Interview A.C. Newman: ‘I Was Really Obsessed With ‘Baker Street’ By Gerry Rafferty’

With the release of the New Pornographer frontman’s new solo record, we find out all about A.C. Newman’s most personal work to date.

With the birth of his first born son, and the death of his mother , the New Pornographer’s frontman, A.C. Newman could be forgiven for taking it easy. Instead, he headed back into the studio to record his new solo record, ‘Shut Down The Streets’. We gave him a quick call at his Woodstock abode, to find out all about it, and how it feels to be a Canadian in New York.

You’ve previously said that you came late to music, not picking up a guitar until you were 18. What prompted you to start writing your own music?
I think it was just being a fan, I just always loved music, and I had a friend who was a really good guitar player and he showed me a few chords. And I though, oh, that’s fascinating, I learned E, A, and D, and realised I could play ‘Gloria’ by Them, and I just started adding chords to my arsenal. For a while, I was just learning to play, I had a Beatles ‘Easy Guitar’ songbook. It just kind of went from there.

Would you say that Canada, and it’s natural beauty, ever influenced you?
No, not really, I know that’s always been a common theme. Even in Canadian literature, Canadian poetry, that’s always been a common theme, the vast expanse, the great outdoors. But for me, I grew up in Vancouver, in a suburb, I lived just a few miles from the America border. I always watched so much American TV, I feel like, for that reason, I soaked up as much American culture as Canadian culture. I live in Woodstock, I’m married to an American, I have an an American son, I live in America, so I’m almost American now. But I’m always Canadian though, that part stays with me.

You’re about to release your third solo album over here, do you have to wait for a break in the New Pornographers schedule? Or is it more that you want to go off and do your own thing for a bit?
It’s a little of both, in this case, my son was born in February, I thought, I can’t deal with the band when I have a little baby. I thought, if I’m going to make a record, it would have to be something I can make around here, so that was the reason for it. It wasn’t really planned as a brilliant career move. I just always want to keep making music, because that’s what I do, and with the baby, it makes sense to just make a solo record.

So this is your version of paternity leave?
Yes! Most of it was recorded when he was two and three months old, I would go and spend all day in the studio, and then come home and be up all the night with him. I took a lot of naps in the studio, I think our producer might have been annoyed with me; the drummer would be doing takes and I’d just be, “yeah, sounds good, I’m just going to take a nap. I trust your instincts, don’t worry.” It’s rock and roll, it’s just not sleep, it’s different.

The new record feels like a bit of a change of pace, was that a direct result of the child induced lack of sleep?
I was really obsessed with ‘Baker Street’, by Gerry Rafferty. I was listening to that, and I thought, I want to do something like this, so that was the template for the album – I like the vibe, that it was very singer songwriter, but it had lots of weird noises floating around. I just thought it was a unique sound, not that I wanted to imitate ‘Baker Street’, but I wanted to make a record that had that vibe. There was that, plus the fact that a lot of my songs were very personal, I was expecting my son, and also my mother died in March 2010, there were these big things in my life, one that was so huge and sad, and one that was so huge and happy. Because of those two things, I felt like I had to write, that’s what I had to write about, they were too big to ignore. And because I was writing songs that were very personal, it made sense to try and give the record a more singer songwriter feel.

Would you agree then, that it’s your most personal record to date?
Oh, definitely. Nothing else comes close, really.

And are you nervous about the impending tour, now you have fatherhood to consider, or do you get to take the family along?
No, I don’t, and I’m kind of worried about that, I’m in America and Canada for three and a half weeks. I was just in New York City for two days, and that was hard, because I missed my son. So yeah, it makes me want to tour less, I know that - but I think it’s like that for a lot of musicians who have kids.

And so we’re not likely to see you on this side of the pond?
I’d like to, I have to figure out the economics of it, because I really want to play the record like I recorded it, which means I need a six piece band. I haven’t planned it yet, but I really want to go there.

One of things that I really like is that you appear to use your twitter page to tell people to check out other bands…
I do use it to tell people to buy my record. But if I really like a new U2 record, I’m not going to tweet, “Hey go out and buy U2,” because everybody already will. But when I hear that Django Django record, I think that’s what it’s for, and hopefully that helps sell ten copies of Django Django!

A.C. Newman’s new album ‘Shut Down The Streets’ is out now via Fire Records.

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