Our Song of the Day comes via a video premiere for I Guess I Won’t Be Going Home, the new single from Ryan Driver, taken from his forthcoming album Careless Thoughts, due for release through Tin Angel on 23 February 2018.
He shared the following on the song and video: “I Guess I Won’t Be Going Home is a reflection on the transitory nature of living. It calls into question the concept and meaning of that to which one becomes accustomed. There’s a feeling that comes with familiarity that suggests that things can be counted on, that situations can be permanent. But familiars will disappear. They’ll always eventually change into something else, or our understanding of them will shift to the extent that they no longer represent what we thought they were. It’s a song about losing connections.
“The video was filmed by my good friend Sam Higgs. It is a stop-motion Super 8 film documenting a trip he took on the Northlander, a passenger train that offered service from Toronto to several communities in northern Ontario from 1976 until 2012, though the tracks were actually used for the commuting of passengers for more than a century. This film, which represents what was the full route of the train, was shot in the final week of the train’s operation. It compresses the discontinued 22-hour trip from Toronto to Cochrane and back to Toronto into about 4 minutes.”
Ryan Driver “wouldn’t care to know” how to classify his music. After all, to attempt to bottle a sound as instinctive as his would be to do it a disservice. Inspired by the more adventurous figures of jazz and other musical genres, Driver turns off the guiding light of traditional form and convention and instead reaches in the dark for something more profound, his every note, melody and lyric a question thrown out into the universe. He may never quite find the answers, but it’s in the act of searching that he carves out his musical identity.
Having studied piano, trombone and flute during his childhood, it seemed a natural next step for Driver, when he moved to Toronto 20 years ago, to begin inventing his own instruments. He made thumb reeds from balloons, a bass from a street-sweeper brush bristle, and performed improvised music to cut his teeth. He toured Canada twice playing jazz on just the two instruments he’d invented, alongside Justin Haynes on ukulele, and Jean Martin playing a small suitcase as a drum. All their musical gear fitted inside that suitcase. But more importantly, beyond the suitcase, he’s come to sing, write songs, and collaborate with more artists, and formed a quartet with whom he still plays 17 years on (though it’s since expanded into a sextet). “The music scene in Toronto is quite wonderful,” he says. “There’s a real collaborative spirit, and a feeling that anything is possible.” Some of the artists Driver’s worked with over the years have lent their talent to his new solo album, Careless Thoughts – but it is resolutely his own vision.
Careless Thoughts dances elegantly around basic human themes – love, existence, mortality, darkness, time – but does so with a playfulness that elevates it beyond hopeless existential angst.
Driver’s maverick status in the Toronto avant-garde jazz scene (or what he simply refers to as his “somewhat uncommon approach”) stems partly from a lack of formal jazz training, he insists – though that alone can’t account for his unique artistic expression. Though on Careless Thoughts, he eschews his invented instruments in favour of mostly piano and guitar, the album still ripples with the same imaginative spirit that led to their creation. It’s a stream of consciousness of sorts, which wonders at the state of the world and all those in it, yet maintains a determined sense of direction and coherence. “Ryan always sounds like he has come a long way to sing you a song,” says Marcus Boon. “He is always arriving too late or too early, and what he sings about is always to be found somewhere else, somewhere where he’s not.” Driver might never find the answers to the questions he poses, but with Careless Thoughts, it’s hard to be sure that he wants to. And by the album’s end, you probably won’t either.