It may not be his first recording effort, but Live at the Dream Café is filled with meanings and milestones for Ari Neufeld.
The album, which well be released on Sept. 10, is the result of years of work for Neufeld, combined with the help of a lot of friends and especially the mentorship of Dream Café owner Pierre Couture, who discovered Neufeld while walking through the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning about four years ago.
“His sound was what stopped me the first time, at the market,” said Couture, whose Dream Café has played host to some great musicians over the last decade, including the likes of Jim Byrnes, Judy Collins, Michael Kaeshammer, Bill Bourne and many others.
“It’s not true that I don’t hire local people,” Couture told Neufeld when they met. “I hire people that I know can sell and I can sell you.”
That was the start of what Neufeld calls “a kind of casual apprenticeship.”
“He used to come out and sit on the curb when I was busking at the Saturday morning markets,” said Neufeld. “He saw the potential in me as an artist. He really wanted to help me in my education.”
That involved things like Couture reserving a table whenever a performer was coming through that he thought Neufeld could learn from. It’s an investment that Couture doesn’t regret. The best day the Café has ever had, he said, was when Neufeld had a show.
“We’ve never had so many people in here. It was a good thing for him too, to see that many people show up,” said Couture. For his part, Neufeld said there is something special that happens when you perform at the Café.
“From a performer’s standpoint, there is something incredible that happens when you are playing at the Dream Café. I think he has created a place where people know there is going to be good quality music and because of that energy, artists tend to perform really well,” said Neufeld, adding that the education and help Couture offered went beyond just slipping him in the back door for concerts.
“For about three to four years, we chit-chatted about the main points of what makes a dynamic artist,” said Neufeld. “It was a super helpful time in my life, but at the end of it, we decided to cut a record and we hired my dream engineer from Victoria, Corwin Fox, to come out and record the show live.”
That was about a year ago. Since then, Neufeld has been spending his time in post-production, mixing, mastering and editing the show. He’s also put together a video with the help of Nikos Theodosakis and a full video crew that also attended the show.
“We had a full video crew, I had 13 mikes on my body, just to record the audio. And some special guests came out, like painter Jenny Long,” said Neufeld. “She painted a portrait of me during the show and we used it on the cover.”
Live at the Dream Café is being release as a package, combining the CD with a DVD of the performance and a book Neufeld penned about his journey to create the album.
“It looks, reads and sounds incredible,” said Neufeld, who is a little harder to pin down on what exactly the music sounds like.
“We coined a descriptor for it, we’re calling it full-contact folk,” he said, describing the one-man band style he’s developed, adding percussion by dancing on a wooden box while he plays his guitar.
“It’s kind of transcended typical genres. I wouldn’t just categorize it as folk,” he said. “I think people can expect a little bit more. I am musically working through some contemporary ideas.”
The party to celebrate the release of the album takes place at the Dream Café on Sept. 10 at 8 p.m., with John Rousseau opening the show for Neufeld and Jenny Long returning to create another live portrait during the course of the show.