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Interview: Patrick Ballantyne

Patrick Ballantyne recently released his new album “Calendar”, a collection of songs that were a product of a year long project of his where he wrote, produced and recorded one song a month in a single Calendar year. This, his 3rd length album showcases the hit Canadian songwriter’s wide range of influences and writing styles. We got up with Patrick recently for the following interview…
NW: Your newest record “Calendar” offers a different range of material that your previous works; what can you tell us about that?
PB: Interesting that you see it that way! I see the songs as just that…songs! I guess they reflect a variety of influences, perhaps some that haven’t been reflected in previous songs. There’s a bit of rockabilly in She Loves and Man, a bit of India in Fore the Harvest Comes…all influences that just happened to pop up this time. “Pop”, perhaps, being the key word!
NW: In your song “my excellent boy” we get to hear a pretty clear Beatles homage. Do you find these writing influences to creep up on you – or do you set out from the beginning to write songs with particular goals in mind?
PB: That song just started out as me beating on the piano…the chord progression came straightaway…and the feel of it was a bit like Penny Lane. Like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, this is a ‘childhood’ song…that was not intentional…it just came out that way. The rest is production choices…the ‘Strawberry Fields’ flute intro, the ‘Michelle’ acoustic picking…I kinda just went with it. That said, the harmonies are more Beach Boys then Fabs.
NW: You’ve co-written some great songs with some of our countries finest acts. What does a co-write with Patrick Ballantyne look like?
PB: Thanks for the compliment! Sometimes co-writing is a breeze, sometimes its painful. I suspect its the same with any songwriter. My contributions are all over the map though…sometimes it’s mostly lyrics, sometimes it’s the music…sometimes a bit of both, sometimes its merely a phrase or riff. Many times a co-writer will have the song mostly done and just need a bit of help getting it past the goal line. Others have literally come in with just an idea of what the song is about…and we fashion something from almost nothing. All approaches have led to something good. And sometimes, something not as good…
NW: What is one ‘rule’ for songwriting that you try never to break?
PB: Have no rules for songwriting. Write what’s in your heart. HAve it be a reflection of you at that moment. It’s nice if it rhymes, its nice if it’s hummable. But some great songs reside in left field. Because the person writing it was in left field at the time. And that’s awesome.
NW: What is the one song to which you think “Damn I wish I wrote that”?
“Somewhere” from West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein/ Stephen Sondheim. Lovely. Heartbreaking. No wasted notes. No wasted words.
What can we expect to come next?
I am sitting on a new EP called SKY. I love it. I just need to finish it. I keep adding songs to it so I risk it growing into a full album. But I hear it as a 6 song EP. With lots of Mellotron!!! I have to release it soon or I will lose my mind working on it.
What are a few acts you can suggest to our readers to check out? and why?
Well, how’s this. Buddy Holly, for the shear joy contained in his short perfect songs. It’s where so much of rock and roll began. John Coltrane, for the passion of his playing and relentless progress as an artist. And current day? Um…my 12 year old daughter insists I stay pretty familiar with the pop charts. From what I hear, not much there is obviously gonna be around 20 years from now. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to learn from those songs…a hit is a hit! All that said…and these gals ain’t really in the Top 40…I do love LAna Del Rey. And, speaking of left field, Joanna Newsom writes and performs music I cannot understand. And I love it. A bit easier to ‘get’, but no less wonderful is Laura Marling….a bit of Joni Mitchell, a whole lot of cool.
Check out Patrick’s new album “Calendar” below…