(All of the work that we did on The Kennedy Suite was based on the inspired demo that Scott Garbe and Doug Telfer created. It was an impressive blueprint, and for some of the songs, all we had to do was colour in the squares. The blog below was written by Doug Telfer who co-produced the demo along with Scott. If you pre-order the Kennedy Suite before Tuesday Nov 12th you will recieve a free digital copy of the demo. I think that its an important part of the project.)
Musicians meet musicians through other musicians; it’s like social media except without the colossal invasion of privacy. That’s how I met Scott Garbe – through our mutual friend Dean Sherman. Dean gave me a collection of songs that Scott had written – the songs were awesome, the lyrics were intelligent and insightful, but the recording was awful (sorry Scott).
I had some home recording equipment I’d been tinkering with rather than doing something productive. So, naïvely thinking it would take a weekend and maybe a couple of evenings, I made an offer to Scott to turn his collection of songs into something a little more polished.
The demo recording – which took about a year – was a continuous learning process. Scott credited me on the demo as co-producer, but that’s an exaggeration. Scott would have an idea, and my contribution was to turn off the furnace and hit the record button, hoping I had everything set up correctly.
The more we recorded, the more creative Scott became. He had a clear vision of the sound he wanted. The demo for Senior Prom was the most complex, with historical sound clips, Sydney Hodge on violin, and a late-night recording of my insomniac daughter Katie counting in (which made it to the final version). At the end of the song, the shot that felled Oswald reverberates through the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters.
Scott was still writing during the recordings, and he kept showing up with new songs that were getting better and better. Some of those later songs are still my favourites, especially Secret Spy Decoder Ring, The Dallas Youth Auxiliary, and Slipstream.
With the release of The Kennedy Suite, it’s a revelation to hear how each song has been interpreted. Lyrically, there is dark comedy and despair, but hope is also given elbow room. I hadn’t heard the demo in quite a while, so I went back to give it a listen recently, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the recording despite our inexperience. I do confess pride at playing a small part in this unique project. But the songs would have shone through no matter the quality of the recording.
When we started, Scott was a friend-of-a-friend. By the end, the hyphens and the degree of separation had disappeared. He’s a remarkable guy, soft-spoken but driven. Luckily it seems he’s met up with some other driven people along the way (notably Mike Timmins) who have moved this suite of songs to a special place. – Doug Telfer
The Cowboy Junkies Kennedy Suite can be ordered from Maple Music. The Cowboy Junkies and their friends are performing two shows at Toronto’s Winter Garden theatre on November 22nd (sold out) and 23rd. If you’re in the area, it’s not to be missed. Tickets can be bought from Massey Hall.
Read some of the previous Kennedy Suite blogs: