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The Carpenter's Son
It's About Time, It's About Jesus

Listen to a sample from The Carpenter's Son

 

Q: Please give us a brief history of the group and some brief information on each of the members.

A: Tim Renaud and I came from similar backgrounds and had been singing in various secular bands as well as different church choirs for many years before we met. We both sing in St. Luke’s guitar based choir now and have been for at least 15 years or so. When we first started in the choir – we quickly grew tired of singing the same old Lord Have Mercy version that had been sung since the early days of folk guitar mass music in the early 70’s (remember Joe Wise?, even George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord – without the Hare Krishna part of course).

So we sat down one day in my unfinished basement in Maple Ridge and decided to write some new liturgical mass parts – we first came up with some Celtic sounding liturgical pieces in a driving 6/8 time for the Holy Holy and the Lord Have Mercy – those went over very well with the congregation – so we thought – why stop there – we continued on to write the rest of the mass parts including the Our Father, a really great Gloria, the I Confess (oh yes, set to music), the great Amen, the Memorial Acclamation, the Gospel Acclamation, the Lamb of God and even the Nicene Creed (yes, set to music – and now everyone in the congregation sings it vibrantly – because they can remember the words- because it is now set to music – music is wonderful that way). And we’re thinking that might be another project to embark on – and that is publish those mass parts in a music book with an accompanying CD – well, one day anyway.

At the same time as this was going on – Tim and I decided to start writing music that would have a broader based appeal – more than just liturgical or strictly Catholic dogma. And we began writing music that would form the start of the group The Carpenter’s Son (the name by the way – besides the obvious double entendre with Jesus Our Lord being the son of a carpenter – comes from when I was little – I used to follow my dad around as he went about doing his carpentry work – and as I was his son – the group name became simply “The Carpenter’s Son).

As bands go, we soon brought on another guitar player, then a drummer, then a female vocalist and flute player. We started playing for coffee houses, church based functions and charity events in concert type settings. We had enough music at this time to do what most bands eventually feel compelled to do (besides everyone around you saying so as well) – and that is simply to produce an album. Well, due to time and budget constraints – we only had enough resources to get three songs recorded (and that was due to mainly to the good graces of Tim’s older brother Vince who worked at a very large post-production house recording studio in Vancouver at the time) –and it was to be several months/years before we would have been able to record any more – so it was at that time we made the decision to release a 3 – song cassette (same 3 songs on both sides) simply entitled by title cut off the album as “Angels Will Be Dancing” (1996) The other 2 songs on the album were The Power Of Prayer – and a somewhat dogmatic but extremely powerful Fires That Burn (a cry to God to rescue us from this world and/or purgatory).

The cassette (with its colorful artwork of angels descending from heaven in parade like fashion (I think you can see a picture of it on our web site) – there is a story to be told as well about how the artwork came about for this cassette – but I’ll save that for another day) sold very well for a few years – mostly at concert venues – I figure we probably sold about 800 or so copies – which we figure wasn’t bad for a little known local independent Christian Celtic group with no music label, no big-time marketing promotions muscle, no radio play, no retail sales channel and no internet presence. So we were quite satisfied with that. We went on to write quite a bit more material in the coming months and years – but before I continue on about how our first full length CD came to life – I need to digress for a moment into the background of groups – specifically bands …

Now – a little bit about the make-up of the group – as bands go –– RULE #1: band members come and go – and that’s just the way it is. And our band was no exception to this rule. So – following the rules – band members came and went. Mostly due to having different priorities in their lives at the time and they couldn’t continue to commit to being in a band. So we went through membership changes – but the essence of the music (mostly being written by Tim and myself) stayed the same – and thus the main feel of the group stayed the same.

We came to a point where we really wanted to record all these songs we had been writing, and really – all the songs we would have recorded on the first album (really – the cassette) had we had enough resources ($ and time) at the time. We had considered at first to go to “the studio” again – but it wasn’t to be as convenient this time round – nor was it to be inexpensive. We had this crazy notion then to build our own recording studio – which we did – over a period of about 6 months – Tim and I built a recording studio in my unfinished basement – we properly sound proofed it and acquired some great direct to hard disk recording equipment (thanks to an inheritance from a relative who had recently passed – God turning something sad into something good again …) . So now we had our own sound studio and we figured we could make as many albums as we wanted … little did we realize the challenges involved.

Our first album Warrior Of The Cross (June/2001) was definitely a labor of love – and took a period of about 3 years to pull together. And that wasn’t due to a lack of material – it was mostly due to varying opinions about the focus and direction of the group – and subsequently membership changes (Rule #1) resulting in re-doing major parts of the album over again in the studio and thus setting us back for the release of that album.

In the end, however, as a musician and a song writer – producing Warrior Of The Cross represented closure for those songs that we had written and had been performing for many years already – for me, once you make a permanent record (or CD that is) of the art – the music – then you feel this great release and say “aha, now we can move on …” We decided at that time also, that we were not going to include any Christmas songs (as we had a couple of original Christmas theme songs that we had been singing at mass during the Christmas season) on that first album because it was our first full album release and we didn’t want to be known as a group that played Christmas music only. That is why you see some of those songs were written prior to the release of the first album, but were never included on it. (we also re-recorded the songs that were released on the cassette 5 years earlier – I figure they sounded better on CD anyway)

Near the end of producing the first Warrior Of The Cross, we changed membership drastically (remember rule #1, band members come and go – only we were not expecting them to all come and go at the same time) – and within one or two months we had replaced 4 out of 6 members – and had to redo all the tracks with the new members.

The original founding members Tim Renaud and myself (Patrick Ceaser) were the only two that remained. Tim’s younger sister Julie Buffet had been a tremendous fan of our music for some time, she also was already singing with Tim and I in our church choir – and it seemed like a great fit to ask her to join for vocals. Rosie Carver, who had played fiddle tracks on the first album (who also performs with a well known west coast traditional Celtic group called Blackthorn along with Tim) agreed to stay on with us as a permanent member after the release of Warrior Of The Cross. Natalie Rutherford joined us as a last minute replacement near the end of the first album production. She plays all the penny whistle and flute tracks as well as some lead and backing vocals.

Rounding out the team is Vince Renaud, Tim and Julie’s older brother (there are 6 brothers and 2 sisters in that family by the way). Vince had been our live sound technician for several years, and was also the producer and engineer of Warrior Of The Cross. Tim and I had been playing in a secular group with Vince as the drummer for some time (and this is another rule about bands – Rule # 2: you’ll often find one member of one band playing in another band and so on – I think it builds good character and helps to broaden your influences with different musical styles – especially when you are writing) So we asked Vince if he would like to join The Carpenter’s Son family too – and the rest is history. This rounds out the full group that we still have today. And the real joy about recording and producing our most recent album - It’s About Time It’s About Jesus was that all these members were key in the development and arrangement of these songs.

I should also mention that Julie’s boyfriend at the time Scott Buffett, who is now Julie’s husband – did all the artwork and design of our first and second album cover – and has really out-done himself in designing and producing the cover artwork and CD insert sleeve art and layout for It’s About Time It’s About Jesus. We really consider him part of the group as well. His patience, creativity, understanding and love underscore every pixel of brilliance he arranged to produce the magnificent album cover and insert which perfectly compliment the album.

This brings me to Rule #3 – bands and musicians write music and feel compelled to record the music. So we did. But just so you know, we didn’t sit down and say “well, it’s time to make another album, let’s write a bunch of tunes” – normally most of the songs/lyrics we write are inspired when/how the spirit moves us. And as you can see by the copyright dates, this album contains songs written from 1990 through to present day.

Recording and producing our most recent album It’s About Time It’s About Jesus (Nov/2004 - recorded at Maximus Sound in Port Coquitlam/BC – ah yes, another story to tell) has been a tremendously joy filled process for all of us involved. It basically took us 4 months start to finish – and now that you know a little bit about the first album(s), and the tremendous changes the group had gone through since then – you understand why we had such a great time putting this one together.

Q: How has your Catholic faith impacted upon the group's music?

A: Subconsciously - I suppose my deep rooted Catholic faith comes through in some of the lyrics of the songs; some much more than others.

“Forgive Me Father” – which was recorded on a massive grand piano in 1996 – never made it on the first album due to budget limitations. When we considered songs for our new album, Vince pulled this one out of the archives – and we decided we would track the vocals to it now 10 years later. I was in confession one day and it really hit me that I could capture the essence of this sacrament in a song.
The song is really a confession – from the starting line “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned” through to “Not only what I’ve done, but what I haven’t done” and finishing with “… so I can fill my heart with You and not with me, forgive me Father, and set me free.” So, this song I guess I would say was heavily influenced by my Catholic faith – of course a Catholic listener would hear the confession in the song (when we confess of course we are really speaking to Jesus); the non-Catholic Christian would take the song as a confession to Father-God or directly to Jesus – either way – I think the essence/meaning is conveyed.

The song – “Fires That Burn” – is really about saving us from the fires of this world – and in particular – purgatory – of course a non-Catholic may not buy into the “purgatory” theme – but nonetheless, the song is well received as a poignant and powerful statement pleading to God to save us.

Even songs like “There Go The Tears” or “Thy Saving Light” make reference to Mary – but in a subtle way – there wasn’t a conscious effort however to avoid using the name Mary in the song or to not be extremely forthright with the lyrics – this is just the nature of song writing – to present the theme in such a way that it is approachable and gives us cause to reflect on the lyrics without being spoon-fed the meaning of the song in an obvious way.

Q: Many of your compositions are originals. Could you please describe your creative process?

A: With the exception of the lyrics for Silent Night (on our newest album) all of the compositions are original. When we write – or when I write specifically - most of the songs/lyrics are inspired when/how the spirit moves me – we find that if we have to work really hard at fabricating the song – then we usually shelve it for a time (or forever). We are getting better at discerning whether or not a song suites the style of the group or the genre of the kind of music we feel compelled to play – or is any good for that matter.

Most of the time when I get an inspiration for a song – I will be just going about my daily business and “ping” I get this idea or melody in my head – and have to rush to find a piece of paper to jot down the lyrics – usually I grab my cell phone and leave myself a voice mail as I sing the song into the phone – then when I get home and get some time to compose it – I listen to the phone message – and proceed to complete writing our the lyrics and basic music line. Tim is the same way when he writes.

We try to have something more or less complete when we present it to the rest of the group – and then everyone uses their own particular talent to embellish or augment the song in some way – whether with a particular fiddle line or flute solo – or some clever harmony – or perhaps someone might suggest creating a bridge in the middle of the song to make it more interesting – all these ideas are taken into consideration and we take some time to work out the kinks and the arrangement.

After playing a new song live several times – it starts to feel natural to us – we know at that point that it will likely not go through any more changes – and when we get around to recording it – it will sound fairly close to the way you hear us play it live.

Q: Who are some of your musical influences?

A: Being of Irish descent I imagined that the Celtic music was in my blood. Of course it helps that I like to listen to the east coast Canadian music groups like the Rankins or Bruce Guthro or Great Big Sea – I also really enjoy the lively energetic and driving rhythms and lilting melodies in a good many of the songs from the British Isles, Ireland and Scotland.

And although I like pop music and classic rock (Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, early 50s and 60s groups etc.) – I have a love for the singer songwriter sounds of people like James Taylor – or one of our Canadian icons – Gordon Lightfoot. I think all of this mix influences how I write and arrange the music and the different instrumentation we end up using.

Q: I fell in love with the Celtic flavor of your music. What do you feel lends to the new, fresh sound of your music?

Over all – I don’t believe there are many Christian – Celtic groups out there – so I figure we have a bit of a niche market to go after with our unique sound. Our first album Warrior Of The Cross ended up with a rock based sound influence to a good number of the tunes – particularly in the song The Difference. Of course there were several Celtic sounding songs like Warrior Of The Cross and Forever On. I think the rock influence came in mostly because Tim, Vince and I were fresh off of playing with secular cover-tune bands.

I believe listeners will definitely notice much more of a Celtic earthy folk feel to most of the songs on our newest album It’s About Time It’s About Jesus (… obvious double entendre in that title …) – our first album had more of a pop rock sound to several of the songs - I think on this album “Brotherless Child” is about as pop/rock flavor as it gets – even at that, you’ll notice the definite Celtic lilt in the prelude of the song.

Secondly was the way we produced this album, or should I say kept the production to a minimum –we wanted to have a real natural sound to many of the songs – as if we were standing in your living room and singing directly to you – it’s more intimate that way – and I think, in the end, much more edifying. In particular, I believe you’ll hear this intimacy conveyed in the songs Now I Lay Me Down, Wheel Of Life and Goodbye.

We’re really pleased to include an original song on this album by Tim – Shoot Me Like An Arrow. It’s a real east coast Celtic flavored song with a request to God to fill me with His words and song and then send me out in the world to fly on the wings of His graces – as the chorus rings out “ … keep me on the straight and narrow, shoot me like an arrow let me fly!”

When I wrote Spirit – I had only the inspiration to write a melody – I was not inspired to pen any lyrics – and typically when I write, I try not to change too many things from an inspiration –so the song remained as an instrumental. Sometimes when we play the song Spirit – when we’re finished, you can hear a pin drop – that tells me that the audience is deeply drawn into the melody as they drift into a state of peace – I often suggest before we start that song that people close their eyes and think of the Holy Spirit enveloping them for a moment while we play the song.

I think the audience enjoys the songs that are simpler in their production and they can easily identify with – in particular the Goodbye song – which we almost always sing as an encore piece – the chorus in that song goes:

“… and it’s hard to say goodbye, so God’s speed – until we meet again
… hard to say goodbye, goodbye, God be with ye – goodbye, God be with ye … goodbye”

Some have said this newest album has a rather eclectic mix of styles. I can see their point, when you listen to the song Now I Lay Me Down, you hear that 40’s swing jazz sort of feel – but then the title cut It’s About Jesus, and Spirit, Wheel Of Life and Come Unto Me Like A Child all have the Celtic underlying melodies and feel – then you have more of a country/folk feel to the song Stop This Love.
But over all – we sense the album is definitely folk-Celtic sounding – and has that feel subtly entwined throughout all the songs. People have told us how much they enjoy the variety of styles and sounds on our album - I personally do not like albums or groups where there is a particular style that is repeated for almost every song – it gets a little monotonous after a while.

Q: What have been some of the group's highlights to date?

A: I think in general – the members of the group would tell you that our biggest highlights have been that God has granted us the good graces and resources to be able to write music that speaks of His love for everyone – and that we have been able to record this and produce some professional music CDs –and be able to use our talents and resources to perform this music and hopefully touch some people’s lives.

One particular highlight though, on separate occasions, we sent both albums to His Holiness Pope John Paul II – and his representatives replied both times that the music was favorably received and we received an Apostolic Blessing. Both of those occasions were quite thrilling moments as we had not expected any sort of reply.

Q: What future do you see for the Catholic music industry?

A: I know that the Christian music market is 20% of the entire music scene – that is a tremendous chunk. As far as the Catholic music industry – I see it growing as a steady consistent influence in this market. Eventually people will become disillusioned with what the secular world has to offer and will be hungry for something real in the person and influence of Jesus – and in our case – approachable and appealing music with faith based lyrics.

Q: What can Catholic families do to support Catholic musicians?

A: First and foremost we appreciate all the thoughts and prayers that we have received from family and our Catholic and Christian friends and community in support of continuing our music ministry – and we do look at it as a calling and a ministry. I often joke with people that I didn’t just wake up one morning and think to myself – “I’m going to write music for God – and become filthy rich doing it” - for that would be a false and fruitless effort.

If we are able to touch people in some way through our music and lyrics – then we will feel we have made a difference for God’s kingdom. So in short, I think Catholic families can continue to simply support groups like ours and other Christian and Catholic music producers through prayer, and coming our to the concerts and perhaps also buying the CDs.

Q: What are the group's goals and plans for the future?

A: As we are all married and have our “real lives” (as we jokingly refer to normal life outside of the concert and band scene) we have to constantly work on achieving balance between spending time with the music ministry and attending to all our other callings (family, jobs etc.) – I don’t imagine we would all go on the road on some cross county tour – but you never know where this could lead. Tim and his wife had their first child several months ago, and Julie and her husband Scott are in the works to have their first child in a few months from now – so we had to put the concert scene on hold until at least the fall. But Tim and I are continuing to be inspired to write some new exciting tunes and I think it won’t be long before we are able to produce another album. As I mentioned earlier – I think we may end up producing an album of Catholic liturgical music or at least the music score over the next few months – we would plan on sharing this with as many Catholic parish music groups as would be interested in learning some new material for their liturgical music contributions to the mass.

Wherever we have gone or been inspired to go with this music and this group (in whatever form it may take in the future) we have always sensed God guiding us and opening those doors when and where they need to be opened – this gives us the confidence to continue down this road- we know where we are ultimately headed of course – but until we get there –we’ll continue to trust in God for all our needs and go where he leads us.

Until then, God Be With Ye!


For more information on music by The Carpenter’s Son , visit Catholic Music Network or visit their web site at www.thecarpentersson.ca 



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