Considering how much he shares of himself though his frank, tender songs, and how down-to-earth and open he is in live performance and in conversation, Doug Paisley has always seemed to be a bit of an enigma.
For one thing, his music seems so truly timeless, it’s like the Toronto troubadour’s lastest album Say What You Like could just as easily have been released in 1973 as in 2023. His unique blend of the cryptic and plainspoken, along with the specific, cinematic details contained in the tales he weaves through his songs – it all adds up to the sense that he’s on a very distinct creative journey of own, seemingly unrelated to trends in the larger musical world.
And yet, there are plenty of luminaries from that larger musical world have collaborated with Doug on his greatly-acclaimed albums. In the past, Doug’s records have been graced by contributions from revered artists like Mary Margaret O’Hara and the keyboard genius from The Band, Garth Hudson. On his new album, Doug’s evocative songs, expressive guitar playing, and beautiful tenor voice are treated to some stellar production help from his old friend Afie Jurvanen and his band, Bahamas.
On tour through Alberta in summer 2023, Doug Paisley stopped by CKUA studios to serenade us with a pair of songs, and to trace his one-of-a-kind creative career. He told us about his musical beginnings with buck-a-Beatles LP buys; the lasting lessons learned in his early onstage experiences, ranging from bluegrass to reggae to performance art; the influence of everyone from outsider folk great Bonnie “Prince” Billy to ‘70s AM country’s “Gentle Giant” Don Williams; the way Afie’s and Bahamas’ support helped unlock the creative breakthrough of Say What You Like; and how writing songs and playing guitar are a great release for the feelings that move you when, as the title track says, “those bygone times come back to visit.”
This episode of Hidden Track features live performances from Doug Paisley. Music is used with permission from the artist.