Following their February 2023 UK tour supporting Robert Jon & The Wreck and the July 26th release of their recent critically acclaimed single “Sweet Maria”, rising Canadian southern soul and roots rock band Bywater Call released a new single, “For All We Know,” on September 6th, out now and linked here.
“For All We Know” takes the listener on a journey, opening with beautiful acoustic guitar picking from Dave Barnes and a soft, exposed vocal from Meghan Parnell, building to a strong, full band, driving finale, representing the courage, strength, and satisfaction in self-knowledge and self-actualization. It’s about finding yourself anew every day.
“For All We Know” was filmed and recorded at friend, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and engineer Kevin Howley’s barn studio in the country of Ontario, Canada. Bass (Mike Meusel), drums (Bruce McCarthy), horns (Julian Nalli, sax, and Stephen Dyte, trumpet), and keys (John Kervin) were captured live off the-floor. Overdubs, including background vocals from Claire Davis and Joanna Mohammed (Aphrose), were captured at drummer Bruce McCarthy’s home studio, the Beat Farm, where he also acted as mixing engineer.
Formed in 2017, the band has received multiple Independent Blues and Maple Blues Award nominations, including Entertainer of the Year and Best Female Vocalist for the 2023 Awards Season. They have toured extensively in Europe over the last few years, including in May and June of 2022, featuring a mainstage appearance at the Netherlands’ premiere blues festival, Moulin Blues. Their shows were praised in Dutch and German media, with references to Meghan as one of the best female voices in blues and roots today.
With this in mind and a UK tour on the way in October (hooray), we spoke to the wonderful Meghan Parnell about heading toward Europe and some of the music along the way!
Bywater Call, picture by Lightning House Media
Having been listening to their sophomore album, “Remain,” released in September 2022, there is this wonderful jazz feel to a song called “Lover Slow Down.” At the magazine, we thought the vocals were reminiscent of Tanita Tikarum (you have to be quite old to remember her, but she had a hit with “A Good Tradition of Love and Hate” back in the late 80s). Anyway, this was a slow dance of a number, and we wondered if the band had jazz roots, even though they are never classified as jazz.
Meghan- It’s interesting that you should start with the fact that, with the exception of myself, the whole band has a jazz background. Most of them know each other as they went to the jazz program at a school here called Humber College, so they all have a strong understanding of jazz, the chord progressions, and so on. I do like that song a lot; it feeds in and out of our live repertoire as it is mid-tempo. But I do love the vocals on it, and it’s making a comeback!
We think it should be on the live set here! We often note Bywater Call here as a roots band. There was a bit of debate between us here over “roots.” Would that mean folk in the UK music sense of a folk band?
Meghan- As you said at the start, we often have to place music in some sort of box. When you submit music for play, you have to check the box; the same is true when you submit music for awards, and so on, depending on where the music belongs. But I find that so hard to do with this band. There are folk vibes in there, along with blues vibes and some soul, but it culminates, I hope, with our sound. Myself and Dave Barnes are the main songwriters, and most of it starts with Dave’s chord progression ideas. Sometimes he will come up with melody ideas, and sometimes he may have some lyrics in his head about the tune direction. Then, between him and me, we worked back and forth with ideas. We come up with a lot of the melodies together, and then once we feel we have a solid skeleton, we bring it to the band, workshop it all together, and make it what it becomes. We are getting more input from the whole band on song ideas from the get-go. Our keyboard player John came up with the idea for “Sweet Maria,” which we released at the end of July. It is great to see the guys contributing, and everyone plays a role.
The band has been working together since 2017. Was it a concept of Meghan and Dave’s? Was it one of those “vocalist wanted” adverts? (!)
Meghan- Dave, and I have played together in other projects for fifteen years now. We were, and still are, to an extent, running a corporate party band operation. That involved doing a lot of covers and had been going for several years. But after a while, we both felt that to not lose our combined love of performing music, we had to create our own. That’s where it started, and we came across some bands who were inspiring us, and we were ready for our project. Dave and I started writing, and Mike, who is on bass, has also been playing with us for a long time. I think you can feel that history of playing together when we are live. We then set about finding the right pieces to go along with the musicians. We didn’t add the horns until 2018, but it was always something we wanted to do, and it is key to the sound at this point.
Bywater Call, picture by Erin Enricos
Next up, we wanted to ask about the funky-sounding “Sea We Swim” with its environmental lyrics.
Meghan- Yes, it’s about climate change. Sea We Swim was the first lyric I came up with for the tune. I think I was reading something, and it felt like an interesting line. What came from it was a line on climate change. But the whole vibe of the tune comes from Mike on bass and Bruce on drums; it sort of morphed from a less funky, swampy feel. They brought a new flavour to it, which is cool. It turned into a great funk tune.
And given how hard it is to make a cross-atlantic trip and bring a show, Over in the UK, we are so happy these guys are coming. What made it the right time for them now?
Meghan- We haven’t brought the whole band over to the UK before, but this will be our fourth extended tour in Europe, and we do like the UK, as a market. Leading up to it, we knew we were going to come back in the Fall this year, as the Summer was crazy for us in North America. So we wanted to give the proper time, nearly two weeks in the UK and then on to Europe.
The band is playing one of our favourite UK venues, the Cluny in Newcastle Upon Tyne, a great city and a wonderful venue. It’s an independent venue, and an iconic one.
Meghan- I was excited about that one. I can’t wait. We haven’t made it to Newcastle before, but we did the groundwork to get people familiar with us, and we were on tour with Robert Jon and the Wreck in February. We, just Dave and I, were on as the support act. It was a bit strange; it’s not that representative of our sound, and we were opening for this big rock band, but we reached people who have been waiting for us to come back.
The band has two new singles out, neither of which were on the 2022 album. “For All We Know” is the all-new one. These releases are obviously keeping the momentum going before the tour. Is it exciting to be releasing individual tracks rather than a larger body of work like an album?
Meghan: We love the idea of an album; I think we always work toward that. But you do need to keep the machine, the momentum, going. When you are touring all the time you need those reasons for people to keep checking in with you. As a band, we also have a good momentum of writing at the moment; it’s nice to see songs come together, and we want to share those. So the idea for us now is to continue to write and continue to experiment with recording. When we have a product we are happy with, we will release it as singles; if we gain enough, we will consider an album if we feel they fit together. The singles serve to keep the name out there and keep people interested. You have to feed the machine. The album is a keepsake, a collector’s album. There is still a place for physical ownership, and there are those who know how important merchandise is to a band. We want that product for them.
Talking about the new single, along with “Sweet Maria,” the band filmed the two singles in a couple of promotional videos. They certainly worked, and we wondered how the whole filming process was—were the ideas pre-planned?
Meghan- We had been connected with the crew before, and I liked the aesthetic. I wanted to get a behind-the-scenes or performance video. We went to our friend’s barn out in the country, a beautiful setting. We went in there to get the basis of four tunes we had written, and the video team came in and took various shots while we were working in the barn. Then we knew “Sweet Maria” and “For All We Know” would be the two tunes we were releasing first, so we did a couple of performances for those songs. At the end of the day, when the sun was going down behind the window, it was so nice. I had a lot of fun at that shoot, there was a machine at back spreading fog around behind the scenes, and it was a fun process. This was the first time we have done filming like that. We only have a couple of official films, and one of them was an animation; the other was a bit like a story, so this was fun.
And were these two songs an extension of the last album, or are they now more like distant cousins? The songs have such a great sound and a lovely sense of melody.
Meghan- I’d say more like a brother and sister. We are always in search of that sound, and we are always getting closer to it. With these songs, we are capturing a warmth and joy that we really want to embody.
And what have the UK fans got to look forward to?
Meghan- Our shows are always revolving; we have great energy and like to take the audience along with us. And on the horizon, we are just constantly working toward a date for a new album. We are workshopping and using soundcheck. Any downtime we have, we are working on it. And if we get the right show, we will play new music for the audience.
And that draws the interview to a close, with our thanks to Meghan. But what can we say other than get out and support them in October, the tour dates and information are here and we are excited already!
By Lorraine Foley
Mark C. Chambers.