James Gordon 2

There is an energy from a live performance that can’t be found in a studio recording. It’s the knowledge that you can't stop partway through and start over again, which happens all the time when you’re in a studio. It’s the excitement of performing in front of a live audience who are engaged with what you’re doing. That’s one of the main reasons James Gordon recorded his latest album, Wrinkles And Scars, at the River Run Centre in his hometown of Guelph, ON.

“There’s a certain magical energy that can happen when you have this wonderful band playing ‘in the moment’ and the audience is right there with them. It’s something I really enjoy and I think listeners do too.”

There was also an economic reason for recording a live album. The River Run Centre has the technical infrastructure to record every band member individually. This way, any corrections could be made later just as if they had recorded in a studio. Another major financial consideration was the environment artists are faced with these days, with revenues from CD sales plummeting while income from streaming services are miniscule. The budgets for recording albums aren’t what they used to be.

“Do you want to spend $30,000 making an album if you’re not going to get that back from sales?”

Recording a live album also has the benefits of generating revenue from ticket sales for the concerts themselves. To that end, Wrinkles And Scars is the third album James has recorded this way.

The concerts at the River Run Centre were also kind of a homecoming for James. For eight years, he served as a city councillor, and since the River Run Centre is a city-owned facility, he was prevented from performing there due to conflict of interest regulations.

His time on council also made it difficult to maintain a performing career, so once James was freed of municipal responsibilities, he immediately filled his calendar with music dates.

“It wasn’t quite due to the relief that I wasn't on council. It was excitement about what I could do now.”

Even before James was on Guelph City council, a hallmark of his career has been community and environmental activism. Those issues are represented on Wrinkles And Scars. ‘Wild Wind Blows’ and ‘Lonesome As Hank Williams Tonight’ reference the wildfires which devastated BC in 2023. Because the continent was blanketed in smoke from fires caused by climate change, James expected people would be spurred into action. Sadly, he found that people didn’t change their attitudes and in fact, put it all down to careless campers.

“When I was able to tour after the pandemic, it was more obvious these things needed to be talked about. If I can turn my experiences in travelling into songs that might have a message that resonates with people, then that’s my mission.”

Fighting the good fight for social activism has been a part of James’ life and career for a long time. It’s one of the reasons why he ran for city council in the first place. But working so long for change and seeing it come slowly can be discouraging.

“Finding ways to stay involved in community, to use your energies in a way that might have an impact, even the doing of it can be valuable. It’s gathering ‘in community’ and working on stuff instead of feeling sorry for yourself. That’s been my learning and I think it’s snuck its way under this project.”

As someone who’s written hundreds of songs on a variety of topics and issues, you’d think James has done and seen it all. But even he was surprised by the reaction from some people to his song ‘Crybabies Caravan’, which became a viral hit. The song addressed Canada’s anti-vaccine, anti-mask trucker convoys, otherwise known as the “Freedom Convoy.” Besides the nearly more than 300,000 listens, he also received hate mail and death threats.

“It was so bad I had the police call me to offer protection.”

In response, James wrote ‘When You Let Love Leave Your Heart’ which is on the new album.

“It felt like everyone spiraled down into a dark place.”

The official launch of Wrinkles And Scars will take place in May at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, featuring James’ “Exceptional Ensemble” consisting of Ian Bell, Randall Coryell, Anne Lindsay, Katherine Wheatley and David Woodhead. In the meantime, he’s directing a play titled Belonging In The Township Of Wellesley, where residents shared their stories and James adapted them into a play. This is after he directed a film version of one of his other plays, Living Below The Line, based on the experiences of those who live below the poverty line.

“I’m my own worst enemy for promoting things I do because I’m always onto the next project.”

For more on James Gordon and Wrinkles And Scars, go to https://jamesgordon.ca/