Whilst Toronto singer-songwriter Brady Harding didn't feature on the fourth volume in our Beautiful Songwriting series, his stunning debut single, 'Conversation Holder' - available for free download over on Soundcloud - can certainly be considered an unofficial addition to the collection; its soulful, emotive presence only missing because of imperfect timing amidst genuine interest from both parties. With the single having now been released however, and more songs soon to follow, A Lonely Ghost Burning caught up with Brady to discuss how he arrived at this juncture, discovering his views on music as an art form and learning how he found relief in the writing process during a psychologically restless period of his life.
This whole process, and these songs, came from a very dark place and time for me.
Brady: I’ve been going to shows since I was twelve years old. I got invited to a local show – my guitar teacher, looking back on it, was probably just milking me and my parents for tickets to see his band, but hey, I thank him for it. He got my parents to buy tickets to this show – me and my friend at that point were just getting into kinda heavy, alternative music – and we went with full expectation of it being like an auditorium with everyone seated and quiet applause. I got there and it was just a full-on gross kind of environment – mosh pits; heavy metal bands – and I came home from that show and it was, “When’s the next one?” That’s been my life for ten to twelve years now.
Brady: This has been a very interesting process for me. The idea to do this came about a year ago. I basically had a point of two or three months where I was writing obsessively – it was 24/7; I was just locked in a room writing and writing – and I was just doing it at the time because it was something that I felt I needed to do. Once I had it finished, I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really know anybody – I had a few of my close friends, but I really wasn’t in a position to do anything with it. I’d just started playing open mics, basically to prove that I could, because before that, I hadn’t gotten up in front of anybody just being me. I started meeting people, and it basically got me to the point where a few people started seeing what I was doing and wanted to help. I started recording in a few different spaces – just bringing a Mac to different rooms and places, trying to get things done. That went on for five months, and whilst I was doing that, I was still playing open mics.
There was a night when I finished up a couple songs; I walked off and was approached by someone who had a definite possibility of helping me. They approached me with a straightforward proposition; they just said, “Get me three songs.” I jumped. They said jump, and I went for it. I got in contact with an older friend of mine who I’d kinda lost contact with, and we talked about things – he had just finished up school in Ottawa, and he just said, “Let’s do it. Come out to Ottawa, and we’ll record.” So, I went to do it, and we recorded at Pebble Studios in Ottawa. Like I said, I was told to do three songs, but I wanted to record an extra three, basically for myself, so that whatever happened with this person who wanted the songs, I would have an EP for myself. So, we recorded six songs in one session – we started at like, 9AM, and finished at 5AM the next morning. After that, I came back to Toronto and just did a lot of over the phone mixing and editing. That was it. It was pretty much going to Ottawa for that one session, and then it was out of my hands. Now I have the finished product.
As I said, there was a point in my life where I didn’t really know anybody; I didn’t feel like I was in any position to follow through with what I wanted to do, and I’m so grateful for the people that I met along the way, who, even for a short period of time, believed in what I was doing and wanted to help. I owe a lot to those people.
Brady: I wouldn’t really consider it excitement and anxiety. It’s more so just keeping a straightforward look on where I started with this, and where I am now. I don’t really like to get caught up in looking too far ahead – I have a very broken thought process; I think, maybe, two weeks ahead and get that goal done, and then move on from there. Right now, I’m just trying to do things the right way.
Brady: If I wasn’t approached by that person… I was already recording in these DIY methods, and it was taking a long time. It felt like the never-ending story – it was just on-and-on-and-on. I would have been doing this, either way, and maybe it would have taken far longer, but I know that I would have still been doing it. That person gave me the necessary push to just put everything into it – someone had shown interest in what I was doing, and I put everything into it. I sold pretty much everything I owned at that point in order to be able to go out and record. Financially, I’m in the worst position I’ve ever been in, but at least I have a good reason for being there… or, at least, I’d like to think so. [laughs]
Brady: I don’t know, because I view music as an entirely different entity to visual art, photography or film. I think, maybe, there’s a process with those mediums that you’re trying to visually show someone something, whereas music, I strongly believe, you’re trying to portray a feeling. So, as far as being creative with expressing a feeling, I don’t think that there’s that much there for me, because it’s just a straightforward, ‘this is how I feel’. I don’t take too much time to say, “Well, this is the feeling, but I want to portray it in this way.” It just is what it is.
Brady: This whole process, and these songs, came from a very dark place and time for me. This all started about a year ago, and I was just having a really hard time getting on with my life; I was just having a very hard time in general. I was in a place where I had lost a lot, and I was going through this period where I couldn’t sit still without going off the rails. I would just pace a lot, and I felt like I was completely out of control with my life. I was doing really crazy things to keep myself busy; I was going on these bike rides where I’d ride for miles – and not just riding; pushing myself probably further than is medically advised. I was in this space for a while where I couldn’t get myself to not think about what was happening in my life at that point.
After one of these bike rides, I came home and I picked up my guitar – I hadn’t done that for about a month or two – and that was very strange for me at that time; I’ve always just played whenever I can. I wasn’t playing for a while, and that night I came home and just started writing something. Before I knew it, two hours had gone by, and I know that’s a very short amount of time, but in that two hours I’d finished a song, start to finish. Mind you, it wasn’t anything special, but I’d still finished something, and in that two hours, I didn’t feel the chaos that I’d been feeling for so long. That was a very defining moment for me, not only because I’d never really seen something through in my entire life – so that feeling was very fulfilling to me – but also knowing that that’s what I needed to do; it’s what was making me be able to cope, and finally finding a way to cope was huge for me. So, that was it after writing that song; I knew this was what was making me feel better, and this was giving all those feelings that I had a purpose.
Brady: I think, first and foremost, although it’s not that often that it happens to me, you do have the moments of self-doubt, where you kind of want to melt into the floor; you’re kind of embarrassed about what you’re saying or doing. Getting over that, I would say, is the biggest obstacle when it does happen.
Besides that, I would just say, in general, doing these songs myself. I have to do a lot of jobs myself, so when there’s an idea for something, I have to get that out as soon as possible. I have a terrible memory – I said before that I always had a problem finishing things that I started, so with this, when something was happening and it was an idea I wanted to fully commit to and finish, it’s a big obstacle to open up a recording program as quickly as you can to get that idea out. A lot of the time you kinda lose yourself in getting it recorded and having the idea come to you, and then frantically searching for a way to capture that as is and not waiting until later when it comes out a little differently. I know when I started this, I’d just open up GarageBand on my Mac; I’d finish a guitar part or something on the piano, and I was getting the finished product in my head, but trying to convey that without having any sort of materials at my disposal to do it. [laughs] I mean, I was playing drum parts on a bucket with cardboard tubes just to get the basic idea of what was going on; dinner plates as cymbals; just anything I could get my hands on to at least get the idea there.
Brady: It’s the feeling. The feeling being portrayed to whoever’s listening to it, without it being censored in any way or without catering to what you think people will accept and want to hear. I do it because… it’s what I want to do, and what I want to say.
Brady: It’s not a mood I’m in when I write, it’s a mood that gets me to write. That mood… I would say it’s pretty obvious from Conversation Holder and the rest of these songs that will be coming out.
Brady: That’s a strange one! [laughs] I don’t know, really. I don’t want to give a corny answer and say, like, “Music is what fascinates me.” Music has always been my constant and my passion; it’s what I grew up on, and every single person in my life, I’ve met through music in some way or another… But I’m not going to say music is what fascinates me. I don’t know… Maybe just the way things work is what fascinates me; the way things happen in your life – that you have no idea how it’s going to play out or how you’ve got yourself there to begin with, but there’s always a point where you can look back and, for better or for worse, you see almost a chain reaction. Just the way things work, especially now, where my life is… I guess you could say it’s fascinating, or confusing, or frustrating.
And then, maybe just people, because people are strange [laughs].
Brady: Well, coming from the previous question, I mean, film and photography and art are also fascinating things. You watch a good movie, and after, you feel like you’re in a different mindset; that medium and art-form has got you thinking a different way. Film is a very inspiring thing, at times. I guess you could say I actually just started working in film – I’m working with different casting agencies in Toronto and getting to work on sets – whether it be for movies or TV shows – and it’s definitely inspiring to see what goes on behind the scenes there and the passion that directors have to convey exactly what’s in their head. But, inspiration; I don’t think you’re ever looking for it, it just comes, sometimes, whether you want it to or not.
Brady: At this point in my life, this is who I am. I’ve put everything into it, and I was talking before about getting over the obstacles of doubting yourself and being concerned with what people are going to think; at times, wanting to melt into the floor because you’re not holding back and everything’s out there. It is me. There’s no alter-ego; there’s nothing fictional about it. I do enjoy the thought of, at some point, being able to write in not such a literal sense, but as far as what has happened, and as far as I can see what’s coming, it’s just who I am and what I think, and there are no smoke and mirrors with the personality – this is just what I wanted to do.
Brady: I don’t know. I guess that’s an answer that could come with time. I started doing this because it’s something I felt I just needed to do; it was and still is helping me cope with my life. When I first started playing those open mics, and once I got some people together to be able to play all the parts that I had in my head – put a full band together and start playing a couple shows – I had moments where I thought, maybe if I played a show, afterwards, am I going to feel like I got everything out? Am I going to have some sort of relief from it? Basically, going into it wanting to say these things and wanting to portray this feeling and this mood, and then having done it, walking away, going, “Oh, well now I feel better”, and having nothing to do with it afterwards. That just didn’t happen and doesn’t happen. I’m always wanting to do more… I just want to do more.
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