I had the pleasure to interview John-Angus MacDonald of the celebrated band The Trews. They have had countless radio hits, ecstatic fans from Dublin to Des Moines plus multiple EPs, a pair of live albums and a retrospective. The band also inked a new management deal with heavyweight New York firm Gold Village Entertainment, helmed by legendary music executive Danny Goldberg. Now, with new representation, a new label, new drummer and a brilliant new album in the can, The Trews are ready for their proverbial close-up… some 15-odd years after they began. “REM was such an inspiration for us,” John-Angus MacDonald says. “Every record was an adventure. That’s what I love about rock and roll. It’s pretty simple — drums, bass, guitars — yet you have to go into the wilderness of creativity to find something new and bring it back.
No problem, thanks for having me. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memory is of dancing around the living room to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ album. Music was constantly being played in my home both on the stereo and by my Dad and his friends and my siblings. So from a very early age it was really all I ever wanted to do, so it wasn’t so much a matter of being brought to the career path as bringing, sometimes forcing, the path to me! We did that by being really disciplined with band practice and jamming and writing even in our teenage years which was when we all started playing together.
God, there are so many…we’ve been lucky enough to open for some of our heroes like the Rolling Stones, Springsteen, KISS, Aerosmith, Guns’n’Roses and Cheap Trick which is always pretty interesting. We’ve also traveled far and wide to play, from Tokyo to Dubai to Cuba to Canada’s Arctic. We’ve had band members be arrested, left behind in foreign countries, electrocuted, fall off stage and hospitalized. All in a day’s work! So the whole thing is one big interesting blur to be honest.
I’m most excited about our new album ‘Civilianaires’ which comes out in September. We haven’t done a full length album since our 2014 release so it’s been a long time coming and we dug pretty deep along the way to come up with some of our strongest material to date IMHO.
I’ve had some very interesting and in depth chats over the years with the late great Gord Downie who was the lead singer for Canada’s biggest and greatest band, The Tragically Hip. Sadly Gord passed away last year from a rare form of brain cancer but one story that comes to mind is a night a few years back when both my band and the Hip had nights off on tour in St. John’s NFLD and we convened in a small pub on George Street called Christians. Gord and I spent the evening waxing poetic about everything from music to writing to politics to Bob Dylan. He was one of the most interesting and insightful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Canada is a bigger country with a much smaller population — about one tenth to be exact — so maybe it’s a little easier to gain national recognition but much harder to follow it up with touring as the drives between cities can be long and harrowing. In Canada we also have a culture of supporting the arts through grant systems which can help develop talent and get people off the ground. It also seems to me that rock is more popular in Canada than it is in the US at the moment, there’s a healthy amount of rock bands both on tour and on the radio at any given time up here.
We’ve been involved with several initiatives along the way but the one I’m most proud of is our involvement with the Canada Hero Fund. Back in 2010 we wrote a song called “Highway of Heroes”, which tells the story of Captain Nichola Goddard who was the first female Canadian soldier killed in the war in Afghanistan. The song is a tribute to fallen soldiers and when we released it we donated 100% of the profits from sales of the song to the Canada Hero Fund which provides assistance and scholarships to the families of the fallen. The song has been quite successful, its certified Gold in Canada, so we were able to make a real difference in the lives of some families struggling to move forward after tragedy.
Well l since you asked, I’m gonna think big! 🙂 I think it would be great to eliminate poverty. There’s clearly enough abundance in this world to feed, clothe and shelter everyone but our society and global community is set up so only a very small fraction of people truly benefiting — and those benefiting are living in obscene wealth and opulence when compared to how the how and poorest amongst us are living. There has got to be a way to even that scale.
Stay focused on the music. Everything else is just a side show. I believe it’s the trappings that burn you out — The travel, the parties, the fake friends… If you stay focused on writing, playing and performing at your best then you can last… and most importantly stay curious about music! Keep climbing that mountain!
Yes! Bob Dylan because he is my favourite writer in the history of popular music and because I can’t possibly imagine what his outlook must be like given the life he’s had, I’d love a chance to ask him about it!
If you visit our website at www.thetrewsmusic.com we have links to all of our socials. We are @thetrews on Instagram and Twitter and if you search the Trews on FaceBook we’ll be that page other than whatever Russell Brand is up to! 🙂
Originally published at medium.com