Dean Drouillard

2014 Year In Review

Each time a new year has arrived the one in the rear view mirror seems all but a blur of shows, travelling and sessions not seeming to belong to any particular time. Fortunately my iCal provides vague pointers to nearly all of my musical experiences that have occurred making it easier to take stock. This past year I got to work with some new artists as a producer and as a musician, bought a bit of gear, went on one of the hilariously worse road trip vacations and spent some balanced quality time with family.


Nearly all of my touring in 2014 was with Royal Wood.The band was sounding better, bigger and bolder than ever. A notable addition to the live show has been the beautiful voices of Carleigh Aikins and Alanna Stuart (who replaced Felicity Williams who got busy touring with Bahamas). Royal released two albums this past year – The Burning Bright and I Wish You Well – and we played close to 60 shows everywhere between Canada’s coasts we could manage to support their releases. We even shot a live DVD called Live At The Grand in London, Ontario that is to be released sometime in early 2015. Some favourite shows included Royal at the Winter Garden in Toronto, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and a fun outdoor show at Quails’ Gate Winery in Kelowna BC.

I also got to share the stage with Justin Rutledge for a Canada Day celebration in Mel Lastman Square with an odd introduction by troubled Mayor Rob Ford and played some shows with Ron Leary and Amelia Curran.

And though not really touring, I got to play one of the most exhilarating shows of my own music I can remember. In December I held a one-time performance to celebrate the release of my UFO Houses released on Backward Music. The show was at the Piston, just a stones throw away from my house – a cozy venue that we managed to pack more than I could have hoped for. The show was really brought to life by the amazing band I had with me, including Joshua Van Tassel, Devon Henderson, Tom Juhas and Robbie Grunwald. I did my best to soak up every minute as I’m unsure when I’ll have the opportunity to put something like this together again.


I produced a couple of recordings for songwriters in the second half of the year. The processes were entirely different from each other but I feel both albums exceeded my expectations in the end.

straker2A good portion of the year was spent working with Regina/Toronto singer-songwriter Jeffery Straker on his modern classic North Star Falling which sees a release in the next couple months. Jeffery and I share an obsession with detail which is perhaps part of the reason the record took several months to complete. But it warranted and deserved the extra attention to achieve our goal – a classic but contemporary sounding songwriter record with nods to music of the 70s. The tracking of the beds in August was to be the last session at Toronto’s The Rogue studio operated by James Paul. I’m sad to see it go. I’ve recorded a lot there as both a producer and a musician and James always gets great sounds and creates a relaxed environment. We continued on in Regina at Jason Plumb’s Studio One Recording housed in the local CBC building recording vocals, piano and guitars. More recording happened in our project studios around the city. We had a plethora of talent at our disposal – Mark Mariash, Mark McIntyre, Devon Henderson, Steve Zsirai, Brodie Mohninger, Drew Jurecka, Jill Straker, Kevin Fox, Bryden Baird, Gene Hardy, Robbie Grunwald and Carleigh Aikins. The record was masterfully mixed by my friend Howie Beck at Studio H and mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel.

Josh and Krista at Dream Date Studio.

Josh and Krista at Dream Date Studio.

Then in December I hired Joshua Van Tassel and his Dream Date Studio located in the Junction neighbourhood, as the workshop for a 7 day stint of recording with Albertan singer-songwriter Krista Hartman. Krista came to Toronto via Chicago with a new baby in tow and some obliging caregivers so we had limited time together.  Josh had his hands full as we hired him to assist in the engineering at his studio as well as play drums. My job was to produce, engineer and play the bulk of the instrumentation. I’d set out to make a particular kind of record – a simple, gentle and moody escape but with some carnival-esque tones to evoke lightheartedness and cinema. The first song we picked to record was a poppy earworm called “Sunny Day” where we injected some 60s pysch pop tones and then out the window went the initial plan! It’s good to be flexible and follow a lead sometimes. The whole record didn’t go that direction but I do have a hard time keeping the 60s out of anything. There are also nods to Emmylou Harris, Brian Eno, Beck, Neil Young and The Beatles. The album is set for mastering hopefully sometime this month.


buffyandmeThe studio is a place where I feel invigorated. Whether that is helping to direct a session or sitting on the other side of the glass and playing the guitar. A couple sessions really stood out for me this past year and I feel really fortunate to be part of these special recordings. In the spring I ended up at Revolution Recording to play some guitar on Amelia Curran’s darkly gorgeous album They Promised You Mercy produced by Michael Philip Wojewoda. Shortly after Michael brought me back in to work on the songs he was producing for living legend Buffy Sainte Marie’s forthcoming album.




Here are some albums I worked on either in the past year or prior to that were released in 2014:

Royal Wood – The Burning Bright – produced 4 songs
Royal Wood – I Wish You Well – produced and mixed
Justin Rutledge – Daredevil – produced and mixed
Amelia Curran – They Promised You Mercy – guitar
Dean Drouillard – UFO Houses – my record came out on Backward Music

Looking forward to what is to come in 2015!




UFO HOUSES CD Release Show

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The first show playing music from UFO Houses in Toronto at The Piston.  The band will include the album’s producer Joshua Van Tassel (drums, percussion) as well as Robbie Grunwald (keyboards), Devon Henderson (bass) and Tom Juhas (guitar).

Amelia Curran – They Promised You Mercy

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A few months ago I had the pleasure of recording some guitar for St. John, Newfoundland’s Amelia Curran’s. The resulting album is called They Promised You Mercy and is released today through Six Shooter Records. I’d been a fan of Amelia’s for some time, taking odd pleasure in the emotional mess her precisely crafted lyrics wrap me in. We’d shared stages a couple times in the past, once performing together at the Juno’s in Regina for Six Shooters annual Outlaws and Gunslingers showcase. I was honoured when Amelia and producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda approached me to add some guitar touches to an already great sounding recording with bed tracks featuring my pals Joshua Van Tassel (drums) and Devon Henderson (bass). I ended up doing some unusual un-guitary stuff under Michael’s direction that I knew would ultimately make sense in context of the presentation. I somewhat reluctantly dusted off my wah pedal for one tune, played a single fuzzed out low G that lasted about 30 seconds before degrading into uncontrolled feedback and played orchestrated layers of hammer-ons and pull-offs until my hand clutched into a useless fist.

The album is beautiful, dark, emotional, detailed and powerful. I’m proud to be part of such a thing of beauty.

Once the album was finished being recorded at Revolution Recording, the core band (Amelia, myself, Josh, Devon and Joel Schwartz) was invited to perform a private invite-only show in Toronto’s CBC building. It was the first time we’d all performed together. Below is a video from that show of our performance of the song “Coming For You”.

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UFO HOUSES released October 28


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cover design by Cory Bobiak

Two years ago I started thinking about making an instrumental “guitar album”. (I have a lengthy  list of album concepts I hope to continue chipping away at.) I had made a couple instrumental EPs with the surf/lounge-inspired Dragon 1 and 2 releases. Those had a very specific stylistic anchor that I wanted to explore at the time. This time I wanted the compositions and performances to come naturally and from a more uniquely personal place.

One evening my close friend (producer and multi-instrumentalist) Joshua Van Tassel was over. I told him of my idea to record a guitar-focused album and he expressed interest in producing this project. Josh is a very talented and emerging producer for which I have great respect for, for both his solo and producing work but I had never used another producer for any of my previous releases since I began recording music. I can be bit of a control freak, generally having a clear idea of my intended outcome. But I got thinking it could be a powerful exercise for me, both as an artist and as a producer to loosen my grip on the reins and allow my music to go somewhere unexpected and enjoy being in the artist’s seat.

We agreed to work together and I immediately started fleshing out and demoing some of my ideas I’d collected on my iPhone over the past couple years. The fleshing out was definitely useful but the demoing turned out to be counter-productive. In the demoing I started producing the tracks and getting attached to certain sounds and arrangements, which is interesting because I recorded these demos on my Akai cassette 4-track figuring the technological limitations would prevent this from happening. When I played the demos for Josh and listened to some of his ideas I could feel myself tensing up despite the fact that he had cool and interesting ideas. It didn’t matter – I’d already started producing those tracks. I didn’t want to go into making a record from a place of defensiveness so I decided to leave the songs I had demoed for another time. They were a bit jazzier than what I was hoping to present anyway and maybe better suited for another time. So days later I presented Josh with an entirely new set of demos – these ones being just raw iPhone ideas that hadn’t been worked out yet. I stopped listening to them so I’d be happy to let them go where they’d be directed in the studio.

When we began recording in Josh’s space at the Verge Music Lab in December of 2013 I was still writing the songs. The evening before each session I would finish melodies and add new sections if needed as a lot of these demos were simple riffs, not exactly songs. Some melodies (the B section of Return To The Start) were created while recording.

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i recorded a few guitars for this record

Josh was interested in exploring the different sounds my guitars and gear could create. Fortunately I’d brought a few toys including about a dozen guitars, a few amps (two of which we blew up), dozens of pedals, a tape echo, ebow, etc. I think we used pretty much everything, even the baritone ukulele (Iz No. 3). There was very little soloing going on. We turned our attention more toward melodies and textures, using contrasting elements for interest. Performances felt real, unforced and enjoyable. I channeled some of my favourite non-guitar hero guitar heroes such as George Harrison (Beatles), Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead), Nels Cline (Wilco) and Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo). Aside from the many layers of guitars I had fun playing my Hofner bass, a Rhodes electric piano and Korg MS20 synthesizer.

Josh had great ideas and pushed me into places I likely would not end up on my own, like playing with every pedal on my pedal board on simultaneously or manipulating the tape echo live like an instrument or freaking out with an out of control fuzz pedal. I fed off his enthusiasm and inventiveness and ended up making an enjoyable and fulfilling album because of it.


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producer Joshua Van Tassel laying down some drums