Calgary’s Clinton St. John explores his personal side

By Amanda Hu

In Calgary’s ever-growing music scene, the Cape May stands out as a group that has been pumping out good down-home tunes for years. Clinton St. John and the boys have received critical acclaim with their two offerings, Central City May Rise Again and Glass Mountain Roads, providing the city’s answer to the indie folk-rock genre explosion.

This time around, St. John is striking out on his own with a collection of stripped-down tracks in Black Forest Levitation. The album started with 30 or more songs that the laid-back singer penned during his time with the Cape May, all of which he thought had a different message and feel than his work with his bandmates.

“I felt a little bit more comfortable with being personal in this record and these songs come right out of my life,” he says. “[Doing a solo project is] a different side of me and the other is me and a group of other people creating a different esthetic. I’ve always refrained from having the lyrics be too personal with the Cape May because I recognize the fact that that’s a band. I would rather use that project as an outlet to say, ‘Hey we’re telling some stories here,’ and those guys are colouring the stories.”

St. John took a different approach to the album’s production in order to fully achieve a casual feel and sound. Rather than the Cape May’s previous practice of taking instrumental tracks and recording vocals afterwards, he recorded live off the floor, a method he now prefers. St. John’s creative process also differed greatly for his solo endeavour.

“It was a lot more isolated considering that it was just me writing those arrangements,” he says. “Things happen [more quickly] as far as making changes goes because you don’t have to go through that democratic process of honing the song. If I want to make a change, I make a change. But that process stretches over a longer period of time, so even though those changes happen a lot quicker, songs will get turned upside down if I want to.”

While creating his solo album, St. John decided to release the project independently. A long-time associate of Calgary’s independent Flemish Eye Records, the chanteur praises the virtues and freedom of working as an indie artist and with an indie label.

“It’s really easy to be an independent artist, a lot more than it ever was before,” he says. “The Internet is so widely used, you can market yourself without having to leave your house.”

With St. John’s solo effort out, the Cape May now has members with multiple projects on the go, speaking to the interconnectivity of the Calgary music scene. As the connections continue to grow and more projects are spurred on, St. John says that Calgary music is the strongest it has ever been.

“I think a lot of those people are very talented and exuberant and have good musical energy,” he says. “It’s nice to see these good, young bands out there as well as the old-timers like me who are still doing it and putting out good music.”

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