Out Here With The Once

The world has changed and changed again in the time since the release of The Once’s fourth studio album Time Enough.

Six years have passed, of change, challenges, reflections and rebirth, with the trio of Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale cutting to the core of the music that defines them, honing in and reshaping their sound to come to the most comfortable and complete picture of the outfit that celebrates 15 years of timeless tunes in 2024.

“I’m not sure we really knew what we were,” Phil begins during a candid sit-down with Downhome. “It’s been a strange process because it all started with three people getting the same summer job and playing stuff that was required of us for this summer job out in Trinity. I think at some point we transitioned from picking traditional songs and coming up with arrangements for them and turning into a band that’s three songwriters with three completely different voices and trying to fit all of those things together.”

The COVID-19 pandemic provided a mandatory reprieve from the rat-race of the recording/touring artist. Stripped away were the rigors of the road-warrior lifestyle and a break from the endless wheel of produce, release, tour, repeat. For the first time in a long time, The Once was given time to breathe.

“When you’re out on the road all the time, and I think anybody who works shifts or travels out West probably feels similarly, you’ve got all these things that you say you’re going to do, but you know you’re not going to do because you’re not going to give yourself the time to do it,” Phil remarks. “You’re not going to stop working. All these sort of skills and other creative avenues I wanted to work on, I knew I wasn’t going to do unless I was forced to. And then I was forced to. So in that way, I think being creative on other people’s projects kind of managed to sort of scratch that itch.”

Phil and Geraldine built a studio, lovingly coined Ginger Beard House, in their west coast home, with all hands diving into passions not-afforded time to see the light of day when faced against the demands of the band-mothership.

“We’ve grown up. We realize we have to be adults,” shares Geraldine, delving into the origins of the trio’s long-awaited album. “Phil and I, when the pandemic started we built the studio. And the whole point of it was to have a place where you can be comfortable and feel safe. And we’ve spent a lot of years determined to make something work without actually knowing what that is.

“When the three of us came together to work on the material that ultimately turned into this new album, I think, because a lot more time had been spent on personal growth and discovery first, I think it allowed us to approach the creation of this album with such a beautifully fresh and honest direction,” adds Andrew. “Just the tone when we were creating this album was so different, there was so much more time and space given and allowed for all of us.”

The end result of the most free-form, creative and restriction-free writing and recording sessions in the bands’ history is Out Here, the group’s first album of new material in six years, co-produced by the band and long-time collaborator Daniel Ledwell.

“There’s nothing about this album that I’m not proud of, I’ll say that,” proclaims Geraldine “I love that we worked with Dan Ledwell again. I feel like our relationship with him as a producer and co-producer has flourished. He came over and we all just basically hung out here, took naps, ate food when we were hungry (laughs).”

Adds Andrew, “I can genuinely say, which is such a wonderful thing to be able to actually say honestly, that there were no moments where anyone felt pressure or like okay, no, you got to get this done now. If we ever hit a little roadblock or a mental block or something we just stepped back. We just gave ourselves space. Went for a snowshoe, cooked a meal. We gave ourselves so much space and so much patience and love in creating this album.”

Described by Phil as the closest album in their catalogue to encapsulating the sound and influences loved by all three The Once members – or perhaps more uniquely “the part of the Venn Diagram where all of us meet” – Out Here is The Once at their most emotionally resonant.

Soulful harmonies, moody tranquil soundscapes and poignant lyrics, it’s the album the band has wanted, and perhaps needed to make.

“We talk about it when we make setlists, you’re trying to read the minds of strangers in the dark, which is pretty hard to do. It’s futile, really. So this was just trying to create what it is about the records that we love that makes us love them? What is it about them that makes us want to put them on at a certain time to get that fuel or to get that relaxation. So it’s meant to be a record that puts us in a particular mood,” says Phil, joking that the bands’ sound is far removed from rowdy brewpubs or raucous kitchen parties.

“We don’t generally call in for the jam in the shed. You know, we’re more coffee in the morning, record goes on or a fire in the evening and a record goes on.”

Reflection has been key to a career spanning-album like Out Here. 2024 marks 15 years since the trio released their self-titled debut. Asked by all three band-members for a word to sum up the period between album one and album five, and growth is the consensus universal pick.

“It’s a lot of growth. There’s been a lot of growth in those 15 years,” reflects Andrew.

“It feels like a different us, but it feels like the foundation of us, if that makes sense. But it’s not the full foundation. There were things that were missing that this album put in place,” adds Geraldine. “We’ve just grown up. And we’ve been together for 15 years and I could cry about it. We’ve gotten stronger and better and are just full of love, and it’s everywhere. And because there’s so much trust we can look back at ourselves and see ourselves as the child we used to be and we can pull from a place because we feel so safe.”

From a chance meeting of the creative minds in the summer of 2004, to touring the globe as an award-winning, much acclaimed trio, to recreating themselves under the most auspicious circumstances, The Once have hacked into a formula artists strive and pine for decades to master.

“I don’t think it’s so much a departure as it is a discovery. I think ultimately what it is, is more discovering who we are as writers and people,” Andrew explains in closing of the sound, scope and overall feel of Out Here, leaving the final word to the always luminous Geraldine Hollett.

“It’s all surprising. The whole album was going to be a surprise. The whole process was a surprise. Everything was exploring. I just feel really creatively that’s what people are going to recognize when they hear the album,” she says proudly. “All of this is coming out of a place of just giving ourselves space. And it has been spectacular. I’m so happy about it. I’ve never been more proud of an album in my life.”


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Downhome Magazine

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