by Nick Laugher
Hackin’ darts and breaking hearts, David R. Elliott is a whiskey-soaked lullaby of love at first sight, and liquored-up longing.
The St. John native’s latest release is called Rearrange, a virtual cenotaph of jagged country crooning, reflections on mortality and tragic heartbreak. David R. is a whiskey sour of love, anguish and reckless abandon.
So recently I sat down with the derelict to try wrangle some witty words out of him about hacking darts, Stompin’ Tom Connors, his new album and why his vulgar rap persona would win in a fight.
Nick Laugher: First of all can you explain the phrase “Hacking a dart,” and what it means to you?
David R. Elliott: I don’t know if ‘hackin a dart’ is just Canadian but I’ve heard it started in Southern Ontario. I don’t know who I heard say it first, but ya gotta admit it’s a better sounding phrase than ‘smoking a cigarette’ or ‘havin a smoke.’ Just more force to it.
NL: You’ve got a new record, Rearrange, that you recorded with Mike Trask, how did that come together?
DRE: I met Trask at a house show in Saint John that we played while he was touring with Owen Steel. Weird vibe at this thing, I think he watched me play for 30 seconds and went to smoke his pipe. But a few months later I got a message from him saying he wanted to produce my next album.
NL: You initially told me the album was going to be called ‘David R. Elliott Sings The Burial Ground’, what happened to that?
DRE: I thought ‘Sings the Burial Ground,’ would be a cool kind of throwback type of title, but I’m not really one for title tracks. I had written a tune called “Rearrange” when I was still with the lady I wrote most of this album about, and she assumed it was about her, and it wasn’t, but she pointed out that ‘rearrange’ was something we always said to each other, if we were uncomfortable watching a movie or trying to fall asleep or whatever, so it was something we said every day pretty much, so it made sense she would think it was about her.
NL: So how long did recording take?
DRE: We did pretty much all of it in three separate five hour sessions at Echo Chamber, I think. But we recorded the last track, “My Girl,” at Mike’s place with this really old little reel-to-reel, which is why it sounds so fucked
NL: Why’d you decide to go with an all analog approach?
DRE: I think it’s obvious at this point that that’s how my music should be recorded. Country and Blues guys used to go in and hammer out the record mostly live and accept the product they made. Maybe I didn’t sing a certain note right, or maybe the EQ is muddier than I wanted in one of the tracks, but that’s all a part of it, and art to me is not static, it’s open to interpretation and I think it should be allowed to breathe a bit.
NL: Aside from your work as a singer/songwriter, you’re also a foul-mouthed badass MC under the name Stephen Hero, can you tell me a bit about who Stephen Hero is?
DRE: Hip Hop was my first love, after Elvis, I suppose, and the first type of art that I ever took seriously. I was really into writing poetry when I was a lad so when I heard rap music it blew my mind entirely. Basically Stephen Hero is me taking hip hop pretty seriously and trying to do my best to honor the form.
NL: Who do you think would win in a fight: Stephen Hero or David R. Elliott?
DRE: Stephen Hero would probaly win cause he has more confidence… and he’s a dirty bastard.
NL: Stompin’ Tom, who recently passed away, was a huge influence on you, can you tell me a bit about why?
DRE: Stompin Tom was absolutely amazing and I no longer play setlists that don’t have Tom in them. He was a brilliant songwriter, and he wrote directly from experience, in a way that no one can really do anymore. He was a genuine personality and a good drinker, and he never took himself too seriously, but he still stood by his principles unwaveringly. He meant a lot to people in this country for good reason, he let you sing along to your own life, which is a powerful and heartfelt gift.
NL: What is your favorite part about the movie Fly Away Home?
DRE: “That’s my kind of great.”
NL: What’s next?
DRE: We’re putting together a tour for the summer, myself and Mike Trask, as well as planning shows with Mike’s new band, which I sing and play guitar in. I’m also gonna try to pump out some really weird shit before the tour if I have the time, something where you could have an argument over whether or not it counts as music.
Download Foolish Lips here.