Adapting to a new climate

A reflective Adrien Sala sits down to discuss songwriting, Jackpine and his new album

Emoting in public: Adrien Sala (centre) and Jackpine perform July 10, 2009 at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

After a weekend spent in the Whiteshell area that ended with a night out of a horror movie – a cabin in the middle of nowhere, a failing flashlight and things that go bump in the night – country-roots singer-songwriter Adrien Sala caught up with The Uniter to discuss his new album, his new band (Jackpine) and the creative process.

Sala admitted he’s a big fan of character-driven songs, but when it comes time to writing tunes, they tend to be introspective.

He’s been doing a lot of writing lately, still in the wake of his February 2009 release Diamond in the Mind.

“I’m in a transition period right now. I don’t know why. I know it’s not universal. Maybe it’s because of the change in weather or because I’m leaving one relationship and entering another,” Sala said over coffee.

“Everyone writes songs in whatever way it comes to them. I’d hate to make it sound otherwise.”

The title of Diamond in the Mind, recorded by Jaxon Haldane of the D.Rangers, referred to a poem by late local wordsmith Patrick O’Connell. Something about that line and the spirit of the poem resonated with Sala.

“The batch of songs contained within were related to what I had interpreted as some kind of basic meaning of the poem ... that from your darkest hour can come the greatest change of whatever kind is needed. The songs from that record seem to be born from changes and hopefully in those explorations there might be something of value to someone,” Sala said. “Whether or not that is the case I don’t know [but] it’s all I can offer.”

When he’s not writing intensely personal songs, Sala plays with Jackpine, described by some as the Traveling Wilburys of Winnipeg. In the group he is joined by local heavyweights Sean Buchanan of The Western States, Jesse Reimer and the aforementioned Haldane. The band formed two years ago after an incredibly productive weekend experimenting in writing songs together.

Recently Jackpine has turned their focus to an upcoming concept album. Every song’s title and chord structure comes from words created using the letters (or chords) from A to G. Sala says having such a concept to direct their energies helps them get over the inherent obstacles that exist in co-operative songwriting.

“You overcome the first problem in playing with a group like that because you overcome a concept and a chord structure. It’s an open creative environment where all these songs are narratives, character-driven songs which is a nice contrast to the way I write songs,” Sala said.

Jackpine has played only a handful of shows, but their sound seems to be catching on. They played at the Winnipeg Folk Festival this past year and are getting radio play, but all this notice comes as a surprise to Sala.

“None of us have done anything to promote the band, but it’s certainly the most successful thing I’ve been involved with.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 15, 2009)

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