Timing is everything in music. Not just from a musical standpoint, but often in the bigger picture as well.
So when celebrated Toronto rock band I Mother Earth original called it a day in 2003, they simply knew the time was right. Despite boasting album sales of more than a quarter-million units in Canada alone, complemented by sold-out shows from coast-to-coast, serious changes were afoot in the business.
To put it mildly, the music business was in free-fall. Record companies had yet to shut down file-sharing services like Napster and Kazaa, while legal services like Apple’s iTunes were still in their infancy.
It was that overarching free-fall of the music business, along with a host of other reasons, that ended up contributing to I Mother Earth’s decision that it was as good of time as any to step away from the limelight.
“Ultimately, we were tired,” I Mother Earth guitarist Jag Tanna explains to The MusicNerd Chronicles. “We had been going for such a long time that by the time we got a few years into the new century, it seemed like we no longer on the receiving end of support from the industry itself. We have never been afraid of hard work, but it really started to feel like we were doing it for the wrong reasons. There wasn’t any joy in making music anymore. Rather than us keep soldiering on and risk starting to make music we didn’t feel a connection to, it was just easier to walk away. We just had nothing else to say musically at the time.”
I Mother Earth vocalist Brian Byrne would go on to record and release a pair of Americana-influenced solo records, while bassist Bruce Gordon would join forces with the Blue Man Group. Tanna and his brother Christian, who plays drums for I Mother Earth, each remained in the music business, albeit in roles behind the scenes.
Although an I Mother Earth reunion wasn’t something the individual band members had planned, the inspiration to breathe new life back into the group arrived in 2012, but from a rather unlikely source.
“We were never really ones to talk about getting back together, but the catalyst for it eventually happening was seeing a performance from another band that was just horrible,” Tanna laughs. “It triggered something. I looked at my brother and said I felt as though it was the right time to revisit the band.”
He acknowledges that while the group could have easily coasted on the success of their previous hits and did a reunion tour without bringing anything new to the table, Tanna says all four members of the group agreed writing new material was essential to move the band forward.
“We heard other bands releasing what sounded like recycled music. There was no soul to it. It was as if they hadn’t progressed over the course of eight or nine years. If we were going to get together to make music again, we wanted to approach it from the standpoint of ‘Here is what we’ve learned from the past nine years of being away.’
“We wanted to give people a reason to fall back in love with the band. Nobody sets the bar higher for this group than we do for ourselves. We couldn’t be so arrogant to assume that because we had a bunch of hits in the past, people were going to care about us.”
Fortunately, and, some might argue not surprisingly, folks did care very much about the return of I Mother Earth. In late March 2012, the band promptly sold out a pair of shows in Toronto, having released a new single – “We Got The Love” – the day prior.
“I remember playing that song and people were singing it back to us. We just couldn’t believe it. I don’t even think Brian knew all the words,” he laughs. “It was the ultimate show of support for the band, though. As long as we are able to make those meaningful connections with the fans, we are going to keep writing songs and playing shows when we can.”
Since the release of “We Got The Love,” I Mother Earth has since released two other singles – “The Devil’s Engine” and “Blossom,” which debuted in mid-November. Although no full-length album is forthcoming, Tanna insists the group is enjoying the process of releasing singles.
“The great thing about releasing singles as we have been doing, is that it gives us the opportunity to create a new dialogue and come up with new ideas every few months. I’m still very much an album-driven person. I want somebody to discover they love track 11 on an album as much as they like the first or second song,” Tanna says.
“That just isn’t where the music business is at these days, though. It is a vastly different world than the one we were a part of 10 and 15 years ago. It’s an exciting place to be where we are these days because people that listened to us in the 90’s or whenever are now bringing their kids out to shows. It’s a little mind-boggling to see our music being heard by a whole new generation of fans, but at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. That is the connection we are looking for.”
What: I Mother Earth with Our Lady Peace and special guests Alert The Medic
When: Thursday Dec. 31, 9 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
This event is sold out