By José Oliveira & Rosine Alleva – Rock At Night EU Editors
BYWATER CALL is a Canadian band from Toronto. The band, composed by six musicians and a golden voice female singer, seem to know each other since ever! Just after their first eponymous album, Rock At Night had the chance to meet them at Wood Stock Guitares Live and have a chat with the great Meghan PARNELL.
Born of a love for Southern sound and Blues these seven Canadian represent a powerful and moving experience in the realm of Soul Music. Meghan PARNELL has the JANIS JOPLIN’s vibrato. Coming to a European Tour with a Brass section is an exquisite luxury! But their music requires this. Bravo to Jéremy Cardot, for having made a truly eclectic choice for this new year program.
MEGHAN PARNELL (vocals)
DAVE BARNES (Guitar) | MIKE MEUSEL ( Bass)
ALAN ZEMAITIS (Keys) | BRUCE MCCARTHY ( Drums)
STEPHEN DYTE ( Trumpet) | JULIAN NALLI ( Sax)
RAN- Nice to meet you Meghan!! I must tell you that usually, when I don’t know anything about a band, I don’t read anything either cause I don’t like to be influenced by other writers or other people. I saw your great videos of course! BYWATER CALL !! It sounds very strange!!! What does it mean?
Meghan PARNELL– Bywater is neighborhood in New Orleans, right next to the French Quarter. Dave and I visited New Orleans many years ago and fell in love with it, very inspired by the music and the food there. We loved the name of that neighborhood -Bywater. We needed to add something to this, it was simple, interesting and Call is just a call back to that place, to the music, the inspiration.
RAN– Why this place? Is it due to the link to music?
MP– It was very special in terms of local music, community, people who really support the people of their home town, get involve with the music. In the Bywater area there is a street called Frenchman street, you would walk down that street and every bar had local live music, people there enjoying it. You see the musicians go from their gig go to other gig watch their friends play. That was very special.
RAN– Tell me something about your career? You released a first album, what about your youth?
MP– I remember singing in my backyard, I was always singing. When I was very young I wanted to do music computer, something I was really into. Then eventually I found my way singing in a band. I get to sing all the songs and play a role that is not me. I got to be myself. Then we began to write our own music, we were very inspired by the music we were listening to. That’s how Bywater Call ended up.
RAN– That was your first band?
MP– The first original project yes. A lot of us have played together for a number of years in other projects but not our own.
RAN– How did you all meet?
MP– A lot of them went to school together for music. When you play in a team, you just get to know a lot of other musicians. When you need somebody to help out, you end up sometimes calling somebody you don’t know then get to know and connect with that person.
RAN– And about Canadian scene nowadays?
MP– It’s different! It’s really surprising to come to a country, to Europe and play to people who don’t know who we are, to have full runs. That, especially in Toronto, is difficult.There’s a lot of amazing musicians there. So it’s difficult to draw, to break out, and be seen through Canada.
RAN– And Montreal is different?
MP– Well, we played a couple of festivals there and the audience has been incredible, awesome!
But to that point we’ve also been embraced by a community in Toronto, the Blues Society and other musicians working which we’ve met. And there is a feeling of people kind of helping each other out which is great!
RAN-What were your influences as a singer?
MP– As a singer, going back to my earlier days, my mum would sing Janis Joplin, the Band, Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, it always stuck with me. And then every year I’m listening to newer bands, other bands. Aretha Franklin is a huge influence for me, the Weathers…There are so many it’s hard to remember them all and give them all credit!
RAN– You come to the road to promote this first album. Are you happy with the record sessions?
MP– Yeah, it was a long road. We started recording this album before we even added the horn section. We went in as a five piece band, we weren’t really getting the sound we really wanted.So we kind of put it aside for a moment. We added the horn section and we started working with an independent record label and went back into the studio. Again, it’s our first original album, we’ve been learning a lot, was a huge learning curve. But I think we ended up with a product we’re pretty proud of. We know so much more now and are very excited to move on to a next album also with all that knowledge.
RAN– You travel a lot now in Europe. Is it easy to carry on a 7 piece Band on the Road?
MP– It’s not the most economical choice. You know, if we came as a trio, we’d made a lot more money but we wouldn’t be representing the sound of this band. The band didn’t feel complete until we added the horn section. So without them on the road would be misrepresenting what we want to put out there. And it’s 7 of us plus the driver. So far, it’s been pretty easy, long drives but we’ve all known each other for a while now, which helps.
RAN– One of your songs is called “HOMETOWN”. Are you in touch with your hometown?
MP– Laughs – I didn’t write it about a specific hometown. I grew up in a few small towns outside of Toronto. But it this idea of this small town, you try to get away from that, then ending up in call back into it for better and for worse. And that’s kind of where I came from.
RAN– Do you find it the same playing in front of a Canadian audience then here in Europe?
MP– No! It’s our first time playing in Europe and tonight is our first gig in France! We’ve been here for almost 3 weeks, we played in Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia. To come to these foreign countries and have people who don’t know us and really respond so well to the music.
They’re excited that they kind of discovered this band from far away that they never heard of before…And it just goes back to in Toronto, you’re in touch with such a saturated market that sometimes it’s hard to join an audience like that. That being said, our cd release party in November was an amazing show we sold out, a really cool music venue in Toronto and we had so much support for that show. That, in Canada has been a really nice experience as well.
RAN– You’re going to Spain in a few days, You’re going to live a very special experience there too. They are very hot people, coming to the stage…A fantastic audience!!!
MP– Yeah I heard…the audience has been amazing so far so it sounds great!
RAN– First album, first European tour. What are your plans for the future? A second album?
MP– Yeah, we came on to this tour with 3 brand new tunes and in the process to write another one. We’re actually coming back this summer to do a festival in the Netherlands and then we’ll be doing some work on the Canadian Festival circuit. Somewhere in between or after we’ll hopefully finish writing the music for the next album. It would be nice to have a second one come out sooner rather than later…
RAN– You know, tonight you are going to play here at Wood stock Guitares Live, the Guitar temple. For me, who saw concerts at the Marquee in London, it’s the same atmosphere than in the 60’s with new bands…with the difference that the sound you’re going to experience is awesome. Every band from UK, from the States is astonished to discover this venue and this acoustic in a village like here in Ensisheim. It’s very special!
MP– We’re really looking forward to it!
RAN– Well, looking forward to seeing you on stage tonight. Thank you very much for this interview and we wish you all the success in the world!.
Many thanks to Matthias SCHLOTT for the backstage photos.
I was born in Portugal and lived the Sixties exploring the great UK Rock magazines: "The New Musical Express" and "Melody Maker". Ray Charles and Pat Boone were my father’s fav. I became “The Great Pretender”. Cliff Richard was our Elvis Presley. As a beach boy, with my first guitar, I met a beautiful French girl on the beach! It was the Summer of 69!! We got married and rock music was our dowry. In France, I became a Wine Genetic Research Scientist. One of my works contributed to the decoding of the genome of the vine! As a rock journalist, I’ve worked twenty years for the Portuguese and Brazilian Rock Press. I ‘ve interviewed so many great artists. Then, one day I met FRANK ZAPPA! I got into trouble for introducing my wife to "Uncle Meat"!