Jason Collett Takes Control on 'Song and Dance Man'

Jason Collett Takes Control on 'Song and Dance Man'
Photo: Isis Essery
Jason Collett wanted to strum his guitar rather than tweet at followers. He wanted to perform, not pander. He was interested in music instead of marketing. But the former became increasingly entwined with the latter, until Collett dismissed it all as a twisted mess, abandoning recording for four years, his longest period between releases. The folk rocker finally breaks that silence on his new LP, Song and Dance Man, out today (February 5) via Arts & Crafts.

One can hear Collett vent such frustrations on the album's title track, but only after a careful listen to the lyrics. That's because the song, and much of the album, boasts a joyous '70s dance-rock groove. He attributes that upbeat tone to the album's producer and bass player Afie Jurvanen, more famously known as Bahamas.

"I got over my ambivalence and remembered how much I enjoyed being in the studio," Collett tells Exclaim!, adding that Jurvanen helped "distill things for me... I'd written way too many songs since my last album, and Afie helped me pick ones I normally wouldn't have picked. In a lot of ways the record is lighter and easier listening as a result."

It was a freewheeling, playful tone that reminded Collett of when he first began playing with Jurvanen a decade before, during the sessions for his Idols of Exile LP. Howie Beck, that project's producer, introduced Collett to Jurvanen, who was new to Toronto's music scene.

Jurvanen led Collett to young cohorts Rob Drake, Carlin Nicholson, Mike O'Brien and Neil Quin, who would go on be his backing band and eventually form their own acclaimed outfit, Zeus. Collett notes his mentorship of this "gaggle of fellows" came a few short years after his own major breakthrough in indie troupe Broken Social Scene.

He looks back fondly on those days, when BSS had "kicked open the door internationally for me to tour and make records. It was a very exciting time." But that now feels like a distant memory, and until Jurvanen recently lifted his spirits, Collett had grown quite disillusioned.

"I'm not crowd-funding, or offering personal postcards from the road, and all that ridiculousness," Collett says. "I'm not knocking those who do that. But it seems like we're made to become monkeys so our art can pay the rent."

That despondency made him appreciate the joy of playing with Jurvanen all the more. Collett's respite from recording and self-promotion also allowed him to focus on other passions, like his renowned series of Basement Revue multidisciplinary performances, which have grown so popular in Toronto that he plans to soon release multitudes of footage of those shows (though such plans are still being finalized).

Most of all, Collett's recently subdued days have helped him savour the subtleties he might have once dismissed as mundane.

"The time that I took off the road, cooking and engaging with my family, has made me fond of domesticity," he says with a laugh, adding that realization inspired another Song and Dance Man standout, "Love You Babe," on which he sings — in a Bob Dylan circa Desire lilt — about adoring the way a lover simply zips up her dress.

Collett adds: "What I've really been trying to figure out is ways to make music and records with a modicum of dignity, and still have a healthy life with my family."

Check out Collett's upcoming tour dates with Zeus and Kalle Mattson over here. Watch the new video for "Love You Babe" below.