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Small town boy 

Don Brownrigg’s latest album is about being (more) grounded, with a melancholic, epic tone. Soak it up

Spend the weekend with Brownrigg, why don’t you?
  • Spend the weekend with Brownrigg, why don’t you?

Halifax-based friends and fans of local singer/songwriter/man-about-the-arts Don Brownrigg may feel a little nervous when they hear the seventh track of his newest record, It Takes All Kinds (to make it in this world, I find).

Entitled "I Think I'm Leaving Halifax," the song plays out a goodbye letter that's all-too familiar: "This will happen in a town so small/A man ill at ease, if at ease at all," he sings. "All these years can't give me a reason to relax/I just found one to leave Halifax."

It's frightening to think the town might lose Brownrigg, who moved here from Codroy Valley, Newfoundland in 2000. Whether performing and recording with Tanya Davis, Zac Crouse and Rose Cousins or acting as an ambassador for east coast musicians while on national and international tours with Shawn Colvin, Great Lake Swimmers and Serena Ryder, the multi-talented musician is---no pun intended---instrumental to the Haligonian arts community.

But have no fear, says Brownrigg. For right now, he's staying put.

"That's a song that's more about me than this city," says Brownrigg, who, over a one-hour coffee date in the north end, is greeted by a half-dozen friends. "I did a little stint in the Rockies, and a little stint back home after I left university, but Halifax is the only place I've ever really lived. And it can start to feel like a small town after awhile."

Add to that a steady stream of invitations to work with musicians in southern Ontario, and a general sense of late-20s restlessness, and you've got the ideal conditions for departure. "I've been so close to leaving so many times," he says. "I even rented an apartment in Toronto once, but I never went. About two weeks before I was supposed to move, I just thought, 'I can't leave, it's too good here. I'm too spoiled.'"

The fruit of that decision, however, is decidedly unspoiled. It Takes All Kinds, Brownrigg's first album since his 2007 debut, Wander Songs, is 10 tracks of rock-solid songwriting buoyed by the ECMA-winning producing talents of Daniel Ledwell and guest appearances by a host of local talents. Released in late October, the album has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with the only complaint seeming to be that it took Brownrigg so long to finish it.

"It took a long time partly because I wasn't able to make the songs objective," he says of his near seven-year gap between records. "But then I just had to get over myself. They're just songs, not an epic novel."

Still there's an overall melancholic mood on It Takes All Kinds, and it's hard to imagine Brownrigg could release a collection of such honest and personal songs without some emotional tumult. "A lot of these songs reflect this period of becoming an adult, I guess, where I was able to process things and maybe put them in perspective a little," he says, noting that transitioning to his late 20s has made him at least a little more grounded. "I'm still somewhat restless, and maybe I always will be, but I really do try to take myself less seriously. The song 'Sweet Dream Sleeper' is actually about just that."

While one gets the sense that Brownrigg is always going to be an intense songwriter, it seems that lightening up has ensured it won't be another seven years before fans get another record.

Though a two-night stand at the Bus Stop Theatre on November 30 and December 1 will celebrate the official hometown release of It Takes All Kinds, he's already planning to buckle down for the winter and write another new batch of songs. He'll write mostly at home, he says. Which, at least for now, is a place called Halifax.

Don Brownrigg w/Cheryl Hann
November 30, December 1 at 8pm, $15
The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen

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