Over the last year, the buzz has slowly been building around Ottawa band Brothers Through The Hill, a four piece consisting of best friends James Walters, Chris Metcalfe, Pat Crosby, and lead singer and principle songwriter Jack Spinks. Beat Surrender blog has credited their 2011 debut album ’Adelaide’ with "fine song writing and smart melodic foot tapping tunes", while country blog fansite NineBullets commented that “while Adelaide is a little less twangy than I normally enjoy, the strength of the lyrics more than makes up for it.” Ottawa X-Press nominated the band for best live act, Ottawa Magazine has shown up at their live shows to photograph the band, their lead singer Jack Spinks has been compared to the late Elliot Smith multiple times in print, and on February the 25th Jack will open for Juno Award winner Hawksley Workman solo at the Old Town Hall in Almonte. Here, Jack Spinks sits down with Positivelite.com’s Michael Burtch and talks about his upcoming solo album, performing live with his band Brothers Through The Hill, and what feeds his song writing.
Michael Burtch: Your band, Brothers Through The Hill’s CD release party and performance at the Elmdale Tavern last February was an incredible live show! Were you pleased with the reception that ‘Adelaide’ received upon it‘s release? Why the decision to follow it up with a solo record?
Jack Spinks: Last February was a dream come true, we managed to hit capacity and still have a line up out the door. The solo record is something I’ve always wanted to do and friends and family have told me they love my "bedroom acoustic" recordings just as much as the album so me and my producer Brock Zeman through some ideas around in terms of sound and being solo and both came to the conclusion that a solo folk album would really be great.
MB: You released the demo‘s for "All At Once", "This is Healthy", and "Burntlands Sundown" this winter. Can we expect these songs to pop up on your new album?
JS: Right now there’s about 20-30 songs I’m sitting on that weren’t on the Adelaide record. The plan is to record demos for all of them and then me and Brock will sit down and decide which ones will make the cut. I’m really digging the way "All at once" turned out so I have a feeling it will be on there for sure.
MB: Your demo of “Broken” is a mix-tape staple of mine. I don’t think I’ve made a boy-wooing mix-tape since without including it. You softly pledging and at the same time pleading that you “won’t be mean” and that amazing lyric “I saw you searching for a soul mate / On the floor of a bar downtown” gets me every time. I know what that song means to me, but I’d love to hear what it means to you. How did you come to write “Broken” and why did you wait for your upcoming solo record to finally record it?
JS: (Laughing) The lyric is actually "wont be me" but your not the first one to make that mistake. Broken was essentially a song I wrote about the realization that the relationship I was in at the time had gone past the point of being able to fix, and the feeling at that specific time in my life that I was losing (what I thought) was the love of my life. As for putting it on the solo record; I was never able to get it to sound the way I like with a full band behind me so it just kinda made sense.
MB: Do you have an expected release date for your solo record?
JS: I hit the studio hopefully the end of February, hopefully it will be ready by the time summer comes.
MB: Digging graves, dying young, being alone, Zombies standing five feet from your bed, Satan being your best friend, there is a lot of defeatist, morbid, dark themes in your lyrics. What is it about sadness and horror that captures you and inspires so much of your lyrics?
JS: When I write songs its generally when I’m not feeling the greatest in my head, usually emotional, and song writing is a great release to pour energy like that into. Some of the lyrics come off darker then they actually are. For instance "Its cool to die young" is more dark sarcastic humour because the song is mostly about being young and having too much fun with drugs and alcohol. The song "down" is actually about a fictional character I created named Biker Dan who is basically just a maniac with a motor bike. So when I sing "Satan is my best friend" I wrote the song as if Dan were singing it. I intended to do a full concept album about biker Dan but kinda gave up around 4 songs in.
MB: Live, you have a song you always dedicate to “the boys in the basement bar” which you wrote about Ottawa alternative bar Swizzles Pub). I know it’s one of your favourite watering holes, what is it about that space that you connect with?
JS: (Laughing) I’m actually a full time bartender there now! I love my job and I love that bar. Its quite literally a gay episode of cheers. Everybody knows your name and its a close knit community of long time friends during the day and at night its always a wild party!
MB: “February Is For Giving Up” is my favourite song on ‘Adelaide‘. Seems it always gets people up and dancing at your shows! Do you have a favourite song of yours to play live?
JS: Because I try and write a couple songs a month its hard to say if I have a favourite. My favourites are generally new songs that people get to hear for the first time, which generally are changing all the time.
MB: Solo, and with Brothers Through The Hill, you’ve donated your time and performed several live shows to help raise money for many grassroots organizations and non-profits including The Ottawa AIDS Walk, P.O.W.E.R., and The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation's Courage Campaign. What motivates you to be so community oriented?
JS: Music has helped me in my life soooo much, and if I can write songs that people enjoy or maybe help them in anyway it really is a great feeling. I also love my city and if I can play an hour of songs I wrote to help people or help raise funds for a cause I usually jump at the occasion because I feel that's what music and being a musician is all about.
MB: Ok, lastly, why the name change from Kyle to Jack?
JS: My grandfathers name was John his friends called him Jack, my middle name is also John, also there’s another musician on youtube named Kyle Spinks. He looks about 14 and I’ve had bars link to his youtube channel on their websites thinking it was me. So yeah, from here on out I’m going by jack! Also I think you should be able to choose your own name, your the one that has to live with it!
My thanks to Jack Spinks for taking the time to chat to Positivelite.com. You can catch Jack Spinks live on stage on February the 25th at the Old Town Hall (14 Bridge Street) in Almonte opening for Hawksley Workman. Click here to buy tickets. Brothers Through The Hill’s debut record ‘Adelaide’ can be purchased off cdbaby at www.cdbaby.com/cd/btthill.