Breaking out as a solo artist from a big-name act has been a daunting but simultaneously freeing experience for Russell deCarle.
The one-time vocalist and bassist for Canadian country mainstay Prairie Oyster noted calling it a “solo” career may be a misnomer.
“When I got into music, the thing that really attracted me was playing music with other people. I’m not really the guy who sits down to play a solo record and wants to play every instrument. I love playing with other people,” deCarle said.
Recently returned from Scotland for Celtic Connections, a winter music festival in Glasgow, deCarle had just received a mastered copy of his new album: Alone In This Crowd. The album features collaborations with Canadian country and folk singer Cindy Church and Halifax singer Erin Costelo — just a few of the artists and friends he’s made doing his solo work.
deCarle is also bringing guitarist Steve Briggs along to the Dream Music Festival in Penticton in May. A good friend of deCarle’s and guitarist, the two performed on the Black Hen Travelling Roadshow last year.
The Dream Music Festival is going to be a chance for deCarle to further collaborate, with cross-band jamming becoming a staple of the festival since its inception three years ago.
“(Me and Briggs) do some stuff as a duo, but we’re really looking forward to collaborating too with the rest of the players. We come out to play at these festivals so we’re really excited to be doing this,” deCarle said.
He said the new album, set to be released soon, has a southern soul feel, with eight new original songs and three obscure covers. The project started a few years ago, with the release of a Russell deCarle Trio album in between.
“One of the great things about this now is I get to tell my own story after being with Prairie Oyster for so long. Touring on my own there’s a lot a songs I love to do, mostly my original material, but I pull out some obscure cover stuff that I like to do,” deCarle said.
The southern soul influence stems from his upbringing outside of Toronto, which deCarle said has always been a town active in rhythym and blues.
“It’s a real rhythm section record,” deCarle said. “It’s just part of what I’ve always done really. My tastes have been very eclectic. Even with Prairie Oyster, we were kind of always known as a country group, but we drew from all areas of American roots music.”
Now his third solo album, deCarle admitted he originally had some trepedation trying to create something new with his name tied to Prairie Oyster.
“Fortunately the old Oyster fans dig what I’m doing as well, so I’ve got that crowd and a whole new audience. People know my name, but it hasn’t been easy that’s for sure,” deCarle said. “That took a little while because people have a pre-conceived notion of what I do. They think Russell deCarle, he’s a country guy. We had great success with Prairie Oyster, things I’m really proud of, but my thing is a little bit different.”
Spending decades in a band, getting to tell his own story allows deCarle to draw on the music and influences he’s been mentally gathering over the years, informing the writing of his new material.
Casting is everything, he said, when putting together an album like Alone In The Crowd. Going into the studio with a fairly clear idea of how he wants a song to sound, he has been pleasantly surprised a few times.
“It’s a continuation of what I’ve always done really, it’s just nice to explore different avenues,” deCarle said.
Alone In This Crowd expected to be released soon and those coming to the Penticton Dream Music Festival will get to hear some of the new material with a chance to buy the new album.
deCarle comes to the Penticton Dream Music Festival May 12 and 13 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. Tickets and more information available at www.thedreammusicfestival.ca.