It’s been five years since Rodney Decroo released a proper album. Not that the Vancouver-based singer-songwriter hasn’t kept himself busy: that span saw him release a book of poetry, Allgheny, BC, which unpacked his fractured childhood, as well as a spoken-word album connected to the book and a touring Fringe theatre piece based on it, too. But in the process of developing all that musical-but-not-quite-music stuff, half a decade slipped by.
“Last week, it was like, ‘Oh, it has been awhile,'” he says over the phone. “I remember what this was like, rehearsing and all the prep you do to get out on the road with a record. It’s different.”
Decroo’s a genial chat—apologizing for very slight tardiness (“I was chasing my cat down the hallway of my building. Cry of freedom.”)—and far warmer than the revelatory nature of his songwriting, which is as potent as ever on Campfires on the Moon. It’s a sparse record—mostly Decroo’s voice and nimble guitarwork, rounded out by some combination of cello, bass and piano—one that allots plenty of space to let words and sounds draw emphasis and sonic punctuation.
That sparseness is new, and it might be corollary to the past few years’ work.
“There’s an atmospheric feel to it,” he notes. “The way the songs breathe—they move slowly, they’re not in a rush to get anywhere. There’s no hiding, there’s no guitar solo to hide behind. I really think that was a byproduct of speaking poems to music.”
Atmospheric but in no way sedate, Campfires on the Moon makes use of all that room to emphasize its ideas. Plus, Decroo adds, an overstuffed mix can be as difficult to navigate as an adjective-heavy sentence.
“People want to have a space for their imagination, their inner world, to engage with and fill in,” he says. “And when you provide them that space, they come. When you fill that space up with too much information and detail, there’s nothing there for them to create or bring themselves to. Because that’s what happens when we listen to a song, right? We bring ourselves to it, and we’re telling a story as we listen. We’re telling our own story through the vehicle of whatever song we’re listening to.”
Gearing up for the tour has finally gotten the album’s players all in the same room, too: though Decroo made Campfires with longtime collaborator Mark Haney and pianist Ida Nilsen, the tour prep marks the first time all three have actually been in the same room. Nilsen lives in Detroit, and they’d simply send her the files when working on the record. Crafting these songs live has offered a sense of spontaneity, Decroo notes, as they hone the songs for the live setting. It’s the sort of creative finessing that the singer is excited to be returning to as a performing songwriter, as opposed to poet or actor. After time doing both, there’s an appeal, he notes, to simply performing his songs on a stage.
“I felt free—I felt like my cat running down the hall a little while ago,” he says. “I can just sing these songs; I don’t have to worry about, well, this is theatre, and we have to vary up the tempos. No, this is a record, I can throw all that out, and just be in the moment and play these songs.”
Sat, Apr 25 (8 pm)
With Chris Page, Great Aunt Ida