Bluesy, atmospheric, emotional, and even mystical, the album “Traveller’s Lament” by Airdrie’s Kyle McKearney represents a highwater mark in the artist’s creative journey. It also represents a breakthrough album, winning numerous accolades throughout the past year, with the latest to come a few weeks back at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards in Hamilton when McKearney won “Alternative Album of the Year.”
“Honestly, I have just been trying to keep up,” said McKearney in a recent interview. “It’s a lot. Every time I just try to stay in the moment and just appreciate it, enjoy it, and never let it go by without noticing how important it is. These are the moments in my life that are going to matter in the future.”
McKearney sensed immediately that he had found a new musical gear when “Traveller’s Lament” finally came together.
“The risks that we took,” he recalled. “We kind of recorded this record in pieces, and we were out performing these songs live before we committed to them and laid (the tracks) down. There was kind of a different chemistry to them, and development. I think it really internalizes a lot. It’s different from any other record I have done, for sure.”
McKearney said he really doesn’t set out to make any certain type of album when he starts writing songs and bringing them together, but rather the whole process for him is instinctive.
“I just trust my gut as I go,” he explained. “I think maybe my subconscious or my instincts have it figured out before my brain does. I kind of listen to the album and figure out if there is a theme that maybe I was unconsciously creating. That was definitely the case with this record.”
For this album, McKearney imagined himself in that space of longing one feels when one is far away from home. In other words, the traveller’s common lament down through the ages; thus the album’s title.
“A lament kind of means grinding and suffering, and hard times,” he explained.“I think the theme I was thinking about were those road stories, and the sorrow of being away. I like to use those old world words (like lament), and I like to keep it a bit classic, and a bit thoughtful. Because I feel that way. I am an old soul.”
But through the grinding and suffering, McKearney’s songs also express that hope of every traveller– that they will one day soon be home again.
“There is a lot of blues and rock ‘n roll in the kind of country I create,” he said. “There is pain and suffering, but it is a hopeful kind of vibe overall.”
McKearney said winning the Canadian Country Music Association Award felt like a validation of his creative journey and his music.
“You are standing up in front of the entire Canadian country music industry, and I think people who had heard of me, and checked out the record, were very excited for me,” he said. “And maybe people who had heard of me, knew of me, but had never checked out my music, went and checked it out after that (CCMA win).”
But McKearney has no intention of resting on his well-deserved laurels, and has been feverishly writing songs for a new album which is set to be released in a few months time if all goes well.
“I have been writing like crazy, actually,” he confirmed. “When I have ideas, I have to get them out. It becomes my first priority if I am not doing dad duty. I really focus on that.”