It was among the 10th century architecture and cobblestone roads that dominate the cityscape of Dublin, Ireland that Campbellton musician John Richard found inspiration for his latest album, Lost In Dublin.
Given how critically the journey played into the making of the record, it is somewhat ironic that few aspects of that fateful fall 2014 journey overseas were meticulously planned otherwise. While he had always nurtured a desire to traverse the Atlantic Ocean, it was only after being handed a return airline ticket that Richard knew he had to make the best of the situation.
“Ireland had always proved interesting to me,” the 36 year-old Richard shares. “I didn’t exactly have all these meticulous plans of things I was going to do if I ever got there though. I was on a budget, which was also a consideration, so I knew I would be spending the bulk of my week wandering around the city on foot.”
As he grew increasingly intrigued by the timelessness that seemingly engulfed the city of Dublin, Richard began feeling inspired by his temporary surroundings. While one song – “I Wish You’d Come With Me” – was born during the trans-Atlantic flight to Dublin, it didn’t take long before other songs began pouring out of him.
It was in the meal hall of the Dublin International Hostel, located in the northern part of the city, that Richard had the opportunity to bring the songs to life. As a former convent that had purposely retained some of its original features, including stained-glass windows and confession boxes, Richard shares one album track in particular, “Black Church,” drew its inspiration by a rather unique festival that coincided with his stay.
“It turned out that my time in Ireland happened to coincide with the Bram Stoker Festival,” Richard says, referring to one of Ireland’s favourite sons and the author of Dracula. “There was a gothic element, combined with the old architecture of the city’s churches and cobblestone roads that lent a darker, more moody tone to some of the songs on the record.”
It was almost one full year following his Irish sojourn that Richard entered the recording studio to begin work on Lost In Dublin. Sessions started at Echo Chamber Recording Studios in Halifax, where Richard cut his 2014 debut effort Blue Valley.
Two of Lost In Dublin’s seven songs – “Can’t Help It” and “I Fall Apart,” a cover of a track written by celebrated Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher – were conceived in the Nova Scotian capital. Helping bring the songs to life was the indelible rhythm section of guitarist Carter Chaplin and bassist Charlie Phillips, both of whom logged many-a-mile backing up Nova Scotian blues legend Dutch Mason.
“The great thing about having guys like Carter and Charlie on my side, and having them contribute to the material, is knowing the end result is going to be top notch stuff. If there is one thing I’ve learned during the recording process, however, it is how quickly a song you might believe is done can be turned on its head. Sometimes that means rearranging the way a song is structured while other times, it might just mean tinkering with the lyrics.”
The remainder of Richard’s newest record came together during sporadic recording sessions at Memramcook’s MRC Studios that spanned an approximate three-month period. Although the studio has only been in operation for approximately one year, it has already played host to Moncton country outlaws The Divorcees and Acadian recording artist Menoncle Jason. The upcoming solo release from Les Hay Babies member Julie Aubé was also recorded at MRC.
To help ensure the remaining five songs lived up to their full potential, Richard chose to let his creative muse lead him once he landed at MRC. Taking inspiration from fellow musicians including BackYard Devils member Christien Belliveau, Keith Hallet and Marc Doucet, Richard was not shy about deviating from the script as he felt needed.
Lost In Dublin producer Mike Trask believes the somewhat impulsive creative approach that Richard pursued is one that ultimately delivers some of the most compelling music.
“There is a certain spark that you can capture when you let your impulses lead you,” Trask offers. “If you spend too much time worrying about the fine details when you’re in the studio, you’re going to end up losing the soul of the song. That was one of the most important aspects about making this record: to make sure we didn’t get bogged down with irrelevant details.”
Acknowledging that approach to recording might not be every musician’s cup of tea, Richard says some of his favourite albums are the ones where, for just a slight moment, a vocal track may be slightly out of pitch or a guitar hits a wrong note.
While today’s technology allows artists to cover up those instances if they saw fit, Richard believes the warts-and-all end product proves to be more compelling than a technically perfect release.
“Almost any musician that has played on a recording is going to notice something that isn’t quite as obvious to anyone else. I’m no different. There are moments captured on Lost In Dublin that stick out to me, but it is those imperfect moments that I believe give the album – or any album – its character. When you’ve got a great collective energy happening in a recording session, it is something that will carry over to the listener. It’s the human element that makes albums so unique.”