A selfless and diligent Raine Maida finds serenity in his long-awaited second solo album
April 2013, Aesthetic Magazine
After masterminding eight albums with one of Canada’s most definitive rock bands, Our Lady Peace, singer/songwriter, Raine Maida, will release his second solo album, We All Get Lighter this month after selflessly delaying its release for several years. Along with being a husband and father of three boys, Maida has been writing music for Our Lady Peace for more than twenty years as well as contributing to other artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Avril Lavigne, often teaming up with his wife and contemporary singer Chantal Kreviazuk. Maida has finally savored some time to release his latest work, four and a half years in the making.
The concept of We All Get Lighter came to life at a Calgary spoken words festival that Maida performed at. The featured poet that night was John Giorno, one of the last remaining beat poets and a good friend to William S. Burroughs, one of the founding fathers of the Beat Generation. As a fan of the Beat Movement, being on the same bill as Giorno was a big deal to
Maida. It was Giorno’s wisdom that set the bar for him for this album. “[I based the record] around trying to get to the point where I’m not so much looking for the meaning of life anymore,” Maida says. “Because what ends up happening is life just passes you by when you’re searching for meaning in every little detail.”
Maida elucidates one of his frailties as an artist is always looking for the ideals in what he writes, so he stresses the importance of this theme in directing and motivating his album over the years. “Where other people might see it being scattered, I always had that focus and I thank John a lot for that.”
At the time, Giorno was promoting his newest collection of poems Subduing Demons in America. Maida of course had a copy and says “he saw me standing like a little school girl.” Giorno signed the book for him and in the inscription wrote, “Everyone gets lighter,” which is one of the poems in the collection and the inspiration for We All Get Lighter.
Maida shelved his newest solo record numerous times in order to prioritize his band. He originally intended to release the record after Our Lady Peace’s seventh studio album, Burn Burn, but after doing a few sessions with his band mates, the pieces of Curve, their latest album, began coming together. Maida explains their current record contract is much more open, with no pressure for release dates. He compares it to when Our Lady Peace formed when they remained obligated to release albums and tour for 18-months at a time for much of their early career. “It got into this cycle and it’s not really conducive to being an artist because we get ten songs, but for me as a writer, ten or eleven songs that represent me or the band for two years is ridiculous, we write way more than that, but that’s all you could put out.” He believes now they are in a better position where the music can just flow with what is happening, and Curve happened really quickly. He felt the solo record could wait, so he finished Curve and went on tour with Our Lady Peace.
“I really was intensive and conscientious as an engineer, producing myself to create space.”
Maida sees We All Get Lighter as another extension, and a more in-depth look into himself. He compares it to working with Our Lady Peace, “even though I write a lot of the music and the lyrics, I’m still very sensitive to the fact that it’s a band, so I’m not always just talking about myself. Where my solo record, I take that liberty obviously.”
He expands on another contrast in working solo, ”I pretty much start everything with programming, even though some songs I end up taking the programming out.” He references the first single from the new album, “Montreal” as an example where live drums were much more suitable than a programmed beat once he incorporated the horn line. Although the programming aspect is more predominant in his first solo record, Hunter’s Lullaby, there are a few tracks, such as “Rising Tide” where programming is evident along with the spoken word influence.
Maida also describes the use of space as a one of the overlying differences and evolution of his music since Hunter’s Lullaby’s release in 2007. “I love the use of reverbs, sound fields and depth within the production,” he says. “I really was intensive and conscientious as an engineer, producing myself to create space.” “When you listen to it with headphones, you get to hear the little intricacies of a violin or the subtleties of my or Chantal’s voice.”
Maida explains that writing and producing with other musicians isn’t necessarily something him and Kreviazuk plan, but more so happens on their downtime. Recently they’ve been working on some hip-hop songs, where Kreviazuk is writing material for the likes of Kanye West, Eminem and Drake. Maida has also been more focused on developing some of the artists that he has signed, specifically a band called The Beaches from Toronto’s east side. “When I signed them, they were 14-year old girls and they could all play and sing, and I thought that was pretty impressive. Their songs weren’t great, but now they’ve developed.” He compares them to the White Stripes meets Veruca Salt. “Now they’re like 16-17 and they’re in art school and they’re just this bad ass little band.”
In addition to his countless musical endeavors, Maida is also a diligent social activist. As advocates for War Child, him and Kreviazuk travelled to Iraq, Darfur and Ethiopia to film documentaries with the organization. Additionally, he helped produced a benefit album titled Help!: A Day in the Life featuring artists such as Coldplay, Radiohead and Gorillaz, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Beatles’ Help album, and aimed to raise money to fund the charity's efforts in war-torn countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maida can’t say exactly how he first became an activist but recalls receiving a flyer for Amnesty International while exiting a Peter Gabriel concert at Maple Leaf Gardens when he was a kid. “I don’t know if you choose it, or if it chooses you,” he says. “I’ve always gravitated towards those types of artists who have that aspect, not only as part of the music, but just part of who they are, whether it is R.E.M., U2 or Peter Gabriel or whoever so naturally when I got into music, it was kind of a given, I didn’t even think about it.”
Raine Maida - Echo Beach, Toronto - Sept. 2014 - Adam R. Harrison
Maida believes he’d be socially active even if he wasn’t a musician.“It’s just one of those things that became synonymous with holding a guitar for me.” He agrees there is a fine line between being an artist and a humanitarian, but he firmly believes that it’s better to do something than nothing, even if you’re criticized. “You can be very earnest or an asshole,” Maida says. “I’ve definitely fallen on the asshole side a bunch of times, but it kind of comes with the territory and I’m fine with that.”
“Social media has the power now to bring kids together in a way we’ve never been able to on this planet before.”
Maida is confident that young people are becoming more socially and politically active. He references the penetrating use of Twitter during the Arab Spring. “We’ve just reached the tip of the iceberg with this,” he says. “Social media has the power now to bring kids together in a way we’ve never been able to on this planet before.” Maida believes that we’ve hit a threshold, whether through Twitter or whatever comes next, that will put the power back in the people. “I think we’re going to see some very profound things over the next decade that will still change and revolution in the same way people like Howard Zinn and Marshall McLuhan saw happening but weren’t able to live long enough to see the effects of.”
Just when you think Maida couldn’t possibly have time for any other projects he has a handful of TV and film projects that he has been working on with Kreviazuk and a production company called R49 that are currently in production. He goes into detail about a short film he’s excited to be scoring and executive producing called The Spirit Game. It’s a true story directed by Canadian, Craig Goodwill, about three girls from Rochester during the turn of the century who tricked their people into believing they could speak to the dead. “It will hopefully debut at TIFF this September, but it could turn into a feature film or I could easily see it being an HBO series as well.” He enjoys the diversity between scoring film and writing songs but relates it back to “Montreal.” ”I wrote that song four years ago and it wasn’t even going to make the record until I finally had the horn line on it.” He describes it as giving it a Ennio Morricone touch.
Raine Maida’s talent and integrity are unquestionable. He creates music because he loves to and shares it with all artists alike. He’s an artist who can’t possibly have many blank boxes left on his checklist. He’s at peace with himself and is not out to prove anything to anyone, but rather he wants to share his experiences. At long last, after years of putting himself second, Maida is able to share, in his own way, John Giorno’s simple but powerful message that we all get lighter.