Matthew Barber

The songs on Phase Of The Moon were conceived in a tiny studio apartment in the quaint Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre where Matthew and his wife spent a month in early 2017. It came with a small upright piano and had thin walls, which could explain why piano songs sung in deeper, hushed tones feature prominently on the record. The winter sojourn in Europe provided a welcome respite from the all-consuming media madness back home, and coupled with a steady diet of existentialist reading material, served to foster a mood of almost contented melancholy that seeped into the songs and runs throughout the record. This mood is at times manifested in the form of a solitary searcher reflecting on what’s come before and wondering what lies ahead, and at other times through words of support addressed to a concerned partner that reveal a commensurate plea for reassurance that everything’s going to be ok. The quiet storm is punctuated by necessary and at times exuberant affirmations of love, hope and wonderment, and a spirit of embracing life in all its complexity endures. “‘The Painter’ was written after a moving visit to a nearby art museum,” says Barber. “‘Hanging On The Line‘ begins as a paean to modest values and morphs into a loose commentary on our wayward modern civilization. The title track ‘Phase Of The Moon’ is probably the most personal song on the record about the struggle to overcome setbacks beyond our control. ‘All In A Dream’is how I sometimes feel when I’m traveling, putting reality on hold for a little while.”

The performances that make up the record were captured over three days in the historic Almonte Town Hall in eastern Ontario, with its ghosts, high ceilings and Steinway grand piano setting the scene for the recording. Starting with the solo vocal and piano or vocal and guitar as the centre, the tracks were built outwards and took on different shapes as other instruments were added at Friesen’s studio in Almonte, as well as back in Toronto where the exquisite string parts were arranged and performed by Drew Jurecka. The record was thoughtfully mixed by Darryl Neudorf (Blue Rodeo, Neko Case, Sarah McLachlan) at his barn in Mono, Ontario, and the album art was created by Toronto artist Heather Goodchild.

Barber is a two-time Juno nominee, has sold over 100 thousand albums worldwide, 10 million streams and earned countless praise for his work. A tireless road warrior, Matthew will treat audiences pre-album release selections when he hits the road this March in support of The White Buffalo.

Joshua Hyslop

The best way to tell any story is to live it. Canadian singer and songwriter Joshua Hyslop has certainly done that. Since 2013, he's actually played over 50 intimate "House Shows." You read that right—he literally performs in a fan's living room for a crowd of their friends and family. However, it's more than that. After finishing the set, he doesn't immediately pack up his gear and hit the next town.

Joshua would break bread with these families across the country and often end up staying awake late into the night talking about life, loss, love, and everything in between. These revealing conversations awakened something inside of him. He felt he was being given a unique opportunity to truly open up to these people and to share his own thoughts, fears, and doubts. It helped to serve as the catalyst for his second full-length album, In Deepest Blue [Nettwerk]. In an age when we're become more isolated than ever, he connected in the most old-fashioned way possible. The artist really committed to this idea of living among the people, and it changed him.

"We're raised to be afraid of strangers," he says. "More and more, I've found that many people are just inherently good and kind. I've had the pleasure of playing for some of the nicest and most hospitable families around the country. I'd show up, we'd have dinner, I'd perform the concert, and sometimes we'd end up talking almost all night. After breakfast the next day, I'd say goodbye and drive to the next families house. Some of the conversations I got to have had an impact on me, and it would bleed into the songs. Through these tours, I've realized that, 'Yes, times can be hard, but everybody has felt that way. Everybody's got their stuff. I'm not alone in that."

That catharsis drives In Deepest Blue. His empathy expanded, and he channeled those feelings into the writing process. However, he also wanted to continually challenge himself by breaking a personal tradition and writing in Nashville instead of his native Canada.

"In some ways, going to Nashville and writing with other people was similar to me doing the house shows," he explains. "When you meet someone for the first time, it's much easier to be open—because you don't have to worry about the history of the relationship. You can simply be who you are. At the same time, the work ethic in Nashville was incredible. They don't stop. We'd go from one song to the next without a break."

Finished back home in Canada, In Deepest Blue reflects every facet of Joshua. First single and album opener "The Flood" starts with a soft mandolin strum and rustic acoustic guitar that seamlessly complements his breathy delivery. Written in one nine-and-a-half hour sitting, he utilizes the entrancing opener to tell a rather timeless tale.

"It's loosely inspired by the biblical story of The Return of the Prodigal Son," he explains. "There's this idea of really messing up, feeling bad about the mistakes you've made, and hoping you can be forgiven. Underneath it all what unites everybody is that hope. More specifically, it's hope in humanity, forgiveness, and love. It's the blood we all share. I think it's something everybody can identify with.""Let It Go," penned with Michael Logen during a Nashville trip, pairs a soft violin and finger-picked acoustic with a soaring refrain.

"I often feel like I don't have a well of security to draw from," he sighs. "I can be quite neurotic which gets me worrying about everything from mortality to how I could be a better person. Sometimes, you just need to let all of that stress go, wash your hands of it, accept that it's there, and hope that maybe it will lead to some deeper revelation."

With its countrified pounce and spirited hook, "Living & Dying" examines the changing climate both figuratively and literally, while "Gone" is a soulful rumination on existence.

He says, "I love my job, but it can be pretty lonely. With so much time alone I start thinking about things. I don't know if there's an afterlife, or what that looks like, so it's sort of an urge to live in the moment. You only get however many years you're going to get, it would be a shame to waste them."

Since first emerging with his 2012 full-length Where The Mountain Meets The Valley, he's garnered praise from the likes of The Daily News, Vancouver Sun, !earshot, and more. He has also has carved out an impressive diehard fan base, willing to consistently invite him into their homes to perform. It's because he always imparts an honest part of himself on the audience with every song and show.

"I want people to listen to In Deepest Blue from beginning to end," he leaves off. "If they do engage with it, I think optimism will be the one thing they'll feel. Whatever that looks like. I think they'll find their own personal meaning though. Beyond all the chaos, you find the Deepest Blue. It's the calmness we all have. It's the hope inside."

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