I met up with Shane Cloutier last week at Northwinds Brewery in Collingwood. From the beginning of our conversation, it was clear that his new album In Light is something truly personal and heartfelt. You see, he seemed a little anxious. It was the day that In Light was being released for pre-sale, and as he later admitted, he was on edge about what kind of response he was going to receive.
But to me, the writing is on the wall. In Light is a sensitive and “out there” album for Shane, and people are already responding positively to the vulnerability he’s been showing in the months, weeks, and days leading up to the album’s release on February 23rd. There’s an aura about In Light. It’s raw and it’s meaningful. Shane’s family has been through a tragedy in the past couple of years, and In Light is a cathartic piece of art drawn out of that experience. It’s an honest expression of what’s been on Shane’s mind for the past little while.
He explains, “I was sitting on the couch. Lydia came in with a tea…and listened to me for like an hour and didn’t say anything…I was just singing these songs I had been writing, which was only about four at that point, and she said, ‘Why don’t you record these, and just do an acoustic album?’”
So he called up Villa Sound in Singhampton and booked the studio time three weeks out. At that point, he had four songs together and three more ideas for songs underway. He figured he would do the seven songs, then record three covers, but in the process, he wrote three more songs that he was happy with, which also reflected what he wanted to do with this album, so he went back and recorded those ones too.
Adam Fair is the engineer at Villa Sound, and according to Shane, he’s “so nice it’s sickening.” Shane tells me, “He’s the best engineer I’ve ever worked with. He’s fast, efficient, smart, really good at what he does. …I don’t foresee myself going anywhere else to do recordings anytime soon. [Tim Thorny and Adam Fair] are really great. They’re fantastic.”
Shane’s songwriting style is not broken down to a formula. He keeps bits and scraps of notes for songs in a binder, and once he’s finished the song, keeps a record of all those little notes. This way, he can look back at his process over the years. A lot of his songs are pieced together through these little notes, however, sometimes things come together a lot faster. For the first single off of In Light, “Shape Of Me”, Shane remembers, “That one came out right away. It all kinda came out of me. I started writing at 11 o’clock [at night] and almost finished it by 2am, but I couldn’t keep my head up. So, I woke up the next morning, had a coffee, and finished it.”
In Light is a navigation through a dark time and explores finding the light of life. You can tell that Shane is still reflecting on everything, and that he’s still working through the words and emotions of these songs. Rawness shines through in each song, and each song speaks for itself. “I’m really proud of it,” he says of creating this album, “And I’m glad I did it. It was cathartic. It’s the most honest thing I’ve ever done.” And that’s why throughout In Light, the listener will notice little squeaks on the strings or breaths in the voice. Everything was left in to show all of the ‘imperfections’.
Across a very broad spectrum, “[he] appreciate[s] honesty in music.” This sentiment is repeated again and again throughout our conversation. We talk about artists who get it right. Shane doesn’t discriminate across a variety of genres, rather, he looks for artists who have something to say and who say it with the right amount of edge. He has a huge influence from metal and punk, including Napalm Death, The Melvins, Slayer, and Iron Maiden. He also studied Jazz at Humber College, and still loves the jazz world, citing Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, and John Coltrane as major jazz influences to him. But he’s also into the hip hop and R&B world, loving contemporary artists like Run the Jewels, and classics like House of Pain, and Beastie Boys. As we’re talking, he thinks back, and recalls, “Oddly enough…probably the first time I heard a record that was so brutally honest that it actually made me well up while I was listening to it, was Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged. It’s a live performance, she’s talking candidly, she starts crying in the middle of a song…it’s just her strumming with her thumb on a classical. It’s so good.”
Just like the MTV Unplugged albums, Shane wants In Light to be something that he could perform off of a couch to an audience. It’s clearly an emotional album, and being in the physical presence of the artist is going to make it resonate so much more. However, as much as the album is about a personal perspective and experience, it’s also meant to speak to universal experiences. There’s a lot in In Light that we can all relate to, and Shane’s ultimate goal is to connect. He tells me, “[The audience will] either get what I’m trying to put out, or they’ll get something else out of it, and I’m happy equally, both ways.”
This exciting time for Shane Cloutier and In Light starts now. The album is officially released on February 23rd. You can pre-order it at the iTunes store here. At the end of March, the album will also be available on vinyl! What a perfect way to experience this raw, acoustic offering. Sidenote: Jessica Crandlemire is the brilliant photographer behind Shane’s artwork for this album. She has been able to capture the light and shadow of In Light beautifully.
Shane will be touring In Light as much as possible. At the end of March, he’s opening for Steve Strongman in Midland. Soon after, he’ll be in Hong Kong for two weeks! After that, you’re sure to catch him at various venues around North America. This is definitely an album that you’ll want to experience live as well as recorded, so do not hesitate to get tickets when Shane books a show near you.
Read more about Shane Cloutier here: http://shanecloutiermusic.com/
Get the album on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/in-light/1345092470