The Writes of Spring tour brought Hawksley Workman, Amelia Curran, Donovan Woods and Tim Baker to Canada’s National Arts centre for their fourth stop, of a nine stop tour. It was a wonderfully laid back night full of innuendos, hockey talk and awkward giggles!
Going into The Writes of Spring, I had very little in terms of expectations. I was essentially going in blind, and I loved it! I wish I could attend every concert with no expectations and a very limited knowledge on the artists. This allowed me to appreciate every moment and be mesmerized by the music.
The artists performed four songs each, taking turns down the line.
Hawksley kicked off the night by playing host and MC, introducing the other three singer-songwriters, and telling us all that if at any point we didn’t like what they were presenting, to listen to the exit signs and walk out. He even marvelled at how, here in Ottawa, our signs have arrows, ensuring we know exactly where to exit.
He couldn’t believe how many people were there (the theatre was practically full!) and kept reiterating that we had no good reason to be here – no one likes songwriters. Boy, did we ever prove him wrong! The crowd was engaged the entire night. Between Hawksley’s humour and the music, everyone was hanging on for the next word or note that would be fed to them. Having never attended a songwriting style show before, I was especially impressed.
After finishing telling us all we were crazy for coming out to see silly little songwriters, Hawksley proceeded to comment on Ottawa’s state of constant construction. Claiming that he’s impressed we all made it. Not simply from a lack of interest standpoint, but because of all the “circuitous paths” one had to endure to find the entrance. He even compared it to having to run the Terry Fox run just to make it in on time, showing up sweaty and out of breath, and coughing a little because of a cold.
As can be seen, Hawksley kicked the Writes of Spring off immediately with some good natured humour and jokes at his own expense. It wasn’t long, however, until his jokes took a slightly … darker … turn. When observing and interacting with the crowd, Hawksley noticed 4 seats empty in the front row. He metaphorically referred to those seats as being the empty space in your mouth you’d tongue as a kid after losing a tooth. Even though it was small, your attention is constantly drawn to the gap. Now of course, regardless of the crowd, a statement such as tonguing the gap will bring some snickers throughout the audience. Hawksley quickly picked up on this, and proceeded to call out Ottawa on its randy, hot, and unrequited hyper sex vibe. As if asking us to prove his point, when he sang about an ignition and a key, he was greeted by giggles and titters throughout.
Hawksley Workman was not afraid to stop a song and try something new, he interacted with the crowd constantly, and clearly fed off their energy. He was constantly playing with his vocal abilities, showing his incredible range and different styles. He entertained us with songs, both new and old, although he apologized profusely for singing the new stuff. Claiming that new songs should be saved for those you really trust to tell you they’re crap, and not pulled out in concert. This was a tiny jab at Tim Baker, who started with something new. Hawksley felt the need to tease the kid.
The song that Hawksley performed that resonated the most with me, was Birds in Train Stations. It was a sweet song, with a funny tone, that was relatable. He pointed out the cheesy lines midway through the song, which only added to the experience for me.
After Hawklsey Workman’s first song, it was Amelia Curran’s turn to dazzle us all. She started by walking up to the mic and giggling. You could tell that she was one of those people who embraced their awkwardness. Often introducing her songs with something to the effect of: K, I’m gonna sing now. This was a breath of fresh air because it made her seem real. She was relatable, in that she wasn’t super scripted, and she was just overall very sweet. She started things off with a lulling ballad and I was immediately drawn in. Her voice was so soulful and her passion just emanated through the music.
My favourite performance by Amelia was her song The Mistress. She introduced it by saying that everything in this song is true, except for the title. After that, she sang a hauntingly beautiful tune that drew you in, and you just had to close your eyes to appreciate.
Once Curran’s first song was over, it was Donovan Woods’ turn to capture us all with his humour and punchy, straight-to-the-point, style. His first interaction with the audience was to tell us that Tim McGraw has tiny jeans. Woods then proceeded to tell a story of how once, when he had travelled to Nashville, he was writing with McGraw in his home. Donovan couldn’t believe the smallness of Tim’s pants, coupled with the vastness of the couch where he was sitting. He said “It was literally the smallest pair of jeans on the biggest couch you’ve ever seen”. This story had the audience laughing and also seemed to install some respect in everyone. They realized that you must be talented if you’re sitting on McGraw’s couch, songwriting with the respected country artist.
Woods’ voice was not what I would have expected, although still incredible! He sang very close to mic and created this, almost hum, with every note he sang. His style and music was by far my favourite, but this could very well be because I am a country fan and his sound was very country-esque. This could also be because he appealed to my inner Canadian girl and referenced hockey.
Donovan was telling a story of how his song, Put on Cologne, came to be. Explaining that his friend Frasier experienced heartbreak in Cologne, Germany. And how Frasier wasn’t too thrilled that Woods had written a song about it. But hey, artists got to do their art, right Donovan? And this song paid off for Donovan when Erik Karlsson (of the Ottawa Senators), with his dreamy long hair, once tweeted at Woods about this song. Woods couldn’t believe that famous hockey players listened to his sappy love folk songs.
After this revelation, Hawksley had to tell the story about when Mike Bossy sent him a signed jersey. Bossy sent the jersey with a note to tell Workman that he did not shoot it wide, contrary to what was stated in his song Warhol’s Portraits of Gretzky. He mused over the fact that, while Bossy did send him a reply, he had yet to hear anything from Gretzky. Maybe the Writes of Spring will be your chance Hawksley! Gretzky can finally know how pretty bloody sexy that portrait really is.
The final artist we heard from, before the order repeated itself was Tim Baker, from Hey Rosetta!. Although we had seen some samplings of his piano abilities when Hawksley asked him for a solo, we hadn’t heard much from the singer songwriter. Tim was a ball of energy, who was clearly passionate about, not only his music but the other three artists’ music as well. He had a quick laugh and wasn’t afraid to try new things in front of the audience, usually in the form of some free style on the piano. Tim Baker showed his diverse artistic abilities, playing the piano, guitar and hitting us with his vocals flawlessly.
My favourite Tim moment is when he was describing the song Welcome. Baker explained that the inspiration hit when talking to his friend’s unborn child. Tim was embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until telling this story to another friend, that he was made aware that you’re not supposed to talk to pregnant bellies. He didn’t know that most women do not enjoy having their bellies spoken to. Although, I think we can all agree to forgive him, as the result was Hey Rosetta!’s beautifully sad song Welcome.
Overall, the night was a great success! Full of belly laughs and misty eyes, the Writes of Spring brought us through a plethora of emotions and finished us off on a high note. For the encore, all four artists came back on stage to perform the Traveling Wilbury’s Handle With Care.