If Rob Dickson’s first album chronicled his coming to terms with being an adult, his second, in a way, comes to terms with being a kid. Or kids, as the case may be. Dickson says the writing on his new record (which launches in Whitehorse on Dec. 7) was influenced by looking at life from the perspectives of his young daughters.
“This is more looking out at the world and trying to open my eyes to the way things are for other people, not just me,” Dickson said at his home in Takhini on a Wednesday night. The house was filled with the sound of CBC Radio and his kids playing upstairs.
Cookies they’d made that day with their mother were cooling on the counter. A Neil Graham painting hung on the wall. A close-up of the hands and feet of two little girls, that painting is also the cover of Dickson’s new album, Looking Through Your Window.
Dickson said he settled on that title because that’s how the album feels to him — the same way he feels on a long drive, when he’s watching things go by and reflecting on them.
Living with daughters, and having grown up with two sisters, Dickson said he’s spent some time recently considering the privilege he’s enjoyed, growing up as a man. This year, that made its way into his songwriting.
“Just where I was at with my life and working and writing, I felt the need to talk about things like privilege and about our experiences growing up and how stuff changes as we grow,” he said.
“Just realizing that about myself, more than anything, to kind of look back at my life and look at it from another person’s perspective, and think about how it could have been if I was not in the position I’m in, and consider that in life in general, and maybe let that play into my voice as an artist a bit more.”
That also changed the tone of the songs. Dickson said he feels Looking Through Your Window has a different momentum than his previous record, Proof of Our Years.
Part of that, he said, comes from the fact that Dickson, producer Jordy Walker, and musician Micah Smith, recorded the songs live in Walker’s studio. He said that lent itself to capturing a raw, uninhibited performance, which felt right for songs with a certain degree of aggression and emotion in them.
One, “April Sun,” is about a woman in Dickson’s family who grew up in a small mining town. Dickson said her father was ahead of his time in not viewing gender as a barrier to what she could do.
Another is “All Your Diamonds.”
“There’s a line that goes ‘don’t you know your mother gave you aimless time? Now you’re too late to realize because you told yourself convenient lies to rest your greedy eyes’ or something like that,” he said. “It’s kind of like a little triad thing about people not valuing the time, and the value of women in general.”
“Holding Steady” focusses on scenes and experiences Dickson has drawn from his daughters and sisters, and thought about in terms of how they would have played out for him, growing up as a boy.
He said it wasn’t clear to him, in the beginning, this was the theme that was going to emerge, but after the fact, it seemed natural those were the places he wanted to explore. On this record, he said the images came to him automatically, which isn’t the way it always happens.
His songwriting process is always changing, but Dickson said one thing has stayed with him since he began singing harmonies with his mom as a kid, and writing songs as a teenager, when he’d spend up to 10 hours in his parents’ room, recording onto his stepdad’s 8-track. His love of melody has remained consistent.
“I think it’s just a sense of melody that continues to be what drives me to move forward with an idea maybe,” he said. “And listening back, I’m sometimes surprised at the weight of some of the melodies that I was coming up with. They were not really fully fleshed out or framed nicely, or refined or anything, but it seems like maybe I had, maybe I’m still sort of riffing on that same thing in my brain that makes me want to make tunes.”
Dickson will launch those new tunes at The Old Fire Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7. The show also features Michael C. Duguay and Jeremy Parkin. Tickets are $20.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org