Interview – Poor Nameless Boy

By: Remington Fioraso

Under Poor Nameless Boy, Joel Henderson is an indie-folk singer-songwriter based in Regina, SK. His debut EP Sleep It Through was released in 2012 with a follow-up, The Activity Book being released the following year. On January 15, 2016, Henderson will be releasing his third album entitled Bravery via Chronograph Records. I had an opportunity to ask the singer some questions prior to the release.

First off, can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

What’s to say? I come from a family of musicians and I fell in love with songwriting as a late teenager. I used to love picking apart how and why songs “worked” and was fortunate enough to take some songwriting classes later on, which were inspiring and informative. I’ve been performing as a solo artist for most of the last four years and have gathered together some of by best yet for Bravery. I finally embraced the love of deep-rooted, heartfelt songs and I’m excited to share and perform them.

What inspired you to begin pursue music?

A friend of mine from college was a hardcore addict to recording software and eventually we recorded some demos. I loved writing, but I wasn’t sure performing was something my heart was into. The more I did it, the more I loved it. I’ve been slowly dipping my toes in the water ever since. The people I’ve connected with (musicians, producers, songwriters) have made it very easy.

How would you describe a typical songwriting session for you?

It usually begins with a pre-determined idea. I’ll sit down with a journal and my guitar and just explore melodies and where it could go. There’s all the little songwriting ideas like “Where would this word be strongest?”, “How do I further the ideas in the second verse?” etc, but it’s really about finding something to build upon. I would say typically, I sit down, spend about an hour writing a few different chorus parts, find a verse melody to fit, spend another hour frustrated that one line doesn’t feel right, and leave the piece for another day. I’ll come back a week later, do some brainstorming exercises, think through the intention of the song, and then write the rest. Sometimes it feels like magic; sometimes it feels like pulling teeth.

How was the recording experience for Bravery?

A dream. Brad Prosko, my producer, made the sessions easy since he is talented and prepared. I wanted to have individuals on board who had become musician friends of mine over the last few years. I wanted the voices of friends on the songs opposed to talented strangers, and the priority was about building something together. I wouldn’t trade the process for anything. A lot of people poured themselves into it, especially if they stepped out of their comfort zone.

Are there any songs in which you are most excited for people to hear? Why?

Yes and No. I’m really just excited for people to hear the entire record. When Brad and I began talking about how we desired the album to look, we shared our mutual love for entire albums. The goal was to create songs that spoke to a louder theme unfolding throughout the record. It starts with “Bravery” and ends with “Leave Myself Behind”. “Bravery” is digging through the boxes in your basement to find the courage you put there years ago. “Leave Myself Behind” is understanding that stepping forward means putting to death parts of yourself you don’t want anymore. It takes bravery to understand the process and bravery to ask others to be patient with you.

The album features Tenille Arts and Carmelle Pretzlaw, how was it working with these artists?

Carmelle was essential to this album. Listen to the tracks. Some days I feel like if I left, nobody would notice. Ha! Her talent is overwhelming some days and I’m lucky to be able to work with her. Tenille became a friend of mine through music meetings/gatherings and I invited her to do the harmonies because of the way she melds powerful tones with soft deliveries. If she stays true to who she is, nobody will be able to stop her, and I’m excited for her upcoming projects in Canada and the US. These aren’t the only two who were great either. Thomas St.Onge (electric), Kyle Halvorson (drums, percussion), Chris Henderson (background vocals), Brad Prosko (bass), and Denise Valle (specialty vocals) were all fantastic to work with. These are all people that I love, and combining that with their enthusiasm made things really easy.

What surprises do you have in store for your album release show in Regina, SK on January 17?

A little bit of this and that. I’m used to playing shows solo or as a duo, so having a full band will be just as new to me as it will to people who come. I’m not sure it’s a “surprise” per se, but having Kirby Criddle join the show from Saskatoon is great. Sometimes I feel like cities in Saskatchewan are siblings who have trouble communicating, so I’m sure many are unaware of what a gem Kirby is.

You have a series of dates coming up after the album release in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, when can fans in other areas of Canada expect dates?

It’s all in the works right now. The focus has been on Western Canada, but Eastern Canada is soon. There’s part of me who truly believes that if I spent a considerable amount of time in Eastern Canada I’d make my home there for a while. In many ways, this album feels like a new start too. It’s a whole new approach and a whole new feel. The last album I recorded was back in 2012 for a 2013 release, and if you ask any songwriter/musician how much they’ve evolved over the last four years, I think you’ll get some laughs, wonderment, and some stories. Everything feels like the beginning again.

At Canadian Beats, we like to include ‘fun’ questions to help fans get to know you a bit more..

Who are your favourite Canadian artists?

This list could be really long. I love Canadian music and the diversity in styles is immense. The list alone for Saskatchewan is lengthy. I’ve enjoyed shows from BC artists like Mike Edel and The Zolas, listened at length on the road to the prairie works of Lucas Chaisson and Del Barber, and found gems in the east coast like Jadea Kelly and Andy Brown. If you’re a Canadian artist and you want to play a show in Regina, let me know and I will most likely be there. There is nothing like Canuck art in live venues. If you asked me this questions 100 times, my answer would never be the same.

What were your favourite memories of 2015?

2015 was a great year, but a tough year personally. The whole process from signing to Chronograph, to them showing me what grant applications should actually look like, to being able to connect with multiple people in the album making process was swell. I’m not a person who likes to step out of my comfort zone in many ways; I like to feel safe and secure in what I’m doing and this year was certainly not that. This was a long year of “making the art”. I’m looking forward to the new trails in 2016.

What are you most excited for in 2016?

I really can’t say. I think I’m just excited because I’ve never worked so hard for something personally before. If 2015 is any indication, this year will be filled with multiples doors opening which were not anticipated. There’s a vision in place for the album and the future, but seeing the success of other Saskatchewan artists over the past year would make anyone excited. Anything is possible. I’m excited to sing some songs, play some shows, and see who I get to connect with along the way.

What is your favourite thing to do when not performing?

The lame truth of the matter is probably watch cartoons. I spend a decent amount of time watching hockey, writing, checking out live music, and spending time with family as well. There’s nothing like coming home at the end of a long day and watching cartoons though.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to Canadian Beats readers?

Keep on keepin on. Do your best. Your light shines best when in darkness. Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. Gone with the Wind. Earth, Wind, and Fire. We didn’t start the fire. We are never, ever, ever getting back together. Sorry.

I hope to see you all on the road and I hope you enjoy the new music. Cheers!

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