Kevin Drew Isn’t Chasing His Life Away

Kevin Drew interview with Northern Transmissions by Leslie Ken Chu. The Broken Social Scene took time to reflect on his recent album aging
Kevin Drew Photo Credit : Richard Briant

Aging is a universal experience that bonds everyone lucky enough to grow old, a part of life that fosters empathy and helps people see each other’s humanity. Aging is also the name of the latest solo album by Broken Social Scene founder Kevin Drew, a collection of songs influenced by the markers of mid-life: love, illness, and loss. He experienced his most world-shattering loss when his mother died this past July, a month before he released the swelling piano-driven single “Out in the Fields.”

“I was very close with my mom,” Drew tells Northern Transmissions over the phone. “She was a really supportive woman in my life. I wouldn’t be here without her.” She never heard Aging because she and Drew spent their remaining time together listening to “all kinds of other great music,” but despite that, “This record has kind of become her album.”

Ironically, Aging came together when Drew and longtime collaborator Nyles Spencer convened to record a children’s album at the Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Studio in 2021. “We started cutting these children’s songs, just having fun, laughing, making up songs about ice cream, about swing sets.” Spencer suggested pitching Drew’s vocals higher through Autotune. “It brought me back to lullabies. It brought me back to my mum and being a kid.” At the time, his mother had already begun experiencing health issues. “It made me go deep into this inner child place where I thought, ‘This kid’s hurtin’ ‘cause his mom’s not well.’”

Drew tapped into a wellspring of song ideas he’d been holding onto for over a decade. Swept away by a creative current, he and Spencer recorded Aging over 10 days. He compares the process to busting out a journal in the moment and seeing what happens. “We try not to stay too long in something so we can move onto the next to try to keep the bones of it together.”

The recording spell resulted in eight songs imbued with the kind of melancholy that lives in one’s bones. Yet they are beautiful in their simplicity, melodic richness, and vulnerability, quietly sad but ruminative and ultimately comforting.

Comparing Aging to his previous solo albums—2007’s shambolic and freewheeling Spirit If…, 2014’s black-lit Darlings, and the exploratory instrumental odyssey Influences—Drew explains: “At the time of Spirit If…, everyone I knew was still present. Darlings, I wanted to do my last ‘Lover’s Spit,’ ‘Safety Bricks’ kind of reflection-on-relationships record. Influences, I was just so enamoured by creating it and making a soundtrack for what was a very strange time.” By contrast, Aging “was coming from a point of view of moving forward, dealing with sickness within my family, and looking back at people who’ve left my life.”

Drew initially made Aging without intending to release it. The album was a creative outlet to process the losses he had experienced—and the loss he was anticipating. But he realized he was in denial, and by holding onto the album, he could never fully come to terms with those losses. He had to be honest with himself. And honesty is essential to creativity. “The undercurrent to all the music that I love to make with everyone who I made it with is you want honesty, because that’s how you find people’s ears,” Drew says.

Still, Aging sat on the shelf for a couple of years. “I didn’t feel I could carry this album at that point in time.” Not only were Broken Social Scene preparing another run, but he also had to emotionally prepare himself for the fact that “I’m gonna be talking [my mom] and about friends who died and about how we continue and how right now there’s so much pain and collective heartbreak in this world. I think I’ve exhausted myself like so many people in the world without any control, feeling so helpless and losing moments of wanting to keep moving forward.”

Drew has spent 20 years making music that urges listeners to take care of each other and themselves. On the spacious, airy “Fixing the Again,” though, he pleads, “Can you fix me? Can I fix me? Can we fix me? Can they fix me?” The song continues with him lamenting, “You’re so busy / I’m so busy / We’re so busy / Yeah, they’re so busy.” His desperate words are an open acknowledgment that he does not always take his own advice.

The fiery hearted idealism of the music Drew made in his 20s doesn’t blaze as brightly on the sombre, searching Aging, but “There’s a lot of joy,” he says of the album. He doles out more advice on “Out in the Fields,” a song that celebrates reveling in the moment: “You should run out in the fields with your girl / ‘Cause you like living alone with her,” he sings.

“I don’t think I do anything without joy,” Drew reflects. “It’s the chords I play, the rhythms. Everything for me is ‘Where the Streets Have No Name.’ I can’t help it. The way I listen to music is companionship to me. Those are the artists in my living room. They help me. You always want to have that lifeline, that hand extended to say, ‘Let’s do this together.’”

Drew admits he had a “very hard time” entering his 40s. He used to get hung up on everything he hadn’t accomplished. “But once I passed that threshold, I’ve really, really, completely enjoyed getting older. There’s something freeing in moving forward and knowing who you are and being true to yourself.” Now 47, he still struggles to stay on track, “but as you get older, things do brush off your shoulder more.”

That goes for Drew’s future in music, too—whatever that is.

“This might be my last solo record, and if that’s the case, I’m good!” Drew exclaims. “I achieved what I wanted to achieve musically. If I keep trying to achieve more, that means I’m chasing my life away. And I don’t want to do that. I want to enjoy my life. And that’s one of the hardest things to do sometimes.”

Order Aging by Kevin Drew HERE


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