Prior to the release of 2009's We Are America, Atlantic folk-rockers Caledonia began charting their music into less folky territory. But singer- songwriter Steve Gates still had some songs to sing with his acoustic guitar.
"We were trying to get Caledonia sort of out of the folk world at one point, but I kept writing folk songs. It just felt really natural," he says.
After countless time spent touring with Caledonia in support of its new album, Gates and his bandmates found themselves working on more solo material than together as a band. "Doing a record with a band and touring with it, it's a full year commitment. Before we jumped back into it, everyone wanted to get some of this material out," he says.
That's when Daniel Lanois came to town for a performance and Q&A at the Marquee. Gates, who had recently been poring over Lanois' recording advice online while recording with Caledonia, went to the show in the hopes of learning about the recording techniques of his favourite album by Lanois, Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball.
"I'd been struggling with these questions for so long and all of a sudden he's answering my questions," he says, pointing to Lanois' advice that great records can be made on a cheap budget.
Which was good news for Gates, who had insufficient funds for a solo record after investing in Caledonia's last album. So instead of booking a studio, Gates and his friends holed up in his apartment, creating an eight-track studio in his living room to record his upcoming LP and the companion EP Hello Jesus.
In such a small space the band had to get creative, even separating the double bass and drums by putting Gates' loveseat on its side. But Gates feels the makeshift recording studio gave Hello Jesus a unique sound due to the comfort it afforded the songwriter.
"I've never been in the studio enough to get super comfortable, even with the Caledonia stuff I had to do my vocals at home," he says. "When I'm engineering myself, I don't feel like anyone is judging me and I can just be myself. I feel like that really came through."
Steve Gates, Hello Jesus EP release show, Saturday, November 12, 8pm, 1313 Hollis, $6