James Leclaire: The Sing-a-Long Sounds of Storytelling and Sorrow

Album cover by Brett Clarke.

James Leclaire’s fourth album, These Weights, combines the soulful storytelling of folk and country music with the anthemic energy of punk, to create a sound he calls ‘dirt country.’

“There is a country twang to it but it’s got an edginess that is a little more aggressive,” he says.

Drawing inspiration from folk storytellers and singer/songwriters like Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, the Renfrew native has that low, raspy voice that can take you on a musical journey. Leclaire says he prefers writing the more serious stories.

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Photo by Wellington Sanipe.

“If you meet me, I’m a very happy person and every time people hear my stuff, they are like, ‘Wow it seems so opposite of who you are,’ and that’s the storytelling of it. It’s kind of escapism into another world,” he says.

“Stephen King, for instance, may write horrific novels of terror and fright but he’s a normal guy. It doesn’t mean that’s his own personality.”

Each song on the new album, even the upbeat and catchy tunes, have a message that can seem bittersweet.

That Door,” for example, is an unexpected love song describing the ups and downs of a relationship.

Making Good Time”, one of Leclaire’s favourite tracks, is a great song for a road trip sing-a-long, but there is more to it than that.

“What I like about ‘Making Good Time’ is it’s about someone who has had the hardships but has finally seen the right path and is focused on getting where he is supposed to be,” Leclaire explains.

“That one is the most exciting for me to play and to sing.”

According to Leclaire, the song really fit well with the album’s overall theme.

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Photo by Teo Ciara.

“As the album started to progress, each song felt like it was a song containing the baggage that we carry. It’s either at the beginning of our journey or at the end. Something we are trying to conquer or something we have conquered. These Weights really wrapped up that feeling,” says Leclaire.

To round out his full and folky sound for the album, Leclaire worked with the Cable 22s, a band consisting of Michael Hunter on drums and Christopher McLean on bass, both of whom hail from Leclaire’s hometown.

Runand “She Blew Me Awayare two fantastic, foot-stomping tracks if you are looking for that upbeat tempo. On the other hand, “The Signsand “These Weights,” the title track, are slow, low and sure to tug at your heartstrings.

That emotional connection is what Leclaire hopes his listeners take away from the album.

“If people can walk away from it and have a connection to the story, that to me is the most important,” he says.

“I’ve had incidences where people have come up to me after a show and told me how much a song affected them, and that’s the greatest reward.”

These Weights launches Sept. 17—the same day Leclaire will be performing at Ottawa’s CityFolk Festival. Make sure to buy your copy of the album, which is available for pre-order here, and then head to Lansdowne Park for 7 p.m. to see the real thing. Leclaire will be playing a second CityFolk show that same night at House of Targ, he’ll be taking the stage around midnight.

You can find out more about James Leclaire on his website.