Cam Salay might never have recorded his debut album if it hadn't been for Nashville.
The Brackendale musician had been playing for years as part of the Juno award-winning folk band The Paperboys then later in The Splinters, but his solo material remained mostly untouched. It wasn't until his friend and Music City transplant Steve Mitchell suggest he come down to record the songs that he began to consider putting out a solo effort. "He's the one who planted the seed saying, 'This is the cheapest place on the planet. People record for $50 a song. It's cheap and efficient.'"
After a couple years saving up some funds, Salay headed south armed with a handful of songs and a few hours of studio space booked. In an unusual move, he also decided to recruit a few top-end session players ubiquitous in the area to help write and record five songs for an EP. He didn't give the players any direction, just a general vibe. "It was a lot of fun letting go of control. That was another reason I wanted to do it," Salay says. "I thought there was a level of risk running out of time. At first I was only going to do four songs. I didn't have (any) fear of what the players would play. I knew what calibre they were. I knew I could put it in their hands. I just basically sang and they played and I put banjo stuff later."
In total, they spent three hours recording the tracks. "We pretty much took their first ideas," he adds. "We wanted to hear other people interpret the songs."
The songs themselves are country-tinged bluegrass rompers dominated by Salay's lyrics, which run the gamut from tales of marrying for money to taking a pretty girl to the fair. Writing them was one of the most important parts of the process, he says. "I usually start with the lyrics and some of them came together real quick. I had to trim it down and edit. Some had been lurking around for a year or two or more. You go back to that song and work again and trim it to get where you like it. The lyrics are most important to me. It starts with that."
While those verses came quickly, Mitchell came in handy for the choruses. The former Vancouverite (and member of The Paperboys) had plenty of experience writing music to pitch to big name acts in Nashville. "He's living down there and working everyday with songwriters, working to pitch to big country acts. They're all about the chorus, that hook. So he's got his finger on that," Salay says.
With the finished product, Wishbone, in hand, Salay will celebrate with an album release party Feb. 23 at the Brackendale Art Gallery. In place of the session musicians will be a familiar face. Shannon Saunders, his partner in The Splinters, who plays the Dubh Linn Gate almost weekly (with gigs coming up Feb. 25 – 28) will help out, along with a few other musicians on drum, bass and guitar. Salay adds: "I think we'll play a few gigs around Vancouver this spring and summer. See what happens."
For more information visit camsalaymusic.com.