Loss, life and the games we play are the backdrop to the stirring debut of alternative country group Youngtree & the Blooms’ Musical Chairs.
Peter Willie Youngtree has been enamoured by music from a young age. You could say he was immersed in it, and not just the one kind where we’re flag-waving, chest-thumping proud of our genre of choice.
No, Youngtree is what we call eclectic. That’s the best way to describe his award-winning solo album Country Hymns, and the debut album for his band Youngtree & The Blooms, Musical Chairs.
“I don’t resist it when it comes that way. It makes sense,” Youngtree shared of the idea of pushing the boundaries of genre and style. “I have such a diverse range of influences. I was listening to the Everly Brothers and the Clancy Brothers and Megadeth from the time I was six years old. I’m into all of it. Early 90s alt rock is a big influence on me, but so is Irish and old time country music.”
Make little wonder that the early reception for Youngtree & The Blooms’ debut effort has been praised by fans and critics alike. Peter’s dynamic and emotive songwriting, combined with the experience and diversity of his bandmates – Chuck Boyd, Carole Bestvater, Darren Browne and Joe Tucker – has resulted in a record that closes out 2018 as a true contender for album of the year.
“My approach is, and always has been, to let people’s own personalities and styles come out when they’re playing an instrument,” shares Youngtree, who is the primary songwriter for the group.
“I don’t like to be too much of a director, but I will say it’s collaborative. They’re all such fantastic musicians, I don’t make much changes.”
Produced by the always in-demand Chris Kirby, Musical Chairs combines everything that has made Youngtree a respected and welcomed name in Newfoundland’s music culture, with a raw and deep-rooted narrative that tugs the heartstrings and broadens the mind.
The title track comes from Peter’s deceased Uncle Ray, who gifted him with the makings of a song inspired by the children’s game Musical Chairs. “(Uncle Ray) made a comment about impermanence through a metaphor of the children’s game of musical chairs,” Youngtree recalls. “I had never heard the song, but I got him to give me his lyric book. As I had it sitting in my desk he passed away of a heart attack one morning. That was when I decided that I’m going to take this song and do something with it. I re-wrote it partly as a tribute to him.”
Playing the Game
That idea of the fleeting nature of life and the game we all play on borrowed time provided a vivid backdrop for the debut offering of Youngtree & The Blooms, one that benefited from Peter’s own real fascination with mortality.
“The notion of mortality has been with me since I’ve been really young,” he says candidly, explaining that his aunt died in car crash when he was four. “I’m inclined to music and poetry that deals with that subject matter in terms of what I listen to and what speaks to me.
“Every song on this album, in some way, relates to mortality, but not necessarily in a dark way. It’s also about enjoying life. Rebirth, even kind of the notion that we die even multiple times in our own lifespan. We let go of old things, we discover new things, we change ourselves, work on ourselves, we gain knowledge and we cut things out and bring new things in. It’s about that as well.”
Explaining the allegory of life and death in Musical Chairs better than most scholarly writers or philosophers, Youngtree explains that his album embraces the idea that we play the game of life knowing there are more players than chairs, and that it’s all about enjoying the game while we play it.
“The idea is there’s one less chair than there are the number of people playing. Someone has to leave the game every time,” he says. “You join the game knowing that you’re going to have to leave the game at some point, but you play it anyway. That’s the analogy for life, for living. You play the game.”
For more on the album, band and upcoming tour dates visit pwyoungtree.com