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Friday, July 19, 2024

Great Villagers is Jon Cornwall’s “accidental” sophomore album

Halifax singer-songwriter Jon Cornwall's latest album, Great Villagers, has been out since April, although it wasn't supposed to be.

Halifax singer-songwriter Jon Cornwall’s latest album, Great Villagers, has been out since April, although it wasn’t supposed to be.

I’ve seen lots of musicians interviewed who say their music is their therapy, but I don’t feel that even slightly. It’s just something I really enjoy doing, and whatever crosses my mind is what I write about. – Jon Cornwall

“I accidentally released it about two months ahead of schedule,” says Cornwall. “When you program everything for online distribution, one of the last things you do is pick a date for release. I assumed that when I didn’t pick a date and hit save, it would not publish or go live, but the next morning, I woke up to an email that said congratulations, your record is now live on Spotify, Apple and a list of other sites.”

Cornwall’s accidental release may have been the push he needed. His meticulous nature resulted in a 28-year gap between the release of his first album, Sticks and Stones, in 1996 and Great Villagers in 2024. “I have a bad habit of starting to record something and then realizing that what I started with had technical problems or whatever,” he says.

Cornwall describes it as building a house on a crooked foundation, saying you must account for everything you layer on top. “So that hopefully you end up with a level roof,” he says. “That’s what most of those recordings sound like to me: repair after repair after repair. So after all these years, with this [record], I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it until it was ready.”

The album title, Great Villagers, comes from the tiny hamlet of Great Village in Nova Scotia’s Colchester County. It is where an old church hall became the backdrop for the television show Brojects: In The House, where each episode saw the conversion of the hall into a “hangout space” with everything from a golf simulator to a rock climbing wall. After the show, the building stayed with the company, becoming a jam/rehearsal space, which evolved into a recording studio where Cornwall recorded much of his latest album.

Cornwall’s music, often described as folk, defies strict categorization. “I think most musicians would say they have a hard time pinning themselves down,” says Cornwall. “On this record, in particular, there are a couple of songs that might fall more into a pop category and one that might fall into more of a rootsy world.”

Cornwall’s approach was somewhat organic when he whittled down an original 16 to 13 and then to the final eight that appear on his new album. “It was a matter of picking the ones that I think have the best chance of having people relate to them,” he says.

That relatability comes from songs that are family-related stories. “It’s not a sad-sounding record by any stretch, but if I were to give the record a theme, it’s probably regret because a lot of these songs have a lot of regret and disappointment,” he says.

Despite the personal nature of the songs, Cornwall says the album was not part of any catharsis. “I’ve seen lots of musicians interviewed who say their music is their therapy, but I don’t feel that even slightly,” he says. “It’s just something I really enjoy doing, and whatever crosses my mind is what I write about.”

Great Villages is now available on most streaming platforms and on vinyl & CD.
Great Villagers is now available on most streaming platforms, as well as on vinyl and CD.

The album cover for Great Villagers reflects Cornwall and his band—DJ Timmons, Alanna MacLellan-Mansell, and Kent Sobey—as 70s kids. “We just wanted this to have a real comfortable feeling,” he says. “When we talked to the fellow doing the design work, we said we wanted an old-school palette from the 1970s.” In a nod to where they recorded the album, the back of the vinyl also features an outline of the Great Village church hall.

Despite the unexpected early release of Great Villagers, Cornwall is looking forward to the nearly sold-out July 25 performance at The Carleton to celebrate the release. “It’s going to be a super fun night and probably one of the more awkward nights for me because I feel almost everybody in the room is either friend or family, which will make it a lot harder to sing these songs,” says Cornwall.

Great Villagers is now available on most streaming platforms, as well as on vinyl and CD.

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