After pursuing a recording career in which he has delivered more than a half-dozen releases, collaborating with the likes of Moncton’s Julie Doiron in the Julie & The Wrong Guys project, among others, Toronto-based musician Eamon McGrath is adding a new title to his resume: Author.
On May 10, McGrath will release his debut book, Berlin-Warszawa Express, a fictionalized memoir that details the adventures of a folk musician touring Europe. Along the way, the book’s protagonist and his ragtag group of fellow Canadians push back against declining morale, sleeping in airports and how singing the songs of Neil Young helped save their hides at one specific show in Germany.
The overarching theme of the book, however, is considerably more serious in tone, and is something that many artists have surely considered at one point or another in their career: What should or shouldn’t artists give of themselves in order to be a success?
“The book is fictional, but draws off real-life experiences. There are a lot of elements of truth running throughout the narrative,” McGrath explains. “Any person that is looking to make a living from a career in the arts is in for an uphill battle at best. As a musician, you work so hard, touring and releasing product, that you aren’t necessarily taking notice of the work and labour you’re putting into your career along the way.”
The musician’s contemplation of where his career was headed, and his novel’s inadvertent birth, came into sharp focus while he was on a European tour in support of his 2014 album Exile. Acknowledging he had passed the point of exhaustion on this one specific tour, it left him so disjointed from reality that he seriously debated throwing in the towel on the music business.
“The thought of packing it all in definitely crossed my mind during the course of that tour. I hadn’t realized that I had spread myself too thin. There were a lot of bad moments and times where everything I was calling everything I was doing into question. One of the only things that kept me sane was that I had started writing out my thoughts of the tour by hand. When I went back and looked at these writings, it occurred to me there was some semblance of a narrative contained within them. I didn’t begin writing down my thoughts with the intention of crafting a larger story out of them, but it also seemed too big to ignore.”
After sharing his writing with fellow author and Rheostatics member Dave Bidini, the wheels on McGrath’s first novel began to turn relatively quickly and unexpectedly. Within two months of Bidini sharing McGrath’s work with his publisher, he found himself with a book deal.
McGrath feels certain that had he gone in search of national release for his upcoming book, as opposed to letting things unfold in the way they have, success would have eluded him. Nonetheless, he is looking forward to seeing where the literary world takes him.
“I’ve heard stories of writers trying to get book deal for anywhere from six to 10 years. I realize how lucky I am having this deal essentially fall into my lap,” he says.
“Even though I’m taking on an endeavour that’s new to me, I tie the experience into the same lineage and timelines as the creation of music. Nothing is static for me, and I am not at the point in my career where there’s going to be a pattern in terms of the types of shows I perform, the venues I play or the audiences that come to the shows.”
Helping boost McGrath’s morale is his upcoming run of shows with Indie rock phenoms July Talk. The history between McGrath and the group runs deep, and flourished on a bed of mutual respect and trust. The ties between the two run so deep that McGrath was a member of July Talk in its earliest days, before their paths amicably diverged for the sake of their respective projects.
“[July Talk vocalist-guitarist] Peter [Dreimanis] and I have a long history of collaboration and continue to work together as often as we can. In fact, he was one of the key players that saw my book go from first draft to final product. When I got the call asking if I was interested in coming east with the group, it didn’t take long before I agreed. I’m looking forward to sharing some memorable times with the group over the next week,” he says.
What: Eamon McGrath, special guest to July Talk
When: Thursday April 20, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
The show is sold out