Same old new songs

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Jason Collett reinterprets his own songbook on Pony Tricks

Paul Bogdan
A&C Writer

It’s odd to think of someone who’s played with as many as ten other musicians on stage in Broken Social Scene embarking on a tour that features only one man, which is exactly what Toronto musician Jason Collett is doing to support his latest solo record, Pony Tricks.

His cross-Canada tour, dubbed the Undressed Tour, features a lone Collett and an acoustic guitar. “For years now I’ve been doing solo shows, and people seem to ask if I have anything representative of that, and I’ve never had that. The idea was to have [Pony Tricks] as a companion piece for the tour.”

There is a vast difference in performing the songs live sans backing musicians as opposed to performing with others. “It’s far more intimate … and there’s a vulnerability that allows for more intimacy. It’s starkly different. You’re really getting down to brass tacks, and the songs have to stand on their own because you’ve got nothing to dress them up with, hence the name of the tour. I feel really lucky as an artist to be able to do this, but also to turn around and go back to playing with a band … I love the freedom of being able to go out alone, to change a key to suit the mood that I’m in that moment that night, and also the guilt-freeness of being able to tell long stories without having to deal with a band getting antsy … I’m very happy to have a foot in both worlds.”

Collett describes Pony Tricks as different from his previous releases. It’s “a small record in the sense that it is reinterpretations of the back catalogue. There are only a couple of new songs, and it’s a very stripped down affair.” At first glance one may think that it’s redundant to re-record songs that have already been released, but Collett disagrees.

“I was a little reluctant to get around to doing it, and I kind of left it to the last minute. We’d already announced that I was going to have it, so I had to [chuckles], but it proves to be really fascinating. The whole process of writing, the whole process of recording, it’s a very fluid thing, and I’ve always been fascinated how random it is. The original recordings are … random occurrences. What happened that day that went to tape was affected by who showed up at the studio, by who could come in the first place, what you ate for breakfast, how much traffic there was on the way to the studio. All these things, they affect the shape that the song ends up taking ultimately. So, you push that to a different day, or years later you decide to reinterpret a song … you’re going to get something completely different.”

The reworking and revisiting of the songs on Pony Tricks assisted in bringing out attributes in the songs that might otherwise be overlooked. “Some of [the songs] are dramatically different. For example, [in] “Hangover Days” I turned all the verses into minor chords, and that makes the song much darker and puts a whole different spin on this sort of light reggae that it was originally recorded as.”

Fans seem to be enjoying the new takes on old tracks. “I think people are really appreciating it. It adds another dimension to performing as a solo artist … some people are very attached to original versions of songs, and there’s the potential to upset people, and I can appreciate that … but it allows [listeners] to have another dimension.”

For those who are interested in seeing this new dimension to Jason Collett’s old songs, the Undressed Tour makes its stop here in Regina on Nov. 18 at the Exchange.

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