Ian Arden unveils his EP, Songs for Rebecca (Interview)

Ian Arden

Ian Arden shares on his recently released EP, Songs for Rebecca

Ian Arden, the twenty-something Toronto troubadour was raised in a French Canadian and Moroccan household. When Ian began speaking as a toddler, he struggled with a stammer. Speech therapy showed meager results at best, so his father began teaching him to recite song lyrics from memory, mainly focusing on the songs of Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan. Every night, a new song was chosen, and Ian would repeat the song’s lyrics again and again until they were recited in their entirety with no stammer and no accent.

Arden released his debut EP Songs for Rebecca in January, which features the single “Nadia,” which was directed by David J Redman, who has recently worked with Sony Records artist TEDY. The video for “Nadia” was produced by Treplam, a company whose staff worked on ALESSIA CARA’s 2022 music video for “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Ian collaborated with Grammy Award winner John Greenham of Billie Eilish and Bo Burnham fame. Greenham calls Ian “an incredibly gifted artist.”

Featuring several musical guests, Ian Arden’s Songs for Rebecca is a remarkable new album that echoes the sounds of the 20th century yet remains fresh, current, and impactful.

Listen to Songs for Rebecca below and learn more about Ian Arden via our 10-Question interview.

First off, care to introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Ian Emmett Arden. I’m a dream wanderer. A Toronto troubadour.

Born in Montreal, Quebec. French was my first language. I learned to swim in Montreal’s Olympic pool. We moved to Toronto on my fifth birthday, and I struggled with English.

My father noticed I stammered when I spoke, and so he sacrificed his evenings to help me learn English. My father taught me everything, but English was not his strength.

He outsourced this to his record collection. Every night I had to memorize a new set of lyrics.

Experts said I’d never be well-spoken, but my father’s love for me blinded him.

Little by little, I was able to grasp the English language.

Merci Papa, mon amour pour toi transcende le temps.

You released your debut EP, Songs for Rebecca, in January. What can you tell us about the writing process behind the release?

The past few years have been a challenge not only for me but for those closest to me. I saw some loved ones go to their lowest lows.

Music helped us all, but I felt those closest to me needed something more personal.

For years, I resented my father’s cruel tutelage. Why couldn’t I go through life as a francophone with an accent whenever I spoke English? Where would be the harm in that? After all, was he not francophone?

However, those songs he forced me to memorize, to dictate again and again without mercy, had seeped into my very soul. They were part of my DNA.

When I channeled my focus and intent into songwriting, it was as if the songs were already there.

Where did the title, Songs for Rebecca, come from?

In the Bible, Rebecca is not only the most beautiful woman in the land, but she is truly selfless.

I think that’s the quality I have always found the most compelling in women. A woman who is so beautiful you think she would never give you the time of day, and yet she treats you with more kindness than anyone you’ve ever met.

I know a Rebecca in real life who sang on many of these songs, and she perfectly fits the mold of a person who is as selfless as she is beautiful.

“Songs for Rebecca” is a testament to all the women in my life who have been selfless to me. I hope these songs of consolation and contemplation can provide some semblance of solace to the world’s deluge of damsels in distress.

The debut single from the EP, “Nadia” has also been released. What’s the story behind this track?

“Nadia” is for someone very close to me. Someone who had been suffering. The song wrote itself in one painful and traumatic night, and just as I thought the song was finished, I felt a quiet, unearthly presence.

I was being beckoned to continue writing the song, and so I obeyed the command.

I was in a trance, and when I emerged from the trance, the song’s coda had emerged. “There’s a lion in her soul, and she doesn’t even know.”

That line moved every single person I showed it to, and people from all over the world have thanked me for that line.

To this very day, I have no idea where it came from.

When the time came to record it, I knew the only way to show reverence for the song’s origins was to record live off the floor. I gathered as many musicians as I could and we recorded as many of the instruments and vocals live as possible.

There were some overdubs, but most of what you’re hearing is live!

When I played the song for my father, he cried a little. He’s an emotional guy, so it was moving but also not surprising. What happened next was quite surprising.

“The Boxer,” he said with a tearful smile. “Tu te souviens.”

It was then that I teared up a little too.

The final chorus of my song “Nadia” sounds like an homage to the climax of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” This was not consciously done.

“The Boxer” was the first song I was able to recite in its entirety with no accent and no stammer.

This full circle moment usually occurs after one loses their father. I will always be eternally grateful we got to share that moment.

You shared a music video to accompany the release of “Nadia.” What was the highlight of the video shoot?

The highlight of the shoot was seeing how well the cast and crew bonded. The video was produced by Alex Rozanec of Treplam and directed by David J Redman of RedTip Productions.

There was magic in the air that day. I know people who met on the set of the music video who are still friends.

I speak for everybody when I say the smoothness of the production is owed to not only the cast and crew but to Pie in the Sky Studios.

If you want to shoot professional video or photography in a professional environment in Toronto, you want to shoot at Pie in the Sky Studios.

You worked with the director, David J Redman, on the video. How was that experience?

I cannot overstate how crucial David J Redman was to making this release what it has been, what it currently is, and what it will be,

David J Redman directed the “Nadia” music video, put together “The Story of Songs for Rebecca” –  a mini-documentary about how this whole project came together – and delivered a behind-the-scenes video detailing how the music video for “Nadia” was made.

David is known as the “go-to” guy for making music videos in both Toronto and Los Angeles. In fact, David might be open to working with people from just about anywhere.

Please look him up and reach out to him to discuss your goals. If you want a professional music video, you want David J Redman.

What is your favourite thing about the music scene in Toronto?

I love how familial it feels. Everybody has friends in common. We all have shared experiences. We’ve all played Free Times Cafe and the Horseshoe Tavern.

When I went to see basement.apt perform at the Horseshoe Tavern, I saw dozens of people in the music scene come out to support my friends Kyle and Trevor in their latest musical endeavour.

That’s what I love about Toronto’s music scene. If you’re playing a show, people will show up to see you even when there are a million other things they could have done that night.

Who was the first Canadian artist to catch your attention?

Neil Young. While my dad was militant, my mother was much warmer and more indulgent. Neil Young was her favourite singer, even though she didn’t speak a word of English when she first listened to “Harvest” as a young girl growing up in Morocco.

In my early years, when Papa tried to replace French with English as my mother tongue, I didn’t always get to speak to my mother as often as I’d liked.

And so Maman gave me her copy of “Harvest” on CD, and I would listen to it to feel a connection with her.

To this day, I still rely on Neil Young’s music to comfort me.

My mother has spent her entire life advocating for the little guy. She was first moved by Neil Young’s songs “Ohio,” “Southern Man,” “After the Gold Rush,” “Alabama” and “Powderfinger.”

As an adolescent, she often attended “Free Nelson Mandela” protests. Even when the police used tear gas and night sticks, she wanted to be near the front of the crowd. Her rationale was rooted in Neil Young’s song “Ohio,” where Neil (along with Crosby, Stills & Nash, rest in peace David Crosby) sang, “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?”

In 2021 I was at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto on a first date. It was just another Sunday at the mall when suddenly a stampede of dozens of people came running through the corridors. I immediately sensed something was wrong.

My date was in the bathroom, and so rather than leave the mall like so many others were doing, I located her.

We eventually took refuge inside of a store, where I made sure as many people were behind me as possible. I wanted to be in the front of the crowd.

A shooting had taken place. Everybody made it out OK.

Later that day, when my date asked me why I didn’t leave when I had the chance, I played her “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

One of Neil’s most underrated songs is “New Mama.” My mom said she would listen to it and sing it to me when I was a newborn.

“Head in hand, gift of wonders to understand

And open all the way”

It’s how she came upon the name “Ian.” Ian means “gift from God.”

Do you have any upcoming shows to tell us about? 

Not at this time.

I would be honoured to perform at some of Canada’s many music festivals. Please follow me on Instagram @ianardensongs and subscribe to my mailing list at ianardensongs.com to stay up to date for any performances.

What’s next for you in 2023?

I have some more songs I’ve written. I am working with Jay Crafton, one of Canada’s best and brightest producers. I am very happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish together.

If you’re a fan of vinyl, my album is available on vinyl at my website ianardensongs.com. Feel free to take advantage of FREE SHIPPING while supplies last.

I hope to release more music in 2023. Please follow me on Instagram @ianardensongs, subscribe on Youtube @ianarden, and please sign up for my mailing list at ianardensongs.com

You may get some free merch with free shipping while supplies last.

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