Stephen Fearing says being a songwriter’s not much different than being a sculptor.
“You can look at a piece of granite and decide it’s going to be a dolphin, or you can chip away at it and see what emerges. I find the best thing to do is just start and follow the song wherever it wants to go.”
Fearing and longtime friend and fellow songwriter, Andy White, did just that when they put together Fearing & White. The folk-pop artists will be presenting songs from their new CD at the Waverley Hotel in Cumberland on March 19.
Fearing has a reputation in the international folk and roots music community as an accomplished singer/songwriter, storyteller and guitarist. He’s a double Juno winner and has toured and recorded with the likes of Merle Haggard and Shawn Colvin. He’s also part of the trio that created the roots/rock group Blackie and The Rodeo Kings.
Born and raised in Northern Ireland, White’s known for blending folk and pop stylings with a poet’s sensibility. He’s worked with many well-known Irish musicians including Sinead O’Conner and Van Morrison and has won Ireland’s top songwriting awards.
According to the CD cover, Fearing and White met backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1998. “Stephen had a car and access to donuts. Andy had an accent and Christy Moore’s capo.”
Their friendship was formed on a love of music and it probably didn’t hurt that Vancouver-born Fearing grew up in Dublin. But with Fearing living in Canada (now Halifax) and White in Australia, they didn’t see each other often.
“It isn’t unusual for a musician to have friends they only see once a year or so,” explains Fearing. “We’re all used to that. But as my friendship with Andy deepened, I began inviting him to stay with me when he was in the area so we could write songs together.”
The result is Fearing & White, which according to Fearing is a 100-per-cent collaboration right down to the last comma.
On the CD, the sound moves seamlessly from folk ballad to soft rock and back again. Although the music generally remains true to its folk roots, there’s also a very contemporary element to the music. Each composition builds on the strength of the previous cut. And for being put together by a couple of guys who grew up in Ireland, Fearing & White has a uniquely Canadian sound.
The personal aspect of the lyrics gives the CD an extra kick. “I find the album’s tone one of yearning,” says White. “It’s emotionally bare as well as coy and mysterious. The songs will definitely keep you guessing.”
“We both feel strongly about the melody and lyrics,” says Fearing. “So we scrutinized every word and note. One of us would start to play something and the other one would say ‘I like that.’ Often we started with a melodic idea and from there figured out what the song was about.”
The first song they co-authored from scratch was If I Catch You Crying.
After that, the ideas just kept coming; sometimes they were built on a scrap of melody, other times a play on words was the driving force.
Thirteen of their 25-song shortlist were recorded on the CD with a 14th available on their website (www.fearingandwhite.com) as a freebie.
Although this will be White’s first visit to the Comox Valley, Fearing has performed here many times. “That whole area is near and dear to me,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to returning and showing Andy around.”
The Waverley concert begins at 8 p.m.