Jason Collett Reinvents his sound

Jason Collett has made a name for himself in the Canadian music industry. An early member of Toronto collective Broken Social Scene, Collett has since established himself as a successful singer-songwriter, releasing his fourth studio album Rat a Tat earlier this year.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, he released an album of acoustically reworked songs titled Pony Tricks. In conjunction with this new collection, Collett will be playing in Waterloo at Starlight on Nov. 10.

Speaking with The Cord, Collett described the new album as “a reinterpretation in a stripped down manner” of previously released tracks. Two new songs (“Pulling the Sun Down” and “My Daddy was a Rock ‘n’ Roller”) are also included on Pony Tricks.

Known as a highly collaborative artist, the acoustic record was intended to be a distinctly solo project. “It’s largely just me and an acoustic guitar,” said Collett. Nevertheless, there are “a few other players on it here and there,” referring to members of Zeus and Bahamas who happened to be in the same studio at the same time.

Collett explained his inspiration behind the acoustic collection as an offering to fans that have requested such a project. He’s done solo performances, but has never really tried to capture the sound of a solo set on an album. “People tend to like hearing words more than you can typically hear them with a bunch of different instruments on a record.” Pony Tricks delivers this, removing excess production and providing tracks that really highlight Collett’s talent as a musician and songwriter.

Discussing the writing and recording process, Collett remarked, “I’ve always felt that songs are fluid things by nature and I’ve always been fascinated by how random doing a recording is, or even writing a song for that matter.”

Further describing the spontaneity of creativity, he said, “All the elements in any given day will influence how that song gets recorded, including whether you ate granola or Froot Loops for breakfast. These things, however minimal, do influence the various players involved.”

As for the upcoming acoustic tour, Collett will be joined by who he refers to as his “favourite Canadian artist” Al Tuck. Tuck is an established, but not too well known, folk artist from Halifax and Collett claims that, “He’ll kick my ass every night.”

An experienced participant within it, Collett had lots of insight to offer on the music industry. He talked about the “classic Canadian conundrum” – that Canadian artists typically have to leave the country and find success before they are celebrated here. Collett said he’s “really confused” by the fact that local artists rarely gain notoriety until they return from elsewhere as an “imported idea.”

In terms of his involvement with his roots in Toronto, Collett said, “I do consider myself a part of a scene,” referring to both his circle of friends and the bands “revolving around the orbit of Broken Social Scene.”

He recalled the beginnings of Broken Social Scene as “just one part of a renaissance” that took place in Toronto, where all facets of the arts seemed to explode. “The city hit a critical density in population and things just went ‘pop!’ in a big way,” claims Collett.

The Internet and the emergence of technology like Napster transformed the Canadian music industry into a state that Collett described as “totally fucked.” According to him, it was “bad decisions like suing Napster” instead of working with it that caused so many artists to be dropped by their labels. It was in this state that BSS formed, rebelling and “making music for the joy of it.”

That sentiment seems to have remained in Collett’s career, though he’s branched out beyond making music. In 2009, he acted in a film called Iodine, which gave Collett a new perspective on the creative process. He described the acting experience by saying, “It was fascinating to me how little you know about what the end result is going to be when you’re just an actor.”

He continued, “You can read a script, but you don’t know how it’s going to get edited and what it’s going to be. It’s a very elusive thing to be a part of, not having the kind of control I’m used to having. But I did enjoy it, it was fun to do.”

In spite of releasing Rat a Tat and now Pony Tricks, Collett will not be taking a break any time soon. This December he will be curating the fourth annual Basement Revue at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto, which features a variety of unannounced guests. The revue presents a “cross-pollinating between the literary world and a bunch of musicians” and hosts a changing line-up each weekend throughout December.

Following that, Collett will be travelling to Australia to tour with Zeus. For now though, you can catch Jason Collett’s cross-Canada acoustic solo tour on Nov. 10 at Starlight.