Updated: Dec 26, 2020
by Scott Roos
For Saskatoon’s The North Sound, it’s been a path of self discovery that has led them to the introspection of sophomore outing As The Stars Explode. A group mainly composed of multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Forrest Eaglespeaker and life partner Nevada Freistadt who provided the crisp, signature vocal harmonies, on As the Stars Explode, The North Sound opted for a very polished, slick production quality that has already enabled them to make a splash on the Indigenous Music Countdown.
Much of the polish on this record has to do with producer Jesse Weiman, whose Nolita studios is well known for giving the vocal tones on the albums he has worked on in particular, that glossy shine and radio friendly appeal.
“Jesse sort of came into the picture around the time that I moved to Saskatchewan and at that point the single off of my first single ‘Sunshine’ had naturally started going towards radio. I never pushed anything to radio and especially the music scene that I come from radio wasn’t even a consideration and so I think they weren’t directly related - Jesse and radio - but I do know that I was a huge fan of Jesse’s production and he had a piece of something that I was never able to pull out of myself and it is a very clean and polished style. I’m all about fusing things together to make something new. In terms of production and stylistically, Jesse and I couldn’t be more different and so I really loved the idea of him and I meeting in the middle and seeing what that would sound like,” explains Eaglespeaker.
“Between him and I, we both played so many instruments that there really wasn’t a point in time in making the record where we couldn’t get an idea out and that was really nice,” continues Eaglespeaker, “And also you know we are both very high energy hyper focused folks that sometimes can be a little bit intense for other people so when he and I got in the room we just kind of clicked. He’s a very talented producer.”
Part of the change in sound also has to do with the fact that Eaglespeaker on As the Stars Explode is firmly in control of the creative process as opposed to his debut which saw a more democratic approach due to working with bandmates.
“For the first record I had less of a hand in creating the sound because I had a band back then. So I would write the songs and bring them to the band and we would write them together,” says Eaglespeaker, “Whereas this record and all of the singles we’ve put out I’ve really been the driving force behind the whole sound. I really am a humongous fan of country rock and heartland rock and americana and roots music and that’s sort of really where my heart lies in terms of stuff that I like to listen to so I think it was a conscious decision to go that direction because I like sounding like my favourite artists.”
As the Stars Explode is unmistakably country rock. With a sound that has been compared to The Allman Brothers, Steve Earle, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and even Emmylou Harris. Sonically, it has a swagger that gives each track a certain stand alone power but, thematically, the lyrics are a part of a cohesive theme of addiction and sobriety, mental health, and intergenerational trauma. In short, it’s a deeply personal record.
“I think the most important thing for me with music has always been the actual words and the message,” says Eaglespeaker.
This certainly is something that comes to the fore on As the Stars Explode. As a proud Blackfoot singer-songwriter, Eaglespeaker also feels it's important that he provide an example for ingenious youth. It’s a noble cause. It shows a vulnerability as well as a rare honesty. His lyrics are relatable to many who have experienced the same pain and frustrations of life.
“At the end of the day a big reason why I'm doing this now is to create opportunity for not only my children but for other indigenous children as well. Where I come from and where I was raised there was nobody doing what I guess essentially I’m doing now. There was a huge lack of representation and that was difficult for me. So I’m wanting to create something and do something with my life where it is about my future. Because I’m going to get where I’m going to get. I don’t know what that looks like or where it’s going to end up but what I do know is that I’m never going to stop pushing and moving forward and chasing my dreams because that confidence in the next generation and my children is way more important to me than that,” Says Eaglespeaker.
The North Sound’s As the Stars Explode is definitely a record worthy of many many spins. It’s a sidestep from the common country themes. It gets to the heart of the issues. It’s deeply personal and for that, Eaglespeaker and Freistadt deserve all the respect and recognition they've been getting thus far.
- photos by Mark Allard-Will