Jason Collett: Jesus was a carpenter

Jesus was a carpenter

Collett: Well hammered

And so was Jason Collett, now well on the way to becoming an indie god in his own right

While Jason Collett may be preparing for his upcoming show at Main Hall this Saturday, and a tour with Feist that kicks off at month’s end, he’s also about to hang up his tool belt for a while.

"I’m actually right in the middle of retiring from carpentry. I’m still working on my own house, but I just don’t have the time any more." Collett, who has been doing renovations and custom home building for well over a decade, says that it’s been invaluable to his music career. "This is the first time that music is paying for carpentry, instead of the other way around. It’s been a great thing to have, though, because it’s allowed me to not have to do what some musicians have been forced to, which is doing things musically that they’re not into creatively and artistically."

Collett, who on top of being a skilled woodsmith is a family man, causes me to wonder if he enjoys hitting the road as much as some of his younger contemporaries.

"I really do like touring. It’s very busy at home and a bit chaotic. Touring can be monotonous from some people, but I like that about it. It’s good for writing. Also, if I’m going to be out on tour and away from my family, then I have to make it count – I can’t just fuck around and go on some vanity tour."

Collett, whose recent solo record Idols of Exile has been garnering praise as intelligent, roots-based indie folk (more on shitty descriptors later), is also the man behind Radio Mondays, a singer-songwriter night in Toronto that featured people like Hayden, Kathleen Edwards and his Broken Social Scene friends long before they all became household names. I ask if it’s ongoing.

"I still do it if I’m home. It takes some work, because I like to get the chemistry right. I think the best shows are the ones with the most mistakes, the most drunken revelry. Some of the best moments, as a musician, are those first few rehearsals when people are just figuring things out and things just click."

Collett’s album, while clearly a solo project, was flushed out with the help of some of these similarly inclined friends.

"It happened fairly organically. A lot of them were on the road with me when I was on tour with Broken Social Scene. Emily [Haines from Metric] wrote that song [Hangover Days] with me while we were in the tour bus. It was sort of a revolving door, which was a nice way to work."

As we try to figure out what a New York Times review meant when it recommended his previous release, Motor Motel Love Songs, to "disillusioned Ryan Adams fans," Collett, as a favour to me, the lazy journalist, attempted to pigeonhole his music.

"I would say I’m interested in songwriting in the classic sense, mining traditional music – sort of like the way Jack White has been mining the old, weird Americana. I’m becoming more comfortable with what feels good, and trying to throw away the overthinking."

We finish off talking about how his label, Arts & Crafts, has become an absolute powerhouse in Canadian music.

"Yeah, the Arts & Crafts mafia. It’s surprised me how huge they’ve become, though it doesn’t take much to create a stir in this country. I think they just have taken some chances, which [major labels] rarely do." Collett says the majors, those lumbering giants whose fear of irrelevancy has become absolutely palpable, have recently been trying to co-opt some of that indie cool.

"Believe me, it’s happening. Majors want to get Arts & Crafts to run the release of the first few hundred albums, so it looks like [the artists are] on Arts & Crafts. They can get press interest now in a way that the majors just can’t."

Jason Collett
And Paso Mino at Main Hall (5390 St-Laurent), Jan. 14

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