Singer-songwriter Wes McClintock recently released his second album, Open Dream, on which McClintock plays all the instruments and handles production.
Talking about Open Dream, McClintock says, “This is the album I’ve always wanted to create. It evolved out of reworking some very old songs of mine and turned into a 2-year odyssey that incorporates everything I love about music. The album was begun in a cramped rental home in Toronto in the midst of COVID and was finished in a beautiful house by a hill in the peaceful city of Saint John, New Brunswick. It’s a very personal album and a pretty good reflection of who I am, both artistically and personally.”
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer, McClintock spent much of his twenties playing and touring as a bassist in several different bands. One of those bands, The Wilderness of Manitoba, received extensive airplay on CBC and was nominated for a Juno Award in 2014.
McClintock has written and performed two musical comedies, with the autobiographical Born Blue debuting at the Fundy Fringe Festival in 2022.
CelebMix spoke with Wes McClintock to find out more about the inspiration for Open Dream and how he got started in music.
What inspired your new album, Open Dream?
I was in the habit of starting songs but never giving them the time they needed to grow. I got tired of seeing my ideas just sitting on a computer and decided it was time to finish them. I not only wanted to prove to myself that I could strengthen my songwriting skills but also to raise the bar on my producing chops. I wanted to test myself and see if I could stitch together a cohesive album with all of the elements I love about music.
How did you get started in music?
A friend back in grade 9 blew my mind when he put on a Green Day album and played along seamlessly with every song. I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen, so I immediately got a cheap guitar and amp and started teaching myself how to play. I formed a band in high school and played in many afterward, always as the bassist. After years of touring, I threw in the towel and focused on making music in my home studio and obsessing over improving my playing and production techniques.
Why do you continue to make music?
Music has been my main passion since I was 14 and it’s not something I’m able to turn off. All I want to do is keep creating and hopefully get better at my craft over time. When my last band fizzled out it was a hard realization that I may not be able to make a living with my art, but the thought of quitting never crossed my mind.
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
This album in particular evolved naturally as nearly every song had many different iterations. There was never a firm direction I was aiming for, but I had music in my head that sometimes didn’t translate when I actually recorded it. I would spend hours on one little part trying to figure out what was missing, sometimes changing it only to change it back weeks later. It was a real lesson in patience and knowing when to move on to something else. In the end, my goal was to be able to listen to my album with a stranger and be 100% confident about every choice. If I was even awkward about listening to a part with my wife, I knew I had more work to do.
Are there any special recording techniques you use in the studio?
Besides my vocals and acoustic guitar, everything was recorded directly to my computer. I’m absolutely blown away with modern plugins and could find no reason to record otherwise. I have used amps in past projects but found my vast array of plugins to destroy my amped tones every time.
How do you keep your sound consistent on stage?
Besides a one-man show I performed for a summer fringe festival last year I haven’t played any of these tunes live. The past two years have been spent alone in my studio making this album. I played all the instruments on the album but eventually, I want to get musicians together to play it live. I miss performing dearly.
What’s your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time, or remained pretty much the same?
I’d say tone is another word for sound unless we are strictly talking about guitars. I feel like I only just found my sound and still don’t know how to classify it. My album before this was a fan fiction album/love letter to Pink Floyd where I mimicked the band and hid behind impressions. I was scared to sing as myself and wearing that protective mask was the way I could make that album confidently. I only recently started to believe I have something unique to bring to the table and am believing in myself more.
How do you keep your sound fresh and avoid imitating yourself or anyone else?
I get bored easily and enjoy music that changes and keeps you on your toes. I feel like my album goes all over the place and that’s something I look for in a balanced album. I know what I like and what works and the second I find myself repeating myself I home in on the problem area and spend as much time as needed correcting it. I want my music to be a journey that takes the listener somewhere they weren’t expecting and that keeps them listening.
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, or other media?
A lot of this album is based on my feelings toward modern life. I don’t always understand why we live the way we live and am constantly questioning everything. I spent years writing and performing comedy which was a great outlet for my satire. I always want to poke holes in things, which lends itself well to comedy. This project, however, was a serious one. My songs come from my struggles as a musician, my questions about technology, loneliness, escape, capitalism, a bunch of really fun stuff. I like writing about what is important to me as it’s a great way to get things off my chest and be honest with myself and anyone who may be listening.
What can you share about your writing process?
Anytime I get an idea, whether it be on guitar or piano, I record it. It’s the same thing I do with my comedic ideas. No matter how dumb it may be, I write it down because otherwise, I’ll forget it. With musical ideas, you can sometimes connect two or more pieces by changing the key and experimenting. No idea is too small, just record it. Once I have something that resembles a song I start humming in melodic ideas and writing down words to fit those ideas. The lyrics usually start off as gibberish but once I have a melody that sits well with the chords I fuss and fidget over the lyrics until they feel right.
Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?
I love Cass McCombs; he is always killing it. He has released so many albums and I love them all. I hope to be as productive and inspiring as he is someday.
What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs?
I’m currently going as hard as I can with promoting this album and trying to put on the businessman hat which is never easy. I have released one music video for the song Falling and am planning to release another later this year. I’ve started recording a new album as the ideas keep flowing which is a great feeling. As I said earlier, I really want to put together a band to perform this album live, but that idea is currently sitting on the back burner until I have all of my ducks in a row.