When searching for a name for their surprise musical project, it turned out the trio of Saint John-area musicians Clinton Charlton, Bill Preeper and Sandy MacKay were sitting on it the whole time. Actually, sitting in it might be a more appropriate word choice.
The group, Bonnett House, takes its name from the historic property that is owned by Preeper. It also happens to be the same place where the group chose to record its debut effort, Songs From Bonnett House.
Speaking in advance of Bonnett House’s sold-out performance at Saint John’s Sanctuary Theatre on Saturday evening, where the group will celebrate the release of their new record, Preeper says he dug into the history of his home following the discovery of an old postcard hidden in the structure’s walls.
“I discovered the home is one of the older houses in Hampton and that it actually once belonged to a high sheriff of King’s County at one point,” he says. “The carpenter gothic style of the home dates back to the 1840s or so.”
Although the construction of Preeper’s home may date back almost two centuries, the music being made by the group is undoubtedly current. Unified by an obvious admiration and affinity for vocal harmonies, the trio brings a distinct array of influences and styles to Songs From Bonnett House.
The trio first performed in 2013, brought together to play at a Bob Dylan tribute show, according to Charlton.
“The group unfolded in a completely organic way,” he offers. “The three of us got to talking and discovered how much common ground we shared in a musical sense. After that first performance was in the books, I think that each of us felt as though we could have something special, and decided to continue our musical pursuits, even though we didn’t set out on any definitive course.”
Charlton jokes the group began writing songs only to give them a reason to continue making music together, but notes that it didn’t take long for their musical chemistry to become evident. The eight songs featured on the group’s new record came together rather effortlessly over their first few practice sessions.
“In a lot of cases, Bill [Preeper] would start playing a riff on his guitar and Clinton and I would simply join in,” MacKay says. “These songs couldn’t have come together any more organically. It was exciting to feel so creatively inspired and have these songs fall out of the sky for us, so to speak.”
While inspiration may have lead the group to writing its first eight songs relatively quickly, the recording process didn’t necessarily follow suit. Songs From Bonnett House came together over an approximate two-year period during which the group’s members were simultaneously working on the project in tandem with other commitments, both musical and otherwise.
In addition to his work with Bonnett House, Charlton maintains a solo career, and also performs with local groups including Penny Blacks, Jessica Rhaye and the Argumen. MacKay is also a solo performer, but also keeps an iron in a number of other musical fires in the city, including a duo project with Preeper, as well as Jessica Rhaye.
The end result of those outside projects is that Songs From Bonnett House, in much the same manner that the group initially came together all those years ago, unfurled as organically as it could have.
“This record was made as casually as it could have been, which was an ideal situation, given our various commitments,” Charlton says. “The good thing about taking the better part of a couple of years to make the record is that we didn’t feel any kind of strain or pressure to get it done. This record very much sounds like three friends getting together to play music, which, in fact is exactly what it was.”
What: Bonnett House
When: Saturday March 4, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Sanctuary Theatre, 228 Germain St., Saint John
The show is sold out