Sprag Session New Year… New Name!!! New Album!!!

Posted: December 31, 2011

If you’re looking for an all-out grand time of it – I mean straight up rip-roaring, sonically-soaring never better – great time of it…do yourself a favour and take in a Sprag Session show!

What’s that?  Never heard of them? Well I know you know The Colin Grant Band – and that’s them – same fellas, but with the New Year comes a new name, a new album and some stellar plans.

For those of you playing the home game those fellas – those marvelous musicians are as follows…Jason Roach (keys), Darren MacMullen (mandolin, guitar, banjo), Colin Grant (fiddle), Merlin Clarke (drums) and Donnie Calabrese (bass).

I wanted to get the scoop on what’s up with this truly cool group so I caught up with Colin Grant on this 31st day of December – before Sprag Session sets forth fiercely into this New Year.

What follows is our special NYE Q&A with Mr. Colin Grant.

SABS: Alright - let's start with the obvious - Why Sprag Session?

Colin Grant: So, as strange an idea as it seems to change our band name, it's actually a good opportunity we've been waiting to seize for a while now. With our first band record ready to release in a few months' time, and a new approach we've been taking to arrange our music collectively (rather than a "big band backing up a fiddler" sound), the time is right for us to re-identify ourselves as a team.

We started jamming two tunes in my parents' basement for my last solo album "Fun For The Whole Family" that motivated us to keep writing together, and in the 2 years since, a whole new repertoire of tunes has come bursting into the world, with tune-writing from Jason and Darren as well.

The word "sprag" isn't very well known, but it's meaningful to us because of the vast number of applicable definitions we've found for it...six to be exact!

Sprag Session

They'll be listed on our website, but the main 3 meanings are "quick and lively", "a young man", and "scatterbrained" when discussing someone "of sprag mind". The word "session" reflects the traditional roots that influence our tune-writing, and the equal contribution that each member of the session brings to the table.

I can tell you it's really hard to name a band in the Celtic genre. All the good names are taken, or have the word "Celtic" in them. For example, "Celtic Thunder" or "Gaelic Storm". Unfortunately, we couldn't get "Highland Weather Event" due to copyright issues.

Colin Grant - Spag SessionSABS:  Anyone who has seen the band in action knows they are incredibly cool, tight and solid on stage...I've gotta believe it's based in talent but kindled by camaraderie right?

Colin Grant: I think like many bands, it's a potent combination of friendship, mutual musical respect, and foolishness. Onstage, it makes for a pretty upbeat, danceable show, that has a lot of interplay between us Merlin Clarke - Sprag Sessionon both melody and accompaniment lines. Without vocals, the tunes have to be big and meaty, but sensitive to whatever instrument is stepping out at a given time.

Merlin's drumming balances funk/rock drive with a keen awareness of the tunes' phrasing, which gives us melody players lots of space to breathe. We call it "being in the Merlpool". Besides Donnie Calabrese - Sprag Sessionhaving played with Merlin and basically sharing the same brain with him to lock in with the tunes...

Donnie's playing gives edge and groove to Jason's left hand on the keys. Jason is a powerhouse that no musical straight jacket can harness, so we let him do what he does best; either play Jason Roach - Spag Sessionthe tunes out with his right hand, or stretch the dynamics of the band’s sound to the furthest reaches of the arse of Satan.

Darren is the ear candy guy, who takes the tunes and writes harmonies and counter-melodies on the fly, and keeps me, the token fiddler, on the rails.

Darren MacMullen - Sprag SessionLive, the end result is music that hopefully makes people want to listen and dance; those are the same goals that trad Cape Breton music strives for.


SABS: Since 2011 is drawing to a close - I've been reflecting on my year and I don't mind saying - working with you was a highlight - beside that moment for you 😉 what other stand out moments can you remember for you and the band?

Colin Grant: Of course, getting to work with you on "Christmas By The Sea" was a highlight 🙂  For the band, our first foray overseas to Ireland and the UK was pretty cool, especially a show we did in Limerick, where a lot of musical friends who came to study at CBU came out. Kansas City Irish Fest and Celtic Colours were both great to us, and I think one of my highlights was playing the Celtic Colours Festival Club very late the last night of the festival, and a concert with our steel drum-playing buddy Pepito Pinto from Jamaica. The week we spent together in Sonic Temple studio making the record was a highlight for me too. We're also proud of Darren on the long-awaited release of his second CD, which finally showcases the fine singing and songwriting skills he claims not to have. Like, c'mon D, you play everything else masterfully, so frig off.

Sprag Session Live

SABS: I'll pay ya later for that first part (hahahaha) - but back to it - the new name is perfectly timed for the New Year - what's up for Sprag Session in 2012?

Colin Grant: More traveling! And band bonding. Our album goes up for sale at www.spragsession.com January 1, and our single "The Gwanwitcha" will be part of the pre-order package, so hopefully folks will check it out, and look for a live studio taping of the track on our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/spragsession , or Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/spragsession. We look forward to keeping in touch.

SABS: Before I let you go - have you made any New Year's resolutions?

Colin Grant: Yes, to practice and write more, and try to enjoy the little things more that make gigging fun...new places, music, and kind people. This is what keeps us going for the long haul.

While you're here check out our interview with Colin Grant at the 2011 ECMA's


1 Comment »

  1. [...] the time is right for us to re-identify ourselves as a team,” said Grant in an interview with seaandbescene.com, explaining the new name. “We started jamming two tunes in my parents’ basement for my [...]

    Pingback by Cape Breton's Entertainment Guide • Colin Grant Band becomes Sprag Session, releases video, announces new album « whatsgoinon.ca — February 2, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

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