Fearing & White — a cross-continental, folk-pop collaboration
Reading the liner notes for Fearing & White, it seems the record almost didn’t happen. A dozen years after they met backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Canadian-via-Dublin folkie Stephen Fearing and Australian-via-Belfast singer-songwriter Andy White met up in Calgary in March 2010 with the intention of saying goodbye to their longtime songwriting collaboration.
“Every year we’d meet and just sort of sit at Stephen’s kitchen table and write more songs and get better and better,” says White. “We met to cancel the whole project and to have one final tour, which would be great fun.”
But after listening to the songs the friends had crafted over the years, they realised it was stupid to just throw them away, even though their geographical distance and lack of finances made recording the tunes seem impossible.
“It’s what songwriters try to do, is gather collections of songs like this,” says White.
It seems fate would intervene; a buddy had just announced he wanted to start a record label and threw his support behind Fearing & White. So the duo headed into a studio in Guelph, Ont., to make their long-time dream come true.
“We went and made a record in the old-fashioned way where you go into a studio and two weeks later you come out with a record,” says White. “It was very organic and a very carefully written record. Every line has been really thought about and executed very spontaneously.”
It sounds like a bit of a contradiction, a record that’s both spontaneous and meticulously crafted. But given the long incubation period of the tunes versus the short recording period, it makes sense. The 13-track record is a plugged-in hybrid of Fearing’s folk stylings and White’s U.K. pop sensibilities. And while White says the record is based around their vocal harmonies, Fearing & White was also an opportunity for the two musicians to trade their usual acoustic guitars for some different instruments.
“[Fearing] has got such a great electric-guitar style; it’s really beautiful,” says White, who played bass on the record. “He can really get at it, and when he gets an electric guitar in his hands, he’s like a kid again.”
The duo also managed to tap drummer Ray Farrugia to add some percussion to the album, giving it a fuller sound than one might expect.
“That’s why there’s loads of atmosphere and fun stuff going on,” says White. “It was born around the kitchen table with me and him writing in the classic singer-songwriter fashion, but there’s an awful lot more going on.” M
Stephen Fearing & Andy White8pm Friday, March 18Hermann’s Jazz Club, 753 ViewTickets $25hightideconcerts.net