There are storytellers, then there are storytellers that paint vivid memories of an ex-lover you’ve never even met.
Paired with music that makes you want to slow dance outdoors -in brisk weather- at sunset (with said ex-lover you’ve never met), Toronto-based indie band, Northern Heirs epitomizes the latter. Here is my interview with their singer, Scott Carruthers!
Scott- I must say you’ve got quite the buttery-smooth singing voice. Any tips on how you’ve maintained it over the years?
SC: Thank you so much – that means a great deal to me! A few years ago I blew my voice completely because I wasn’t taking care of my throat or myself. It ultimately lead to me leaving music entirely because I couldn’t sing. I didn’t want to write, play guitar or even go to see live music. Even in 2017- when we released Northern Heirs’ first EP- I was barely getting by in the studio. Sometimes it physically hurt to sing; it was a frustrating and emotional time. However, the EP was a start and it inspired me to quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, get in shape… then last year I committed to recovering and getting back into playing again.
In the past 13 months, I’ve been patient and disciplined. I’m now at a point where I’m surpassing my previous ability in terms of tone, range and confidence.
For anyone going through voice issues: I just want to say that I’m always here to listen and help in any way I can. In my case, I don’t expect my vocals will ever feel or sound the same as before, but with time and patience I’ve found that it is possible to navigate around the issues and to rediscover your artistic practice. Sorry for rambling, but I appreciate the compliment and I’m glad you enjoy the sounds I make.
No apologies necessary! It is great to hear you’ve found the solutions vital to your return to music! I noticed there’s a more mellow vibe musically compared to your previous band, Here Below. What inspired the transition?
SC: Actually some Northern Heirs’ songs predate Here Below, so it wasn’t a linear transition from heavy to melodic. Most of my songs start just with me and an acoustic, so it’s more a question of arrangement whether they become a folk tune or a hard rock number (or anything in between).
I think the new sound is just a result of having a more balanced palette and working with different people. That said, if you see us live I’ll still be throwing my guitar around and there are select moments where I’m kicking on the drive. Lower lows make for higher highs.
How did Northern Heirs meet/form as a band?
SC: It started as a studio project between myself and Producer, Michael Norberg. We were working on a record at Mushroom Studios (which, sadly no longer exists) and when we had some downtime, I played some songs from my back catalogue. Mike convinced me it was worth recording, and together we set about
creating what would become Northern Heirs’ first EP. After we released the EP we decided to take the project to the stage and recruit other musicians. I’ve since brought in Kevin O’Leary on bass, and Braeden McMillan on drums, respectively – they’re awesome multi-instrumentalists and have a background working together as a rhythm section.
What is your favorite part of performing live? Least favorite?
SC: The start and the end. There’s no substitute for the challenge of performance and establishing a feedback loop with an audience. When you really connect with a crowd, there’s no other feeling that compares. I suppose the logistics of it all might be my least favorite, but I weirdly enjoy carrying equipment and loading vehicles efficiently, so… I have no negative feelings, generally.
Being in a band that is inspired by our beautiful country of Canada: if a restaurant were to name a gourmet poutine after the band, what would be in it?
SC: Well, we’re all about storytelling, discovering new things about the places and people around us, and we want to share personal stories in our music and live show. So, I’d say the Northern Heirs Poutine would be a straight-up traditional dish, brought out by a bardic server regaling you with a human-interest mystery involving their home town. Moose meat optional. Thick-cut East Coast spuds and maximally squeaky Quebec curds. You’d say, ‘Hey thanks, that was interesting, and the music was delicious, and let me just go dust-off my photo albums and hit up the local reference library cause this gravy is inspiring me to follow a path of ancestral self-discovery’
You’ve definitely painted quite the picture for me with that description *Toronto poutineries- take note!* Which one of your own songs is your favorite and why?
SC: Stone Song is my favorite we’ve recorded so far because it’s heart-breaking and epitomizes our style in terms of presenting simple melodies with hidden rhythmic complexity. That said, my favorite song will always be the latest one we’ve written, which you’ll usually be able to catch at the live show!
If you were to collaborate with other artists of your choice- dead or alive- who would you work with?
SC: My 90s heroes – either Jeremy Enigk or Allen Epley. Do yourself a favor and go listen to SDRE and/or Shiner/The Life and Times. Or like, Adrian Belew… but that would be crazy.
Anything else you would like to add?
SC: I just want to say we appreciate all the love since we started the live band late last year. Would love to hear from folks and if you’ve got an interesting story we’re all ears.
Thank you so much for your time, Scott!