“I love people’s interpretations of it,” says singer-songwriter David Newberry, when asked what he thinks of people’s takes on his music. “I think I’ve always gone a little bit out of my way to be slightly obscure in my compositions for that reason.”
Newberry, who independently releases his third full-length album Replacement Things on September 11, likes to maintain the mystery when it comes to his work, rarely discussing the subject matter with his inner circle and keeping things as open ended as possible in a bid to preserve his performances as always completely in the moment — it’s a philosophy the Toronto-based musician even applied when creating the new music video for “Coyote,” which premieres exclusively on Vancity Buzz below.
The video was made by a new start-up production company in Toronto called the East Mountain Detective Agency. An old high school friend of Newberry’s works at the company and approached him to create a video.
“As soon as I finished my record, I passed it along to her and her business partner, Sean, and I let them go through and pick a song that they wanted to develop, a concept that they wanted,” Newberry explains, adding that he didn’t tell the what any of songs were actually about. The production team picked “Coyote” (which Newberry calls his “favourite track on the record”) and weaved a story of a young couple moving into an apartment together and the complexities that ensue while they try to navigate their space. “Which is nowhere near what the song is actually about,” he laughs. “But I think it fits really well and they did a fabulous job.”
As for the album itself, Replacement Things deals with topics like the breakup of a ten-year relationship, changes that come with new romances, mortality, and coming to terms with an anxiety disorder — personal matters that Newberry hasn’t really confronted in his music before.
“It’s always difficult to discuss personal things and that’s something that I’ve been objectively working on in building relationships with my friends and family and that’s sort of made its way into the music,” he says. Newberry elaborates:
“But that said, [Replacement Things is] not like a diary entry — the album isn’t a list of my feelings. When I was looking for the origin or the seed of a song, I was looking a little bit more internally than externally and, again, the actual words that come out, I think, are relatively abstracted from the subject matter. I find the notion inside of myself and kind of start looking around me for other examples of that and start building a photo album of things that had, perhaps, in a lot of cases here, have a very personal origin.”
And though Replacement Things continues with Newberry’s movement away from a rootsy sound and towards an edgier aesthetic (first heard on 2014’s Desire Lines), the deliberate use of sharper guitar and swelling synths is more of a testament to his natural growth as an artist over anything else.
Newberry explains, “As things have moved forward in my career and I’ve got more resources to make a record and in terms of musicians to connect with, [I’m] able to be a lot more intentional and say, ‘this is the kind of sound that I want to make, this is the kind of record I want to make, this is the kind of studio I’d like to make it in, these are the people that I’d like to work with.’ And my musical interests are changing all the time.”
“I hope every record that I make is a departure from the previous record,” he continues. “Being sort of artistically stagnant would be, probably, one of my bigger fears.”
David Newberry performs at the Hindenburg on September 13.