Picture yourself under the night sky at Kejimkujik, staring up at a blanket of stars as bright as the campfire warming your feet. That’s the feeling of listening to Daniel James McFadyen’s “Find My Way to You,” the latest single off his forthcoming Songs to Show Your Friends EP. The Hortonville, NS-based indie folk artist will release his newest five-track offering on Oct. 13. It’s every bit as inviting as the name suggests: A musical venture that sounds like a fall breeze and weaves together elements of folk, pop and country as McFadyen sings softly about love, longing and homecoming. The latter isn’t altogether surprising: The EP comes after a year of cross-Canada touring for the Caledon, Ont.-raised artist—one which has drawn some of the largest crowds he’s ever seen. McFadyen will hope that continues on Oct. 20, as he prepares for his EP’s release party at the Marquee Ballroom.
“During university [at Acadia], I’d try to go to shows there as much as I could,” McFadyen says, speaking by phone with The Coast. “It’s been something I’ve been pushing for and trying to do for a really long time… I couldn’t be more excited to play.”
Judging by his budding reputation in Halifax—McFadyen is among the shortlisted artists in The Coast’s reader-selected Best Folk Artist/Band of 2023 award—the shows are bound to keep getting bigger.
Songs to Show Your Friends is not the same McFadyen as his listeners have heard before. If 2021’s August, I’m Yours was more “stomp and holler,” as McFadyen puts it—think Lumineers or an early, stripped-back Mumford & Sons—then his newer offerings are the slightest bit more melancholic: Minor keys feature prominently across the EP’s five songs. Instruments layer atop one another like leaves on a forest floor. That’s credit, in part, to a months-long creative partnership between McFadyen and Montreal-based producer Quinn Bachand.
“I think a lot of my inspiration comes from singable songs—songs that work really well live and people can sing along to,” McFadyen tells The Coast. “And Quinn comes from a very different background: He’s a jazz guitarist; he’s done a lot of Celtic stuff. He takes [my] ideas, and he adds this musicality to it—chords I would never think of using.”
That collaboration shines brightest on the likes of “Find My Way to You,” as well as the EP’s opener, “Sunshine”—a folk-pop tune that opens with a catchy horn-and-piano riff that could just as easily fit into Arcade Fire’s catalogue.
Halifax gets prominent EP placement, too: On “City Of Ashes,” McFadyen spins a country crooner inspired by a man he met who was experiencing homelessness and selling art on the sidewalk in Halifax:
“I was working in Dartmouth and living in Halifax, and I would walk across the bridge a lot. And he told me some stories about his life and how he ended up on the streets. That’s kind of what inspired the song—it’s a mix of missing being back in Nova Scotia and the stories this guy told me, this really nice man.”
At times, the minor keys seem to dampen McFadyen’s greatest gift: His voice. The singer-songwriter has a whiskey-smooth tenor that he perfected over the years by driving and singing along to CDs in his car—a tip he picked up from another musician at a Wolfville open-mic when he was 14. (“I bought Modest Mouse’s The Moon & Antarctica, and Arcade Fire’s Funeral, and I would just sing as loud as I possibly could,” he tells The Coast.)
That voice brightens earlier songs in McFadyen’s catalogue, like “Fear is Driving” and “The Coast.” It’s there, too, throughout Songs to Show Your Friends, but there are moments—as on “City Of Ashes”—where it feels like the singer’s natural range is waiting to burst through. Those moments, though, are few and far between—and far from enough to detract from a compelling EP. It’s worth a listen. And worth showing your friends, too.
Catch Daniel James McFadyen’s EP release at the Marquee Ballroom, with pop-punk openers Steel Cut Oats and an after-party with Rankin MacInnis & the Broken Reeds:
Date: Friday, Oct. 20, 2023
Time: 9pm. Doors at 8:30pm.
Tickets: $20 (early bird), $25 (advance), $30 (door)
McFadyen on playing the Marquee: “Through university, I’d try to go to shows there as much as I could. I saw Mother Mother there—that was fantastic. I remember Lights, too. At that time, I was like, ‘This is not even a possibility to be playing a show here,’ but I thought it’d be amazing. It’s definitely my favourite venue in Halifax. I remember booking a show there a couple years ago and trying to do the bigger room, and I just wasn’t ready for it yet. I played three or four shows at The Seahorse downstairs to get the crowd big enough to be able to do a show upstairs… It’s been on the bucket list of places to headline. I opened the show for The Town Heroes last year. And that was magical to be on that stage. I think it’s really cool that you can grow in that venue, from the Local, to the Seahorse, to the Marquee. It’s just an iconic venue that I couldn’t be more excited to play.”