Top Indie songwriter back in action, on tour

Jason Collett, playing the KCT with Zeus, talks with the Townsman about songwriting and his ambivalence to the music industry

Jason Collett and Zeus

Jason Collett and Zeus

Barry Coulter

One of Canada’s top songwriters is back on the road, and will take the stage in Cranbrook at the end of this month.

Jason Collett, one of the prominent voices out of Toronto’s burgeoning Indie rock scene, will play the Live Lobby Lounge at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, April 29, along with Zeus, a Toronto band who have collaborated with Collett throughout his rock and roll career.

Collett is also known as a member of Broken Social Scene, a renowned Canadian musical collective, currently on hiatus. Collett himself has been on a hiatus of several years from recording and touring, but he’s glad to be back.

“It’s been four years maybe,” Collett told the Townsman, prior to setting out for a whirlwind Western Canadian tour. “But I am looking forward to going out, particularly because Zeus is the band. I have a real affinity for those fellas — we go back a ways and they’re such great players. And I’ve done a few ‘tours of duty’ across the country and back over the years. I am familiar with and fond of Canada.”

“Song And Dance Man,” Jason Collett’s sixth full-­length album, covers the trials and triumphs of the modern musician with poignant poetry: “If you can tweet something brilliant, you got a marketing plan.”

“I had a fair bit of ambivalence about making this record — it took me a while to sift through my relationship with the music industry,” Collett said.

“But ultimately, I’m a songwriter, and I need to create. So I got back into the saddle. Just getting into the studio and making some music with some close friends, and reminding myself how much I enjoy doing it. Same thing with going out on the road with Zeus. Rehearsing with them reminds me how much I enjoy playing music with people that I love.”

Collett takes an intense view of the world and his place in it, and transforms them into unique and original rock songs, acoustically inclined and beat favourable. At the same time, these songs have a universal access — anyone can see themselves in these songs.

“What I learned about doing that I largely learned from John Lennon,” he said. “At one point when I was younger, I tended not to like John Lennon as a writer. He only ever seemed to write about himself. And then, without really thinking about it, I found myself really loving John Lennon … for the very reason I wasn’t into him before. He’s very universal and accessible because he’s acutely vulnerable in writing about himself. And that is the best way to be universal.

“So what I learned from that as a writer is that I was tending to distance myself in writing in the third person. I made a concerted effort to be more vulnerable, speaking in the first person, and it definitely resonated with a lot of people.

“It’s often what makes a song more interesting. I think people have good bullshit detectors and you can tell if there’s truth in a song if it’s coming from a truthful place.”

In spite of his complicated feelings about the evils and perils of the music industry, the thing Collett loves most is writing songs. “It is that sort of mysterious thing — I am completely enthralled and in awe of the process. I love nothing more than to just spend my days writing songs.”

Could it in fact be described as a dream job?

“It certainly is,” he answers. “I’ve spent most of my adult life working as a carpenter, I have pretty good perspective on what a hard day’s labour is about. So getting to go out with a band and make records, for sure it’s a dream job.

“But then, getting back to my ambivalence in regards to the industry is just being aware of how the ground has not stopped shifting for a number of years.

“The title track ‘Song and Dance Man’ is a comment on that. You really got to hustle to make it work, and you need a lot of luck. And even that sometimes isn’t enough. It’s a very precarious business to be in as long as I’ve been in it.

“A lot of people that you would think are successful in this industry — their lives are far more financially precarious than you would ever imagine.

“People’s ideas of success can be a little mythical.”

Jason Collett and Zeus take the stage April 29 at the Key City Theatre’s Live Lobby Lounge. Opening the bill is Polaris Prize nominated songwriter Kalle Mattson. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be a great show,” Collett said. “Zeus is really one of the best bands in the country.”