I had the privilege of sitting down with Tim Chaisson before playing a busy show at the Horseshoe Tavern with Toronto-by-way-of-Thunder Bay band Poor Young Things. Chaisson released his record The Other Side in September and he’s been touring the album hard, most recently on a stint with his label mates PYT that started out East (specifically in PEI) and will take them to the other side of the country.
As for tour so far, Chaisson has nothing but good things to say. “It’s been wicked with those guys. They’re really nice fellas. It’s funny to find a band that all 5 guys are legit, all awesome. My band, we all love ‘em too.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Chaisson, he’s actually been releasing solo music since he was about 15 years old, though his family is actually quite prominent in the music scene in PEI and he’s been playing the fiddle basically all his life. From then he was writing and recording and at home and at local studios and he released Broken Hearted Beat in 2008, an album he co-wrote with Joel Plaskett and Gordie Johnson. The Other Side is Chaisson’s “first record released nationally with a label.” About the release, Chaisson says, “It’s been great. It’s cool being on the road and promoting it the proper way.”
Chaisson’s music has evolved from playing fiddle music to more of a singer-songwriter sound, but he still loves to incorporate the fiddle into what he does now. He says, “I think it evolved just kind of gradually and naturally, just keeping on playing and writing and trying to get better at what I do.”
He admits that playing lots of shows over the years has helped him to get better and “learn tricks of what works live and what doesn’t.” When recording the album, Chaisson kept in mind that his live show would have to work if he’s playing an acoustic show by himself or if he’s playing with his full band. He says, “If I play by myself with just my acoustic guitar and my fiddle and then people buy the record and listen to it, then they won’t be disappointed. I think of the song as the core of the record and the instrumentation kind of comes second, as if it’s backing up the song, the acoustic guitar and the vocals.” While he’s well aware of some of the standard tricks when playing live to keep a certain tempo up and following the crowd’s cue, generally what you hear live from the full band is what you’ll hear on the record.
We reviewed the album just before it was released and Chiara was quick to point out the heartbreak in the songs on the record, but Chaisson says that he tried to keep the album more up and down so that the album wouldn’t be full of sad songs.
He continues, “People kind of get different things out of it and it just depends on how you take it. Certain things will hit you harder at certain times or words will hit you harder, depending on your mood.” Chaisson’s songwriting is often relationship-based, but he says, “At this point in my life, it is kind of what I know best. I feel like I can write about what I think I know.”
Chaisson also loves to collaborate as both a learning experience and a way to get more out of the songs. It was interesting to hear that, aside from co-writing with friends back home in PEI, the first real serious writing session he ever had was with Joel Plaskett. Of the “intimidating” experience, he says, “I was extremely nervous, but we came up with some really cool songs. He’s wicked.” From that first songwriting session, Chaisson says, “The song just opened up so much more.”
Chaisson adds, “I know that you have to write with people that you like or that you have trust in.”
As for what inspires Chaisson, the music in PEI has obviously been a big influence. He says, “Whenever you grow up in an area, you tend to gravitate to what people are doing, what people are playing. And the thing about PEI, there are so many great folk musicians, but there are lots of great rock bands, lots of different country, lots of great Celtic musicians. And whenever you get together, you play shows, you listen to what’s coming out, what people are doing, and you just can’t help but get influenced by who you enjoy.” Chaisson gives a shout out to a few locals – Two Hours Traffic, Catherine MacLellan and Rose Cousins – and says, “There are all these great songwriters that come from [PEI] that are touring and play and it definitely influences what I do and my band as well. It inspires me big time.”
He also commends on the community in the East, saying, “Everybody is there to help everybody else out. It’s not cutthroat. There’s a lot of great musicians and bands, but there’s only kind of a handful from PEI that are out on the road playing, so everybody is super supportive of one another.”
Chaisson is proud to be from PEI, despite his many ties (label, booking agent, publicist) to Toronto. Chaisson even recorded the album in Toronto. While he has contemplated making a move, Chaisson says he loves PEI too much to leave, at least for now.
As for the tour, Chaisson was excited to play at the Horseshoe, but he gushed that he was really excited to play in Thunder Bay. Chaisson and co. will be joining Poor Young Things tonight in their hometown at The Outpost. Chaisson says, “They’re all pumped to get back home. I’m really excited to experience that, their territory.”
Tonight for sure, I’m really excited to play tonight. I love the Horseshoe and I think it’ll be a really fun night. Another thing is… these guys are all from Thunder Bay, so it’s kinda cool to go to each other’s hometowns. I’m really pumped to get to Thunder Bay and I think we might have a day or 2 there. Yeah, we’re playing at the Outpost on the 24th, so next Saturday. And they’re all pumped to get back home. I’m really excited to experience that, their territory.”
As we wrapped up our chat, Chaisson couldn’t think of a drunken story that he could share, though he promised he’d get back to me if he though of one.
As for his shot of choice, Chaisson says, “I love to have a shot of Jager before I go on stage, if I get a chance to. I don’t drink on stage, so I like having a shot before I hop up to play.”
Tim Chaisson and Poor Young Things continue their tour tonight in Thunder Bay before travelling West to BC. Then Chaisson will be back in Toronto to play the Enwave Theatre with The Trews on December 7, 2012, wrapping up a busy 2012 touring schedule.
If you haven’t seen him yet, we certainly recommend you catch Tim Chaisson live if you get the chance.