Don Brownrigg is a busy man.
Over the last five years, the Halifax-based musician travelled around Asia as a puppeteer with Mermaid Theatre, worked as a festival presenter and pursued a degree in osteopathy. Not to mention he's also an accomplished musician on tour for his much-anticipated newly released album.
While the last five years have been exciting for Brownrigg, they've also been a painful learning experience. While trying to figure himself out, Brownrigg's music career took a backseat to heartbreak. "I had a couple relationships that weren't great. They sort of slowed me down a lot," he says. "All those things compiled in my little brain and caused a fog."
But now Brownrigg is back, and better than ever.
"I really wanted to be home for a good chunk of time when my album came out...[I had to build] up a confidence that these songs were OK, that I was still OK to do this after so many years," he says. "All the community here and all the musicians are so lovely to work with. The mix of having new music out, touring and having new shows feels really good and I'm proud of it."
Brownrigg's new album, Fireworks—the hometown show is June 7 at The Carleton—bears the scars of his heart and poetically illustrates tales of tortured apologies and painful realizations. Hey Rosetta! violinist Kinley Dowling and The Modern Grass' Tom Terrell provided strings and drums, and friend and producer Daniel Ledwell helped record all vocals and other instruments.
Two relationships that broke down during Brownrigg's hiatus echo in many songs, such as the album's lead single "Bad Timing," a truthful reflection of Brownrigg's deteriorating feelings of love and lust, and "From You," an upbeat but sullen take on what Brownrigg describes as feeling "pushed away."
"I had two intense relationships. I instigated the disconnect" of one, he says, "and it was a really sad thing. Then I got into another relationship a couple of years later and the reverse thing happened. I wasn't the one to initiate the separation. There was no sudden thing that happened that caused either of us to want to breakup, other than just not being in love. It was this sort of sad, stale sort of breakup where there was no trigger, just a gentle, dull, pull away. It's hard to be on either end of a breakup."
Fireworks also touches on Brownrigg's own mental health and sexuality; he says the softer ballad "Room For Me" is the biggest example of these feelings on the record.
"'Room For Me' is about finding my place within finding a relationship, a sexuality. I don't know if there is one I fit underneath. It's about feeling really alone in it all," he says. "Every relationship I've been in, we've broken up and I'm single again. The question was 'Where am I gonna be comfortable?' I feel like I go through the motions a lot of the time. Motions about emotion."
Despite having his hand in many pots, Brownrigg says music always has a special place.
"I've been doing it since I was a little kid. I can be a quiet person, but when I'm most comfortable in life is when I'm preforming, which is weird," he says. "There's a certain ease with music. I know it sounds cliche, but I was able to come back to it. It's my comfort zone and maybe my death trap at once."