By Troy Hasselman, October 22 2019 —
Victoria singer-songwriter Adrian Chalifour is branching out on his own after finding success with his band Towers and Trees. His solo debut Joy comes on the heels of some big changes in his life such as becoming a father. Chalifour will be playing at Calgary’s Ironwood Stage & Grill on Oct. 29 with a band that includes a past bandmate from Towers and Trees.
Joy is not a common thread that you find in music nowadays and Chalifour’s decision to create music that reflects it is unusual for today. The album takes inspiration from the struggle that comes from finding and feeling joy as you grow older and take on more responsibilities.
“As you get deeper into life, especially as you start to try and achieve things, you’re trying to build things, you start a family, you’re trying to do all of these things,” Chalifour says. “Joy isn’t something that just happens the way it happens a lot as a kid or in your youth. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it just means it’s something you’ll have to actively look for and seek out and find in the midst of the struggle. Struggle is a big part of what I’m talking about.”
After becoming a father Chalifour has found his perspective has changed, gaining a new focus and purpose in his attitude towards his life and music.
“I think more than anything it’s given me a context and focus. A context for why it’s important that we honour the things that are within us,” Chalifour says. “For me, it was very easy and I’m an overthinker and a bit of a worrier myself to fret over what it means for a musician. My music is something I try and squeeze into all of my time. I had numerous bandmates in the past quit the band or quit music when they became a parent. That was definitely an anxiety for me. The day my daughter was born and I got to hold her was really interesting. It was a really powerful and biological and fundamentally human thing — I felt everything kind of settled and she’s just her and I’m just me and everything’s the same. Maybe the best thing I can do is the most me. That’s what I want for us, I want her to be her. It gave this quiet and firm context, it made sense for me to be honouring the gifts that I’ve had to give. I’ve spent less time second-guessing myself since becoming a father than I did before.”
Towers and Trees formed in 2013, originally as a solo project for Chalifour that quickly turned into a band. Chalifour is still in the process of figuring out the differences between being in a band and working as a solo act.
“I guess I’m still figuring that out as I go,” Chalifour says. “There’s been a wonderful and refreshing amount of clarity around it, some of the guys that were in Towers and Trees are still playing with me and when it makes sense, for example, when I’m playing it back in Victoria and it makes sense to have a full four, five other guys on stage — you’ll get a lot of those other guys in Towers and Trees. This tour that we’re doing to Calgary and back, we’ll be rolling as a trio. Dave Zellinsky, my old pal who I like to call Shred, has been with me since day one in Towers and Trees and is my guitarist and we’ll bring a drummer so it’ll be great and a lot of fun.”
Joy was originally supposed to be a Towers and Trees album, but morphed into a solo release for Chalifour after the album looked to be a better vehicle for Chalifour’s solo work.
“With Towers and Trees, it was started as a solo project for a brief window of time because I was writing these songs and I wanted a vehicle to share them through. It quickly grew into this collective energy, got some traction and the live show was really great,” Chalifour says. “The band was always shifting and evolving and there was conflict and only a couple guys who went back to the beginning with me. These were songs I’d written over the last couple of years and that we had been able to grow and arrange with the guys who played in Towers and Trees and we went into the studio with the intention of making a Towers and Trees record and were mostly done making the record when I got to the point of tabling it and saying, ‘Listen, I want to give this record the best chance possible and give these songs the best chance possible,’ I don’t think we were in a place to do that as a group, we were all going in different directions. Making an album is only half of doing an album, the other half is releasing and performing it and giving it it’s proper life cycle. It wasn’t a controversial decision and made a lot of sense, and we all knew it was something we couldn’t do as a group and so they passed the baton to me.”
One story that sums up the experience of making the album for Chalifour comes from an early-morning ferry ride from Victoria to the studio in Port Coquitlam that him and his bandmates took on the first day of recording.
“Day one in the studio was Monday morning, to get over there in time we had to catch the 7:00 a.m. ferry to be at Port Coquitlam for 9:30,” Chalifour says. “We’re getting in the van on the Victoria side at about 5:30 in the morning Shred, our guitar player is fiddling around with this Go-Pro on the windshield. I ask ‘What are you doing?’ and he’s got the green light and camera on and says ‘I’ve actually decided I’m gonna make a mini-documentary about this entire recording experience.’ As soon as he finishes saying that, the light starts flashing red and he says ‘Oh, I was. I think the battery just died.’ Just as it was 5:30 in the morning, we shared this five minutes of belly laughter, the only laughter I’ve ever really shared with those guys. This was day one of making that record and it started with sharing five minutes of uncontrolled laughter with each other and it’s the most beautiful and fitting thing. That’s the record, that was the experience. It’s hard work, and it was crazy and we’re flying across the country and catching early ferries and going home. But there was joy in it.”Chalifour will be playing at the Ironwood Stage & Grill on Oct. 29 with openers Nixie, Elle Wolf and October Poppy. Cover is $15. Joy is available on all streaming services. For more information about his upcoming tour and music visit his website.