Prolific Ottawa singer/songwriter North Easton has spent the past 23 years writing the songbook of his life and experiences.
In his newest album, One Of The Lucky Ones, he journeys even deeper into matters of the heart, encounters that can shake up our existence, and changes that affect the course of our lives in a positive way.
I’ve always thought that if North Easton hadn’t chosen to be a musician, he would have made an outstanding therapist or a self-help guru. But when you hear his music, listen to his words, and experience his live performance, there is no way he could be anything else. It’s been through the use of music as a powerful tool to connect with people and contribute his positive messages to society, that Easton has found his calling.
“I’m much more confident now. I was back then, but I was more ego-driven. Now I’m people-driven, more into connecting with people. It’s amazing to affect or change people’s lives, even in the smallest of ways, and they return the favour by changing my life, and I get to share that with the ones around me that I love. What am I here for if not to impact others and connect. That’s what it’s all about. Human interaction is lacking so much. I think music is an amazing avenue of communication. We have the ability to touch people in a way that is like the soundtrack to everyone’s life and memory. THAT is powerful, but can also be misused in a way that doesn’t show any kind of reality. It’s about honesty, it’s about truth, it’s about hey, I’ve got flaws: my teeth are crooked, my body is bigger than I want it to be, I got grey hair comin’ in, and this is who I am. And if I can share that with people and they go, “You know what, I like that… it’s okay to be like that.”, then I think that’s working one step closer to the truth.”
He has moved through different phases in his musical career, from his successful five-year stint with Garrity, up to his several year run with My Favourite Tragedy, where I’d first discovered the genius of his songwriting, along with his electrical and emotionally-stirring performances.
Moving forward, he’s purged his long dreadlocks and is focused on the crafting, production, and performance of his own material.
Along with hosting his monthly Ottawa Regional Writers Group, and sharing collaborative ideas with other artists, Easton has been on a non-stop schedule of touring and promoting his fifth and newest studio album, which was released on October 15th of this year.
Similar to Easton’s “rollercoaster ride”-structured sets, the album’s thirteen songs take the listener on a whirlwind of topics, evoking a multitude of emotions. By the end of my first listen, I found myself hitting the play button for another round.
“It made sense to cut the dreads symbolically after My Favourite Tragedy because I had a new album coming out, so I needed a new image. With dreads, you carry around the weight of everything you’ve experienced through those years, like the rings of a tree in a sense. I wanted to take the focus off the hair to show the individual face and have people understand who I really am, instead of forming an opinion of who I am by what I look like. There is so much inside this album that’s from my heart. This is my 5th studio album, and the only one I can leave on repeat in my car. My family, and people I’ve been talking to do as well. There’s something about this album that reflects a new phase of the world for me, and I’m excited to see where it ends up.”
Immediately, the songs “Change”, “Unstoppable”, and “Living Out Loud”, grab you with their vibrant, flowing rhythms, soaring melodies and inspirational lyrics that reflect on breaking out of life’s monotonies, the importance of moving forward, and allowing oneself to indulge in the freedom of throwing caution to the wind from time to time.
More gorgeous guitar progressions resound in “Lost In Conversation”, with amazing textures and building instrumental layers of beats, lush percussive splashes, and choral voices. Easton’s diverse vocals shine here, ranging from vocal flips and tender whispers, to his signature stronger raw and raspy tones that create such dimension and a sense of urgency. In contrast, there is the bare-bones simplicity of voice and guitar in, “Sometimes It’s Hard”, a three-quarter timed melody with hushed vocals that deliver honest lyrics that delve into the darker moments of life.
Similarly in its poignancy, I was moved by a track simply called, “Life”, with lyrics that gripped me to the point where I nearly stopped breathing in order to catch every word. The piano’s constant chord rhythm was almost like a heartbeat, which added to the song’s profoundness.
And then there’s the title track, “One Of The Lucky Ones”, another beautiful melody created with voice and guitar that conveys a final message on the album of hope, appreciation, and the gifts that lay right in front of us which we may not always see so clearly. Inspiration for the song came from encountering people like Jeff Scott, who went on to co-found the Live It Love It Foundation after a snowboarding accident in 2010 left him a quadriplegic. The song encompasses the zest by which Scott lives his life now, and how he contributes and finds fulfilment by helping others to live theirs.
“One Of The Lucky Ones is really the plethora of people I’ve met along the path, and how they’ve impacted me in a way that makes me realize that no matter how many wrinkles there are in the mirror, or how it might hurt to get up with sore feet or a tired back, I am one of the lucky ones. When I compare myself to other individuals out there who have bigger smiles on their faces, and they’re overcoming so much more than I could possibly even imagine… it’s a wake up call. It’s how I finish my show, and it’s what I want people to be left with in their minds that they are too, one of the lucky ones.”
For more on North Easton, and to buy his new album, One Of The Lucky Ones, visit his website.