emotive record, if that makes sense. Very sombre in parts, but also touching. For something that in-depth, are you drawing from personal touch?
The art that somebody makes, it’s reflective to who they are to a certain extent and it spreads in something, generally. In terms of this, the things I write about are not who I am. I’m very much a fiction writer for the most part. I really enjoy exploring different things. A lot of them are dark and sombre, and some of them are not, but it’s kind of an exploration for me. It’s certainly not who I am. I’m more of a boring family guy.
So thematically, where did you find yourself with this record? Is there a general story or narrative you found yourself crafting? Or a fiction, as you say.
A lot of the songs on this record I was exploring loss. More to that extent I was picturing something along the lines of Snow White in a snowstorm. That’s the idea I pitched to the people doing the graphic work for this record. I liked the visual of a love lost out in the snow. There’s some songs on this album that touch on that directly, but there are some that speak to it a little bit, but there’s always loss and searching. Losing something or love, and then the search for it or the internal turmoil, that’s inherent in that. I just doubled down on that and explored it for a lot of the writing on this album. It was something I felt I wanted to do and in the end I doubled down on the result.
You recently relocated to Corner Brook. What’s your take on the music scene on the west coast? Particularly, Corner Brook. There’s some fantastic artists out west.
The performance acumen out here is phenomenal. In terms of original music, which is kind of a priority for me, there’s a good scene and good listening rooms. There’s lovely small theatres. It’s really nice to see that, and there’s support for that kind of thing.
For my taste there’s not enough of a scene here for original bands playing in bars, and I really enjoy watching bands in bars and playing in clubs as well. It’s still largely a cover-band scene, of which the musicianship is top notch. For a guy like me it’s almost like an opportunity to create projects where you can put original rock bands in bars to get the scene going a little bit more.
Mark Bragg releases Winter on March 29th at The Ship in St. John’s with special guests Maria Cherwick, Romesh Thavanathan and Catalina Reapers. Tickets and more information, including continued tour dates in April, are available at markbragg.com