In the past year, Vancouver’s Old Man Canyon has achieved the type of success that most musicians can only dream of in such a short span of time. The folk singer has completed two tours of the United States, both massively successful. He’s released a debut EP, Phantoms and Friends, to huge success. And most notably, his music has been featured in major network shows including Suits, Sons of Anarchy, and About a Boy, among others.
These placements have put Old Man Canyon in the peculiar position of an artist on the verge of cracking into the mainstream. His music is known to millions—whether they know it or not—and his dark, ambient style of folk has won him fans across Canada and has inspired a loyal following in the United States. With his next album, Old Man Canyon hopes to revamp his image, his music, and how people relate to it.
When I spoke to him, he had just returned from his last U.S tour. Even over our shaky connection, I can hear weariness in his voice as he tells me about the countless technical difficulties he faced with on the road, the excitement when he talks about the crowds, and the anticipation when he discusses his newest material. Oh yeah, and he also raps.
You’ve just returned from a huge leg of touring—what’s going on after all that?
Right now I’m just doing some laundry and trying to get back into that whole relaxing mode after all that hecticness. I’m gonna be doing a lot of writing here and then moving into recording this record very soon.
I spoke to you last May before you went touring, and since then you’ve returned from that and also completed a second one on the U.S west coast. What were some of the highlights while touring?
Oh man, there was a lot. Just being able to go to those cities and being able to play our music and share it with people was pretty darn cool. A lot of crazy awesome people, a lot of connections, and then obviously the driving side of the whole thing is a whole other crazy challenge in and of itself. I never really visualized or imagined all the problems that come with driving that much. Transmissions blew, we were broken into… that’s just a part of it though. New York and Chicago were definitely some of my favourite shows. We had an incredible response to the music, a lot of sold out shows even without having toured the U.S before, which is crazy. I guess it’s thanks to those TV placements that have helped bring our music to so many ears—without those it would have taken a lot more time to get where we are.
After having played all those shows, how do you think the hometown crowd stacks up?
It’s been a while since I played here—the last time I had a show here was when we opened for Foster the People. So as to how we stack up to the masses, I’m stoked to find out. I think this Biltmore show is gonna be really good.
Sort of a homecoming show?
This might not go well. One thing I talked about you about last time was that you used to rap with a member of Wake Owl….
And during that interview, I did bring up the possibility of you dropping some bars…
Oh, I remember you now!
Do you think you have it in you?
Okay, I have to warn you this is very old, and very new age spiritual weirdness. Can you beatbox for me?
Each morning that I wake and each breath that I take
I’m moving through the world like a slitherin snake
Been tryna prove to myself I was never awake
It’s time to really wake up and visualize the shape of the awakening dawn
See the sun as it rises on the horizon and lies
Find yourself in ties and apply the truth with your eyes
Behind the walls that you have set around yourself to exist
Got my wings buried under a couple of things
You don’t wanna remain in these chains
Buying the pain
So these dollars are strain
Before you go insane
And it’s too late to ever be saved
Let soap in your veins
Before you go insane
And it’s too late to ever be saved
So let’s call out the dark forces that our souls made for souks
We got the like the change all among these stronger than you
That was awesome!
It has been a long time since those words were spoken.
I have asked rappers to do that and no one has delivered, but here you are Jett, bringing it home. With you having that rap background, what are your favorite rap artists right now?
We bumped a lot of Kendrick Lamar on this tour. I really like Shad from Vancouver, he’s a genius. A$AP too. Lots of rap, I love it.
I know another influence you had growing up was your mother, who was a bit of a disco queen. How has that affected your music?
It’s affected a lot of the new stuff I’ve been writing. The new stuff is a lot more groove and funk based and is definitely drawn to that old stuff I used to listen to. With this new stuff, I just wanted to bring a lot more energy to the live performance and move people in a different way, aside from just “folk live”. I’m stoked to get it out there.
You’ve talked about the new material a little bit—can you give us any teasers or dates?
I’m hopefully going to be done recording by the end of January, and I want to get it out there as soon as I can after that, so I’m hoping for a March/April release and then I’m going to do another U.S tour in May. Those are tentative dates, but that’s what I’m hoping for.
You’ve got songs on Suits, the NBC show About a Boy, and lots of other programs. If you could have a song on any TV show, what would it be?
You know, it’s been pretty crazy because all of my favorite shows have already had my music on them—Sons of Anarchy, Suits—those are probably my favourite shows. I mean, it would be great to get a song on Game of Thrones because that would probably get pretty listened to. [laughter]
You’ve got the show at the Biltmore, you’ve got more material coming out: What’s next, and what are you most looking forward to?
Aside from getting this new music out, I’d say revamping my vision for Old Man Canyon and how people have related to it and seen it. I want to fine tune all these little details of how this reinvention of myself in this new record will work–all the collaborations that I hope will stem from it, the people to include, starting new projects and new music videos, and getting more visuals for the live settings—look for those at the show tonight. Aside from that, I’m just excited to meet more awesome people.
Sounds like you’re going through some major changes.
I think it’s more like evolution, as well. The music is shifting because I’m shifting.