In the year 2000, Manitoban Gavin Gardiner of The Wooden Sky had ‘grandious ideas’ of moving to Toronto and sweeping the floors at the Horseshoe Tavern and starting a band.
“Really, I came here and went to school and played guitar a bit. I bought Harvest by Neil Young at a garage sale in Manitoba before I left and just became obsessed with it. I remember sitting in the back of the class with my Discman at the time, just pretending that I was listening to the professor,” laughed Gardiner.
Neil Young brought Gardiner closer to the music he wanted to create but it was meeting bassist Andrew Wyatt and a community of musicians in Toronto that helped him start his journey: “I guess you can find a community of artists anywhere you go, but I was very lucky I found it here. It changed the whole trajectory of my life.”
11 years and five records later, Gardiner and The Wooden Sky are currently on tour in support of their latest record Swimming in Stranger Waters (2017). The album was recorded in Gardiner’s home studio, a first-time luxury for the band. The title takes a nod from Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune, and songs reference sexual abuse, the Keystone XL Pipeline and refugee families.
“I always wrote from a personal perspective, but I’ve really been inspired by some Canadian songwriters that are writing about intensely personal things, or things that they believe it,” explained Gardiner. “Although, I didn’t anticipate having to talk about everything afterwards and I felt very exposed with the feeling of how much do you want to put yourself out there to discuss. Every artist has to go through that at some point, and it’s a lot sometimes.”
The album was written and workshopped at his wife’s parents farm up in Quebec and recorded in Gardiner’s home studio, a first-time luxury for the band. Using an eight track tape machine “with serious limitations” and then brought to the computer “which had endless limitations”, proved to be challenging. Not paying by the hour, Gardiner admitted that it was hard to decide when to be done with the album and let go.
“I never thought I’d be up until 4am in the studio, but it’s a weird thing when you make a record. It feels like any time you do it, it almost feels like the last time you’re going to get to do it, even though that’s not the case,” Gardiner said. “It feels like you put everything into it and its done and I guess you do something else now.”
The Wooden Sky perform with Grounders and Limestone Chorus at the Warehouse on February 15. Tickets available online and at Mindbomb Records.