Their music has earned comparisons to Blue Rodeo and the Band but make no mistake, Toronto-based roots band Graydon James and the Young Novelists are carving a path all their own. Following up a pair of 2011 releases, the group’s most recent full-length effort, In The Year You Were Born, has earned them widespread praise. Their songs have been deemed thoughtful and heartfelt while the band is also earning a reputation for their stellar live shows.
As Graydon James and the Young Novelists have become busier over the last two years, potential life-changing decisions are also being made. Thus far, James and his wife, Laura (who also plays in the band) have balanced band commitments with family life and day jobs. The latter is about to be removed from the mix, however:
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve been lucky that we have been playing better shows in venues and places that we haven’t played before,” Graydon says. “We are seeing some good momentum behind the band, playing a few shows every week while still balancing our day jobs. So I made the decision to take a leave of absence from my job for the next two years to see how music pans out for us.”
Understandably, it was not a decision Graydon made without thoroughly thinking matters through. He admits being rather nervous and slightly stressed at the thought of willingly walking away from his security blanket, of sorts. Of course, the consolation is that if music doesn’t quite pan out, he can always return to his job.
“I’m pretty fortunate to even have that as an option. The state of commerce for the arts is tough for everyone in the world right now.”
Fortunately for Graydon, he has more than one trick up his sleeve. This past April, he released his first novel, The Mall of Small Frustrations. The book is about various characters who work in a shopping mall and how they deal with various life situations.
He began work on the book about three years ago but had to put it aside temporarily to concentrate on the musical side of his work with the Young Novelists. When the time came to revisit the book, Graydon found that taking time away from it was the best thing for the finished product.
“I had tried to balance writing the novel along with writing music and just found it too difficult to balance the two.
“When I came back to the novel, it was as if I was completely re-energized. At the time, I stepped away from the novel, I had spent a significant amount of time editing and going over various things. But when I came back to it a few years later, I found that it was much easier to identify the problems that I hadn’t found before. I ended up doing a fairly extensive rewrite and added in quite a bit of material and am quite pleased with the end result. I didn’t like having to leave it for as long as I did but gaining some life experiences helped give a different perspective on what’s important.”
While In The Year You Were Born is a fairly recent release, Graydon says the group is already looking forward to recording its next effort. The band has been in rehearsal and writing new songs with the goal of heading into the studio late this fall to begin recording. Given that music will soon be his primary occupation, he recognizes that now is the time to throw himself into the band’s next record.
“We’ve been talking to a few different producers for the record,” Graydon says. “We have somewhere between one-third and one-half of the amount of songs that I would like to have written. Ideally, I’d like to go into the studio with somewhere between 30 and 40 songs to choose from.”
Songwriting is very much a group effort with Graydon James and the Young Novelists. And no one is happier for that fact than Graydon himself as it relieves him of being solely responsible for all Young Novelist songs. He says that songwriting follows a very natural progression with the band. Both he and his band mates bring new song ideas forward and work away at them until they are sufficiently pleased with how far they have developed the initial seeds of a song.
“It is definitely interesting to have an idea brought into practice and see how it changes and develops over time,’ Graydon says. ‘I really enjoy the back and forth when it comes to songwriting. Getting our songs to sound the way we want them to sound can sometimes take a long time but it’s all worth it in the end. Everyone in the band has an ear for what they want. Everyone has their influences.
“I grew up listening to Crosby Stills & Nash and the Eagles, so those influences end up showing through in the songs I write. I realize it’s not necessarily cool to like the Eagles but I just can’t seem to escape my influences.”
What: Graydon James & The Young Novelists
When: Tuesday August 27, 9:00 p.m.
Where: Plan B Lounge, 212 St. George Street, Moncton
Article published in the August 26, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript