We're starting a new series of profiles here on seaandbescene.com ...
A songwriters' series entitled Music & Lyrics By.... with each feature we'll get the story behind the East Coast music we know and love. Each profile will provide the inside scoop on one song - some will be classics, some will be new, some award winning, some you may have heard on the big or small screen - but all of them will be written by Atlantic Canadians.
We're celebrating the fine art of songwriting on Canada's East Coast and lucky for us we've got a wealth of stellar songwriters to spotlight.
It was legendary broadcaster, the late great Dick Clark who said..."Music is the soundtrack to your life".
We agree and we'll go one further... to say "soundtracks bring life to what's on screen". When properly placed - the lyrics, the instrumentation, the tone of the song - can elevate a scene from happy to spirit soaring... from sad to heartbreaking.
Our first song in the spotlight is "We Were A Boat" by award winning NL singer/songwriter Andrew James O'Brien. The track appeared on his ECMA nominated debut CD Songs for Searchers (2011). It's a song Mr.O'Brien has performed live many times since that CD's release - but it has never reached as large an audience as it did October 22, 2015. That was the night "We Were A Boat" was used as the soundtrack to the final sequence in the CBC hit show REPUBLIC OF DOYLE. Episode 602 "No Rest for the Convicted" to be exact.
If you're a fan of the show you'll know just how perfectly this song suited the episode, but if you love great music you'll know just how perfect this song would sound wherever it was played. You can find the lyrics at the bottom of this post along with links to iTunes for purchase and a live performance video.
SABS: First let me say – I've had "We Were A Boat" on replay since I heard it last week on DOYLE – it's brilliant.
Andrew James O'Brien: Getting a song on REPUBLIC OF DOYLE was a goal for me since the show originally aired. I have an immense sense of pride for the show and what it has done for the province and our arts community. I'm honoured to be a part of the show in my own small way. Catherine (Allen) and I also snuck into some background scenes of season 5 episode 9! haha. Allan (Hawco) and the whole Doyle team are doing such amazing work and I feel like getting "We Were A Boat" into the show is a career highlight for me. Playing goalie for the REPUBLIC OF DOYLE Hockey team is up there too! 🙂
SABS: The placement of the song has all of us DOYLE friends searching for a meaning....tell us about the inspiration for this song.
Andrew James O'Brien: The song was written as a serious, long-term relationship was coming to an end. There really isn't too much searching required to hear the sentiment or idea in the song. We were ready for the end. There was a mutual understanding that it was time. Oddly enough, and I couldn't make this up, the night things ended there was a sense of relief, so much so that when it happened (on a Wednesday night) we had a bottle of wine and watched DOYLE. This is the honest truth, if you can believe it.
SABS: That's UNBELIEVABLE....and cool to know - thanks for sharing. Now, I know it's a song you've been performing live for a while now - tell us how did it come to be a part of this new season of TV (REPUBLIC OF DOYLE 602 “No Rest for the Convicted”)?
Andrew James O'Brien: I was approached by Wayne Warren who does a the musical scouting for ROD. He had been pitching the song for a few seasons but it wasn't quite the right fit for the episodes. The relationship between Leslie and Jake is reaching its pinnacle in the final season and my guess is that Allan and those involved with song selection saw similarities between Jake and Leslie and the people in "We Were A Boat". I'm glad they did! I owe Wayne many thanks for his persistence!
SABS: Not only was your music featured on REPUBLIC OF DOYLE – but as you mentioned about, you were on-camera too. What was that like for ya?
Andrew James O'Brien: I did a degree in Fine Arts with a focus on acting but haven't really put it into use in the traditional sense as an actor since I graduated in 2007. I found myself to be too self-conscious in that medium and music has become a full time job for me. Background work on DOYLE gave me an opportunity to stay tucked away in the back with no pressure to perform in a spotlight. I like that feeling of being part of an ensemble, away from centre stage. It was exciting to be part of something of that scale, to see all the working parts of such a production. It was great fun.
SABS: I know you're always performing and creating – what's your process for songwriting?
Andrew James O'Brien: There really is no rhyme or reason to it. Some of the songs that mean the most to me have come very quickly without warning and I'm scrambling to write down the ideas as if something is propelling the idea forward and it's my job to focus the idea and bring it to life. Other times it's a slow plod and can feel forced and tedious. Either way, it's a scary process because I can never tell when that quick flash of inspiration is going to hit. When it does, everything else has to wait. I joke with Catherine that the best songs come during times of great change and duress. It's harder to write when things are going well. That's why I haven't been writing as much. haha.
That said, we're releasing our first record as Fortunate Ones on February 10 so we've still got songs in us!
SABS: Before I let you go.... can you share a smidge of advice for anyone who's dreaming of having their tunes featured on-screen.
Andrew James O'Brien: Realistically, what I think has been helpful for me is writing from an honest, everyday place. Catherine and I write songs about our lives. There is a universality to the songs that people can relate to in their own lives whether they are real people or fictional characters. Beyond that, the producers of a show like REPUBLIC OF DOYLE have a very specific idea of the kind of music they want as a backdrop for any given scene. "We Were a Boat" got passed on more times than it didn't. It doesn't mean the song isn't good, it just means it didn't fit the moment in question. Keep writing, keep pitching.
You'll hear "NO" more times than you'll hear "Yes" but keep writing, keep pitching.
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