#tbt An Interview with Jason Collett

Found in the Margins is a defunct web magazine that Chris DePaul founded in 2006. Chris and his co-writers would interview musicians, writers and activists on one question: What books inspire the work you do? The Brothers DePaul will be reposting these archived interviews every Thursday. #tbt

This week's interview: Jason Collett

If you and I were to play a word association game, for whatever reason, and I were to say “Barack Obama”, you may respond with “young, energetic U.S. Presidential candidate who is criticized for lack of experience.” Well done, one point for you. If I were to say “Fred Thompson”, you may respond with “great actor…and…well…yup…that’s all.” Again, well done, one additional point. Changing the subject to music, if I were to say “Jason Collett”, your best bet at scoring any points would be to say “prolific songwriter, Canadian indie-darling, Broken Social Scene army member, and timeless musician”.

Toronto singer-songwriter Jason Collett has been a part of many music projects in recent years, including touring with the experimental Broken Social Scene and creating his own critically acclaimed album Idols of Exile with guest appearances by Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and Metric’s Emily Haines, along with Canada’s own Howie Beck on production.

The latest album, Here’s To Being Here, was released February 5th 2008. Juxtaposed to the prior release, Collett decidedly scaled back the size of his musical guest list, with these tunes being largely constructed with his former touring band Paso Mino. Collett describes the new album: “I feel this is a rock-and-roll music record. Not rock, not rock and roll, but Rock ’n Roll music. I don’t care much for the roots-rock tag or the singer-songwriter one and all the banality those genres conjure up. Rock ’n Roll music encompasses all sorts of influences – country, blues, gospel... all those things, and I’m just part of that tradition.”

Collett discovered the title of the album - Here’s To Being Here - from a line in an anthology of poetry by Paul Haines, Emily Haines’ father. Collett describes why he connected with the line so much: “For me there's a kind of unadorned celebratory ring to the phrase ‘here’s to being here’. There's no irony in it, and lord knows we’ve all had enough of that for a while. I really like Haines’ playful writing. It’s like Dylan, almost Dada-esque; it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I really relate to that era of writing... Ginsberg, that pre-’60s movement.”

When it comes to Collett’s creative process, reading literature admittedly plays a role. “Sure I get inspired while reading. I often scribble down a line, a turn of phrase or a particular word. There's usually some subconscious theme that connects the pages of random scribbling that will later distil into the makings of a song.”

Naming a few favourite books didn’t make much sense to Collett – his favourites were on an encompassing author level. “Whenever I stumble upon a book I really like I tend to devour the rest of that author's work.” His preferences are as follows:

  • Henry Miller: “The happiest man on earth. Fearless and passionate, he never wasted a drop of the blood of life.”
  • Mordecai Richler, Martin Amis and Don Delillo: “All three for their sharp acerbic wit and brutal satire.”
  • Russell Banks: “His stories are like fleshed out Springsteen songs. Harrowing, romantic and very cinematic.”
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “Dreams that you never want to wake up from.”
  • Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi: “I've got some South Asian blood in my family and the characters in their novels often remind me of some of the more eccentric family traits in my aunts and uncles.”

Without a doubt, a title written by any of these authors would bring pleasure and inspiration to the heart and mind of any reader.

Written by Chris DePaul