If making music isn’t about having fun, what’s the point in doing it? That philosophy sums up Daniel Wesley’s new album, I Am Your Man, the 33-year-old Vancouver-based singer/songwriter’s seventh studio offering. As he nears the end of his career’s first decade, what comes across most vividly on the record – as longtime fans will surely note – is the balance Wesley has found in his life both on and off stage.
I Am Your Man is essentially Wesley returning to his natural strengths as a groove-based acoustic troubadour, following heavier electric experiments on his previous two records. Tracks such as “Beautiful” and “Shake” perfectly recapture the slow burning west coast feel that established Wesley’s reputation when he first arrived on the scene in the mid-2000s. Conversely, the lessons he’s learned along the way, and a willingness to apply them to his music, meant there was now unlimited potential in the studio.
“Usually my songs are just a reflection of where I’m at in my life,” Wesley says. “I was kind of open to new ideas and new opportunities, and I’m really proud of how these songs have come out.”
Part of his satisfaction with the results achieved on I Am Your Man was the decision to take extra time to allow the creative process to unfold. The album’s 10 tracks equally encompass two separate sessions that took place exactly a year apart. While there are subtle distinctions between these two batches of songs, the record’s overall consistency is a tribute to Wesley’s artistic maturity.
“I produced this album myself, the first time I’d done that since 2007,” he says. “I worked with a handful of producers on my last three records and those were great experiences, but I’d wrapped things up with my last label and it felt like the start of a new chapter, so I decided to do this one on my own. I had lots of time to flesh out the songs with the guys who have been playing with me for the past six years, so they had a good handle on where I was going.”
That trusted group of musicians includes Wesley’s longtime rhythm section of drummer Tim Proznick and bassist Darren Parris, along with saxophonist Alex Maher and keyboardist/guitarist Mike Kenney. Their shared chemistry is another big reason for I Am Your Man’s consistency, and why Wesley enjoyed making this album more than any other in his catalogue.
“I was originally just going to put out an EP of the first session, but I’m an album guy at heart, so I decided to hold off until we could record some more songs,” he says. “It was also the first time I’d worked at Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver, which was a blast. The first session took about five days and I couldn’t wait to come back.”
Out of his second session came the album’s title track and other songs like “Speed Bump” and “So True,” which Wesley describes as still containing the loose, feel-good vibes of their predecessors, but with an added structure developed over a summer of touring. That extra depth is what truly binds the album together, seamlessly mixing his wide array of folk, reggae, blues and rock influences.
Fatherhood can also be added to those influences. Wesley’s first son was born at almost the same time he released his previous album, 2013’s Ocean Wide, and that period turned out to be a whirlwind experience he didn’t want to repeat. “In 2014, I really had to take a step back and say, I’ve put out a lot of music and played a lot of shows. Now’s the time to be a dad and not rush things for a while,” he says. “It also reinforced how lucky I am to have married someone who supports me wholeheartedly, and I wanted to acknowledge that by being the best dad I can be. We’re having our second child this year and we couldn’t be happier.”
In terms of his songwriting, Wesley recognizes the role this phase of his life is playing in his artistic evolution, something he expects will continue for the foreseeable future, especially now that he is in full control of all aspects of his career.
“I don’t feel as if I’ve repeated anything I’ve done in the past on this new record, and that’s really invigorating. Everything about this album seemed completely unforced, and in the end that made it come out better than I could have expected. Now I’m getting ready to experience what it’s like putting out an album on my own in 2015, and I’m prepared for the challenge.”