IT is to the shores of Dom Fricot…
who discusses his latest gem, Help Is Needed. I was eager to discover the story behind the song and what we can expect from his sophomore record, Deserts (out on 23rd March). He chats about his musical development and whether songwriting is a way of translating anger; working with David Vertesi on his new album; which artists have inspired him – some new musicians he vibes to.
I ask whether the Canadian artist will come to the U.K. and see us; how he spends time away from music; what advice he would offer fresh artists; how music came into his life – what tour dates he has in the pipeline.
Hi, Dom. How are you? How has your week been?
The week has been great. I’m currently living in the Netherlands, rehearsing and writing. My cousin just came to visit me from Switzerland and we had a great time biking around. It’s an absolute paradise for cyclists here.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Dom Fricot (used to be 'Dominique Fricot', but I shortened it for this album). I’ve been releasing solo albums since 2012 and, more recently, joined an international collective of singer-songwriters called Folk Road Show. (Think C.S.N.Y.-meets-Fleet Foxes). This March 23rd, I’ll be releasing my third studio effort, Deserts. The album kind of honed in on this post-Genesis Peter Gabriel/Phil Collins sound.
Help Is Needed, your new song, seems like a cry for help and declaration for calm. Was there a particular event that compelled you to pen the track?
I penned it shortly after the shootings at the Bataclan, while the Syrian refugee crisis was happening. I wasn’t there, but I had been in Paris a couple days before it happened - so it felt very close.
Do you feel songwriting is a way to channel frustrations and making sense of the world? Do you think things will improve before long?
I totally think that’s what songwriting is; at least for me. Songs seem to most often emerge out of emotional wounds or mental frustrations. Do I think things will improve before long? I think there are a lot of forces right now pushing society in the right direction, but there are obstacles that we have to overcome when it comes to any of the major issues: gender-inequality, gun control; racism, economic disparity etc. The list goes on.
I think the obstacles are pretty daunting - and what I’m trying to point out in my song is that it’s an all-hands-on-deck scenario.
Your sophomore record, Deserts, is out on 23rd March. What sort of themes and ideas go into the album?
The album is a lot about nostalgia and looking back on hard memories with a new perspective. When I first began writing songs, it was in the wake of my father’s passing at the age of sixteen. At the time, the songs were just about regret or pain and longing. I actually had a strange moment while recording this record because, all of a sudden, I had a bout of depression. It didn’t make any sense to me. The weather was great, I was healthy and I was living my dreams...
I’d taken a month off work to make this album and, all of a sudden, I was having so much trouble just getting out of bed. In the middle of it, I discovered, via Google...I’d made a conscious decision to forget when it happened: it was on exactly that day, sixteen years ago, that my father had passed away. I didn’t intend for the songs to be about my parents, but there is a lot of my mom and dad on there.
Echoes is the memory of having my dad as a soccer (‘football’ to you, I suppose) coach and hating the pressure - but now missing those times. Measure Up is another one about him where I reflect on how I can’t really imagine comparing myself to my dad. He just always seemed like this giant of a personality; saving money for seven years to move to Canada from Mauritius and, later, building my childhood home by himself with a couple friends to help him out. The album has a lot of looking back. But, also, a bit of my mother’s social justice via Help Is Needed - and I think she would have despised it as a piece - but Meredith Clark is kind of a dark look at the issue of consent.
You worked with David Vertesi on the album. Why did you want to work with him? What qualities did he bring to the recording?
Dave really brought an ambitious approach; giving this album a focus.
In our first meeting, he was very clear that he wanted me or us to have a goal for this record. He personally wanted to make this record sound different than anything I’d done. I’d originally wanted to work with Dave because I’d really liked what he’d done with other tracks for Vancouver artists that I’d heard him produce - and I just knew he had knowledge of genre and modern music far beyond my breadth of awareness. In the end, I think he knocked it out of the park. He pushed me, vocally, in new ways that I’d never been pushed before and he made me make uncomfortable choices with the songs that I ultimately loved.
I think that’s a key role for a producer: to get the artist to see their work in different ways and take risks that they normally wouldn’t.
How did music come into your life? Was there an artist or album that spurred you to create songs?
It seems pretty common, but I remember listening to Smells Like Teen Spirit at full-blast, on-repeat in the back of a friend’s car when I was about ten-years-old. I started playing the guitar and decided that I wanted to be a Rockstar and write songs. I immediately sat down with a pen, and the five chords I knew and gave up in an hour. A couple years later, with a bit more emotional maturity, I started listening to Dave Matthews - and it was like the clouds parted and I understood how songs were written.
It seems, to me, Canada is a better country to create music than the U.S.A. Do you feel you have a better climate to write the sort of music you want?
Mmm…I don’t know about that.
I’ve never lived in the States - so I can’t say for certain. I just notice certain spaces or places have a little more electric charge when it comes to creativity.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bend Sinister
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
From my hometown of Vancouver, there are a couple artists that are really making waves that I think you should hear. Bend Sinister has a sort 1970s Prog-Pop sound that is pretty fire. I’d also watch out for Youngblood or We Are the City - if you haven’t heard of them.
Both great artists.
IN THIS PHOTO: Youngblood/PHOTO CREDIT: Kezia Nathe
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
I’ll be releasing the album with a tour across Canada in March. You can find my list of tour dates on my website. I’m pretty excited about some of the highlight shows: Mar 10 in Toronto at the Burdock; Mar 18 in Calgary at the Ironwood and Mar 30 in Vancouver at the Fox Cabaret.
Will you be playing the U.K. on your travels? Have you ever been over this way?
I currently don’t have any tour plans for the U.K. - I’m hoping to get over there in the fall, though. I’ve been to London a couple times and played a couple Sofar Sounds shows last year. I was also there in 2014 and 2015 for a couple of spot dates - on my way to tour continental Europe with the Folk Road Show.
I always really enjoy playing for U.K. audiences, actually.
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
I always have a tough time setting the goal...
As a footnote to all the music stuff; I’d like to find a more permanent place to live. I’ve been very nomadic and transient for the last three-and-a-half years (with solo tours and the Folk Road Show). I’d like to settle somewhere closer to my sister’s - and my nieces and nephews.
Musically, I think this is the best album that I’ve ever made and I (just) want to get it into the ears and hearts of the people that I think would really love it. I don’t need to play Wembley, but I’d like to use whatever modern means to get the music into their hands - whether it’s through a few different Google or Spotify playlists or playing an opening slot on a tour for an artist that would make complete sense with my vibe.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Now, you mentioned the U.K...one of my favourite memories was the first time I played London. I was at a venue called The Slaughtered Lamb, I believe. It was a Sunday night and, straight after I played; this ‘chap’ came over and said: “Hey, you should really come say hi to my friends. I don’t want any of your CDs, but I’m pretty sure they do”. I went and said 'hello' and sold some discs. After the show, they all came over to ask what I was doing that night. It was already 11 P.M. or so and I thought the night was over - but they assured me it wasn’t. They packed me in an Uber with them to go for dinner at a friend’s place. We ended up in this amazing two-bedroom apartment right on the Thames in Wapping.
They pulled out my guitar and told me I had to entertain. This isn’t usually the way I liked to be forced into things, but it was all done in a very tongue-in-cheek way. We ended up drinking wine and singing songs into the wee hours of the morning. Now; we’ve all experienced campfire sing-alongs, but what stuck out most for me was how random this was to share that experience with a bunch of very friendly strangers - all because of music, really. They told me I was now part of their ‘Wapping Massive’.
I’m still in contact with a lot of those people today.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Bite off more than you can chew and chew it.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I like to hike or, as I mentioned; riding bikes here in the Netherlands is an absolute dream. I hadn’t taken a vacation in ever and, last year, I took myself on two four-day vacations: one to Croatia and one to Mexico. I learned it’s important to treat yourself like that every so often.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Well; any song…
I think you should honestly play Wendell Walker by Andy Shauf. Another absolutely incredible Canadian artist. If you have a time restraint; try, maybe, You’re Out Wasting. But, I was a pretty good sport; so I think you can handle the eight minutes of Wendell Walker (smiles).
Besides…it’s totally worth it.
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