Patrick Watson first broke through to audiences in 2006 with his album Close to Paradise. The album went gold in Canada and won numerous awards, including the Polaris Prize. It saw international release in September 2007 and has since sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. Watson also began to receive attention around the same time for his song “To Build a Home,” which he performs with Cinematic Orchestra on their 2007 album, Ma Fleur.
Fittingly, the seeds of his own band were cinematic and collaborative in nature, having begun as a multi-media project entitled Waterproof9 with Quebec visual artist Brigitte Henry. His core four-piece band of Watson (vox, keys), Mishka Stein (bass), Simon Angell (guitar) and Robbie Kuster (drums) began to take shape in the wake of the self-released Just Another Ordinary Day in 2003, and before long buzz on their live show had lead to performances with an impressively diverse group of artists, from Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, to Feist. In the summer of 2006, they were invited on a European tour with the late James Brown, just before the release of Close to Paradise.
His 2009 album, Wooden Arms, saw the band expand in the live setting to include a string quartet—not surprisingly, considering the lush arrangements present on all the albums. Indeed by this time Watson himself had established a reputation as a producer and composer of film scores, in addition to role as, band-leader, piano-player and singer-songwriter. The Wooden Arms tour fittingly culminated in 2011 with a collaborative performance with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which saw the renowned symphony performing Watson’s songs alongside the band.
Watson’s latest offering, entitled Adventures in Your Own Backyard, is in his own words, an effort on the band’s part to “make the kind of music we would want to listen to at home.” The album’s title is both a nod to this sentiment, and to the fact that it was recorded almost entirely in Watson’s apartment in Montreal. Both Close to Paradise and Wooden Arms were recorded over long periods of time, in many different places—Wooden Arms is especially scattered in its geography, with a number of the songs having been informed by the band’s extensive travels in the wake of the success of Close to Paradise.
By contrast, the tone for creating Adventures in Your Own Backyard was one comfort and proximity, which opened a number of doors. With the help of local engineer Rob Heaney, the band was able to set up a recording environment in Watson’s studio that was both professional and comfortable. As Kuster explains, “Pat's studio environment allowed us to be relaxed and feel like we were in an informal space...our own. That really let us dig in to the writing and the arranging.” One of the results of this is the extent to which the new album showcases bassist Mishka Stein as a prominent collaborative songwriter; he penned the foundations for a number of the songs, including the first single, “Into Giants.”
The result is an album that is still ripe with the touchstones one has come to expect from Patrick Watson and his collaborators, but permeated with a greater sense of patience, and confidence. Adventures in Your Own Backyard is an attempt by Watson and the band to simplify their sights—to make music a bit more close to home, in every sense of the phrase.