Quiet Talkers, the third release from London born singer/songwriter Ken Yates is now available.
Reuniting with Jim Bryson, who produced Yates’s 2016 release Huntsville, (which won two Canadian Folk Music Awards for Songwriter of the Year and New Artist of the Year), Quiet Talkers is a dark, introspective step away from acoustic, guitar-driven, folk songs, yet still maintains Yates’ signature guitar style and lyrics that never waste time getting to the point.
We spoke with Ken about the album and having the odd luck of releasing it during the COVD 19 pandemic.
How has life been treating you during the pandemic?
It’s been all right, all things considered. I had to cancel a lot of tour dates in May, over 30 shows. That was tough at first, but you know what, it hasn’t been so bad. I have a new album coming out and so I have some music to release and I’ve been able to sell a lot of albums just from orders from home and sending them out by mail. It’s a weird time to be releasing an album, but it’s been pretty good so far. So in a strange way, it’s actually a good time to put out music because everybody is at home and looking for new music to listen to.
It must feel strange to have a new album coming out with people still under quarantine?
It is pretty strange. I’ve started diving into the online shows and was a bit hesitant to do them at first, but I’ve actually found them to be pretty fun and you can see all of your audience connecting with each other and that’s been a great experience for me.
The entertainment industry is getting hit pretty hard. As someone with a new album on the way and a new video out now, what steps are you taking to get through this until you can resume a normal career?
The hard thing for me right now is just knowing when we’ll be able to play shows again and whether I should be trying to book shows for the fall, next year, or next summer. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. Basically, I’m just waiting to book any tours until I have an idea of when we might be able to get on the road again. In the meantime, I’ve been putting a lot of my energy into this new album and playing online shows for my audience, which I think will become the new normal in doing these online shows. I’m just trying to be productive and keep writing songs. My guess is that I’ll probably end up writing a new album pretty soon after releasing this new one coming out on the 22nd.
Your creative juices must be going pretty strong.
It took a while to settle into a new routine. I’m used to being at home and writing at home, but everything was just so crazy for those first few weeks when we went into quarantine. I’m actually getting the creative juices flowing again. But now I feel like I’m hitting a sweet spot and I have a routine every day and I’ve been writing a lot. I will have a new album written pretty soon, by the summer.
Let’s talk about your new single, Evangeline. It’s the new single from Quiet Talkers. Now, I noticed on your Facebook page, the song was almost not considered for the album. What caused you to hesitate?
We recorded 14 songs for the album and I knew I wanted to narrow it down to 11 or 12. It’s hard to judge your own song on what you think people will like. Evangeline, for me, I was always attached to the song, but when we went into the studio to record it, it catered itself more to just a solo song. It didn’t quite fit with a lot of the other songs on the album, so it felt like an odd man out in terms of where my song writing was going, but I always kept coming back to it. I played that song a lot live and people seem to react to it well, so I just put it on the back of the record as track 10. I thought if people might find it and they might like it and if they do that’s great, which has been the case.
We put it out as a single and it seems to be one of the more popular songs I’ve released so far. I’m blown away by that, but I’m glad I decided to put it on.
Tell me about the song and what it actually means to you.
Well, it’s definitely one of the more positive songs I’ve written. The whole album is pretty dark, I would say generally, but this one’s a more positive message and it’s about reaching out to somebody. I thought of it as an encouraging love letter to somebody almost, and just to persevere, which I think is probably hitting a chord right now with everything that’s going on.
You’ve already released a few songs from the album. Was the plan to release singles one at a time and then assemble them together or did it just feel like time to make a full album?
That was the plan. I’ve been working with a company in Nashville called Tone Tree, and what they like to do is a release a single every month leading up to the album release and their idea was to release five singles before the album, one every month. This was a new strategy for me, because it seemed like a long process leading up to the album release, but it’s been good actually. Because then you allow each single to have a life on Spotify and try to get the playlisting and it’s been great. Every single has gotten more and more buildup and it’s given nice anticipation for the actual full album to come out.
The video for Surviving is Easy uses vintage cartoon footage. Are you a cartoon fan?
I can’t say I am, no, but I was looking for older type cartoony footage for that song. I don’t know why I had it in my head that it would be cool to use. I found this old, I think it’s a Tom and Jerry cartoon that was public domain and it actually fit the song really well, so I thought I’d use it.
Was it hard to search for the cartoon? You probably went through so many of them.
Yeah. I actually had a few videos for that single before I found that one. I spent quite a bit of time digging for something that would work. But once I found that cartoon, I was like, “Wow, this actually worked really well with the song.”
For you, how does Quiet Talkers differ from the previous albums?
It’s definitely less of a folk album. My first two albums were more acoustic based, more folky Americana, where this one’s a bit more contemporary sounding, a lot more full band stuff. That’s always the music I’ve personally listened to. Going into this record, I wanted to experiment more with playing electric guitar, doing more songs with a full band, catering more to my own musical interests. Whereas in the past I just didn’t want to step on the songs. I wanted to keep them acoustic based and not over produce them too much.
Is there something specific you wanted to say with Quiet Talkers album?
Well, it’s funny. You don’t really go into it with a specific message wanting to say, but once the album was made and I looked at the overall theme of it, all the songs are, in my mind, thoughts from the quietest person in the room, which is why I called it the Quiet Talkers. I think my song writing comes from the point of view of the observer, and so all those songs are from the point of view of a wallflower.
There’s a lot of black and white imagery that you have going on with Quiet Talkers. Is that part of a mood you wanted to create?
A lot of it was subconscious probably, but the mood of the record, as I say, a lot of it is kind of dark, a little introspective and the black and white caters to .
The London music scene has grown so much in the last few years. Is it different from when you lived there?
I think so. I haven’t lived in London for almost 10 years now, so I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the music scene there, but it does seem like it’s grown quite a bit and a good place to be now, especially with Toronto being so expensive to live in. I think a lot of musicians are moving to smaller towns and it does appear that the city has taken more pride in its music scene and supported it a bit more, which I like to see. Obviously there’s some really great venues there, Aeolian Hall I love playing. It’s one of my favorite venues anywhere and they’ve grown a lot in the past few years, so it looks like it’s heading in a great direction.
How did London shaped you as a person and as a musician?
London’s a good place to grow up. You have your own little space to grow as a musician and an artist. I grew up playing in bands there and then I left around 18, went to school in the US, started touring in the US, and then started touring different parts of Canada. But London has always been really supportive of me. Some of my best shows have been in London and it was a great, great community to try to find my voice in, like a nice safe bubble.