Sometimes, even when you know what you want, it can take someone else to nudge you in the right direction. For Chris Cresswell, that person happened to be one of his musical heroes.
The singer-songwriter and guitarist is best known as the frontman for long-running Toronto punk outfit the Flatliners, but a few years ago he started playing solo sets. These mostly consisted of acoustic versions of Flatliners songs, but after a 2013 gig opening for Scorpios at Lee’s Palace, Cresswell received an offer he couldn’t refuse—one that compelled him to round out his catalogue.
Scorpios’ Joey Cape asked Cresswell to fly out to San Francisco and record one of the earliest albums for his nascent One Week Records—the label’s second release, in fact, after a solo disc from Scorpios pianist Brian Wahlstrom.
As any Fat Wreck Chords aficionado could tell you, Cape also happens to be the singer for Lagwagon, which happens to be a very big deal indeed in Cresswell’s eyes.
“I was more than flattered,” he says when the Straight reaches him at home in Toronto. “I grew up on his music. His music was a big formative part of my punk upbringing, and to have him say he wanted me to be one of the first people to be involved was extremely flattering, and I couldn’t say no. So I ended up busting my ass to finish some songs, and then a few months later I was in San Francisco and we made the record in six days.”
As Cresswell describes it, those six days were almost wall-to-wall work. “It was a lot of coffee by day, whisky by night, and we kind of kept that train rollin’,” he says. “And I would sleep in the studio as well, so there was no escape at all the whole time. But it was great.”
Cresswell says that he is still applying much of what he learned from that experience to his current solo recording project. In marked contrast to the spare acoustic aesthetic of his One Week LP, though, his two most recent singles—“To the Wind” and “Gather My Thoughts”, both from this year—boast a more fleshed-out sound. With Matt Snell in the engineer’s chair and pianist Dave Grabowski and drummer Paul Ramirez (also a Flatliner) contributing, the songs are suitably lush, but with arrangements spacious enough to leave plenty of room for Cresswell’s affecting melodies.
The sessions that produced those two tracks are still ongoing; Cresswell certainly isn’t making another six-day record. The question is, does he plan on putting out another solo album at all, or will he continue to release individual songs as he completes them?
“I don’t really know,” he admits, “but that’s kind of the exciting thing, too, because usually making records, you have a whole plan and you have people in place to help you do this, and help you release that, and help you reach people this way. And with this, it’s been fun to be really serious about the music I’m making, but not take myself and the process so seriously. It’s very freeing, to be honest.”
Chris Cresswell plays the Fox Cabaret on Saturday (August 17).