With the release of his stellar new album Romantic As It Gets, Prince Edward Island roots musician Dennis Ellsworth is, for all intents and purposes, done with the status quo.
Ellsworth’s assertion doesn’t have anything to do with a lingering frustration in regards to where his career is at. He simply wants to push himself to evolve beyond what has brought him to this point.
“I am just as happy with my new record as anything else I’ve done in the past,” he tells The Times & Transcript. “It just happens to be very much down the same street as my other work. I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and play shows all over the world. When you get back home from something like that, you tend to look at things with a whole new set of thoughts and a fresh perspective.
“More so than ever that perspective is leading me in the direction of needing to make a change. Instead of showing up at a recording studio and emerging with a finished record eight days later, I can see myself wanting to put more thought and pre-meditation into the projects I undertake in the future.”
Don’t get Ellsworth wrong, however. He is notoriously proud of his latest record, recorded in Georgia last year with acclaimed producer David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, R.E.M.)
Having previously worked together on Ellsworth’s 2012 release Dusk Dreams, he shares it was always his intention to return to Georgia to work with Barbe.
“A couple of different things drew me back to Georgia. I love it there, first of all, but I also wanted to return for selfish reasons. A few members of the band that had performed on Dusk Dreams were always at me to head back down and record. Prior to making that album, I didn’t know any of them, but have since developed quite a friendship with them, both musically and personally. I thought it would be a great experience to reconvene that exact same band, in the same studio and with the same process of recording.”
Ellsworth admits that, as tempting as delivering a companion volume to Dusk Dreams could have been, he is happy with his decision to forge forward with a collection of songs that could stand on their own.
“As far as I am concerned, David [Barbe] is a great guy to work with. He understands what I am going for, and also knows how to get the band to play to best serve the material. For the making of this album, we recorded straight to analogue tape and live off the floor, a process which really demands everyone apply their skills as players. We definitely didn’t have the opportunity to goof around,” he says.
No one in their right mind would insinuate that Ellsworth is doing much in the way of goofing around.
Between 2011 and 2014, he wrote, recorded and released three full-length albums, as well as an EP, some of which earned him awards from Music P.E.I. As his prowess as a songwriter grew within Canada, Ellsworth began participating in a number of songwriters’ workshops, eventually landing a publishing contract with a Toronto-based company.
While making music for himself remains a priority, his publishing deal has afforded the songwriter the opportunity collaborate with other writers all over the world. He recently spent three days in Helsinki, Finland working with a host of other writers, moved onto Amsterdam and did it all again.
The biggest difference with the material he is penning with others is the fact that it tends to fall into the pop realm.
“It might not be what I would pick out of my record shelf to listen to everyday, but I think it is important, for both creative and personal reasons, to put myself in these scenarios where I am challenging myself to think outside of the box I’ve lived in for the last number of years. It has been critical to helping me develop my skillset and broaden my understanding of the industry in general. Writing with others has ultimately forced me to push myself to do better,” he says.
“If anything, I feel as though I am just responding to the natural progression of my career. I am going to continue writing songs, but decided to let things take their natural course instead of forcing myself to write.”
What: Dennis Ellsworth
When: Saturday Nov. 21, 10 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton