Murray Lightburn is best known as the lead singer of Montreal rock outfit The Dears. But the musician is also forging new ground with his sophomore solo album entitled Hear Me Out. It’s an album he says evolved by whittling away the original arrangements he envisioned down to their sparser, soulful and soothing end.
Lightburn, who plays two shows at Toronto’s The Burdock on Feb. 28 (early and late show), says the closing track “When They See Me” was the catalyst for the rest of the album.
“I picked up the guitar I started singing these words that came to me,” he says. “I was like, ‘Wow I could easily go in this direction, you know?’ So I just kept pursuing it. So I recorded myself singing the song and picking the acoustic guitar. It just kind of blossomed from there.
“In the weirdest way the gods were steering the project this way and I just abided. Sometimes you think you know what you’re supposed to do until something happens that tells you what you’re supposed to do. It’s always been my creative process and I never realized it until it happened.”
The 10-track album is a solid collection of material off the path of The Dears lush, grandiose offerings. Here Lightburn delivers strong soul-tinged material like “Anew,” the soothing, dreamy title track and the sweet, slow doo-wop feel of “I Give Up” effortlessly. It’s a feeling both he and producer Howard Bilerman.
“I feel that Howard and I share a very similar approach and aesthetic to a degree, maybe not taste but in terms of approach to making records,” he says. “I’m not a big fan of edits and all those digital technologies and what’s embraced with it. It’s a very old-school approach where we recorded to 24 tracks on tape, two-inch tape. There were days the computer wasn’t even fucking turned on which is amazing.
“It’s an amazing experience when you bring in musicians and you tell them, ‘Hey just so you know we’re not doing a million takes and cut it together. We’re trying to get a performance here.’ Working like that I think people embrace it almost immediately.”
Another fine track is “Centre Of My Universe” oozing ‘60s era R&B. It’s a song Lightburn says is inspired from his own life but hopes listeners can also appreciate.
“I was just trying to articulate a certain aspect of being in a serious long term situation,” he says. “I think it’s basically self-explanatory in the way I wanted to convey something that reflected how even though you can feel somewhat broken the right relationship can make you feel whole. It’s weird to observe resentment toward that idea of needing someone else. I think a lot of people end up in the wrong kind of relationships and the wrong partnerships for themselves and that’s what colours and filters the resentment.”
Lightburn has a handful of tour dates supporting the album in select cities but hopes to take the album wherever he can find an audience. Just don’t expect him to go somewhere on a whim because a few fans might want to see him play.
“Touring is a fucking real bear. People will be like, ‘When are you coming to X town?’ ‘Well get 300 of your friends together and call me otherwise I can’t be bothered. You’re one fucking person in this town that’s requesting my presence.’ If you want me to come to your town then fucking get off your ass and get 300 of your friends. It’s fucking bananas. I definitely don’t know what I’m up against going out there with just my own name. It might be a spicy meatball, maybe not.”
He also knows fans who know The Dears still might not recognize his name on a marquee.
“I’ll be stopped on the street and told, ‘Hey! You’re the singer in The Dears!’ But they don’t know my fucking name. They know I’m the black guy from The Dears, the singer in The Dears. I’ve enjoyed the familiarity that The Dears have had with people. But I’m really kind of on the ground floor with this even though I put out a record.”
The musician says making a new album by The Dears looms on the horizon for 2020 but until then it’s his solo work and being a dad to his two children. Lightburn’s Twitter account recounts different anecdotes regarding his daughter and her favourite bands. It’s something her father is intent on not influencing in the slightest.
“I am not even opening that door,” he says. “I see all these young hipster parents. ‘Oh look my kid’s a Flaming Lips fan!’ ‘Fuck off your kid is not a Flaming Lips fan! You’re a Flaming Lips fan and you made your kid a Flaming Lips fan and that sucks!’ We never tried to make our kids fans of any kind of music that we like. Let them discover, it’s shitty to make your kid a carbon copy of you.”