Corb Lund has never been one to turn out cookie-cutter country songs. Instead, the Alberta-born singer-songwriter always explores a range of styles and subject matter on record. His latest, Cabin Fever, is no exception.
Partly, that’s a product of his approach to songwriting; one informed by his “country boy” work ethic and the DIY method employed by his old band, 90’s loud alt.rockers The Smalls. “I have more in common with indie rock bands in terms of process,” Lund explains. “That’s a scene where you’re encouraged to find your own unique sound – the weirder the better.”
“I have more in common with indie rock bands in terms of process. That’s a scene where you’re encouraged to find your own unique sound.”- Corb Lund
Lund definitely has a sound all his own, and a talent for telling offbeat tales that’s garnered him critical acclaim, the CCMA Award for Roots Artist or Group of the Year for seven years straight (2004-2010) and a growing audience in Canada, Australia, the U.K., Ireland and Europe. With the release of both 2009’s Losin’ Lately Gambler and now Cabin Fever in 2012 on the American-based label New West Records, he’s also experiencing a groundswell of support in the U.S.
Much of Cabin Fever was written following the death of his uncle and the failure of a long-term relationship, while Lund was holed up in a remote cabin he’d built in the foothills of the Rockies. While he maintains those events didn’t specifically inform the themes and ideas he explores on Cabin Fever, he admits they may have contributed to the “general darkness” of some tracks. They also may have had something to do with the record taking him longer to write, he adds.
When he began working on songs for Cabin Fever three years ago, initially, it was slow going. The closer he came to recording, however, the more material began to flow, including lead single “September.” As for why that happened, he says, “No reason really, I think it was just random. There’s a cycle, right? I try to write, write, write all the time, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Some songs I write are just better than others. I throw out all kinds of stuff.”
“I try to write, write, write all the time, and sometimes it doesn’t work.”- Corb Lund
While Lund spent weeks at a time alone in his mountain retreat, that environment was only partially responsible for the record’s darker offerings, like “Gettin’ Down on the Mountain” and “Dig Gravedigger Dig.” “It would be romantic to say that,” he says, “but honestly, all I need to get writing done – assuming the juices are flowing – is to be by myself. It could be an apartment in the city or somewhere in the woods, but the isolation did have a little bit of an effect.”
All that said, Cabin Fever definitely treads the line between light and dark. Even the compact murder ballad, “Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner,” has elements of Lund’s wry sense of humour. “I’ve always been a fan of records that have a wide range, not just stylistically, but in mood,” he says. “It’s as important to have dark songs as fun ones. I’ve always been an album guy. That’s why I spend a lot of time on sequencing. The flow is really important.”
So, too, were the contributions of Lund’s long-time band The Hurtin’ Albertans (guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Grant Siemens, upright bass player Kurt Ciesla and drummer Brady Valgardson), and the approach they took to the recording process with producer Steve Christensen.
“Half the time I have a pretty good idea what a song going to sound like when I bring it to the band,” says Lund, “but the other half of the time they surprise me and put a whole different spin on things. And Cabin Fever is almost all live, even the vocals – no click track, no black magic at all.”