Interview with The Chronicle Herald

Son of C.B. musician launches his debut CD, All That’s True

Naming your son Dylan practically ensures that he’ll want to become a musician, but it also helps to have the right environment.

Dylan Guthro has been around music his whole life, with early memories of trying out whatever instruments were lying around the house and chasing his dad, Cape Breton singer-songwriter Bruce Guthro, to get him to show him guitar chords.

Now the younger Guthro is chasing his own dream of becoming an established singer-songwriter with the launch of his debut CD, All That’s True, at Halifax’s Carleton Music Bar and Grill tonight and Thursday.

He’s off to a good start; tonight’s show is nearly sold out, and Thursday’s is heading that way. It doesn’t hurt that the 21-year-old musician’s first album, produced by longtime friend and mentor Dave Gunning, is a thoughtful and fun collection of songs, full of sly observations and polished guitar skills honed while playing on the road with his dad.

Stopping at the Armview Restaurant while en route to Antigonish to rehearse with his band and guest vocalist Breagh MacKinnon, Guthro says getting an early start in music didn’t necessarily help him find his sound or his footing as a songwriter right away.

Like most teens, he was into heavy rock and hip hop, not his dad’s mix of modern folk and Celtic music. It took an electrifying set by Martin Sexton at Canso’s Stan Rogers Folk Festival to provide that light-bulb-above-the-head moment.

“It was just him and his electric guitar, and he just sang his songs from the heart, and the crowd was just in awe,” recalls Guthro. “I just thought, ‘Oh wow, that’s inspiring. I’ve got to try to do that someday, somehow.’ ”

He was 15 when he first started playing his own songs with a band of his friends, but Guthro says it took a couple more years before he felt confident enough to want to start performing for a wider audience and recording them for posterity.

He finally got the stone rolling for All That’s True at last April’s East Coast Music Awards celebration in Charlottetown. It’s almost a cliche to say that opportunity knocked, but that’s what happened while Guthro was in his hotel room.

“I went to the door, and it was my father and Dave Gunning. I thought, ‘Uh-oh, here’s trouble . . .’ But we had a few drinks, and I played Dave some demos I’d recorded at home by myself. He was into the songs and was digging what I was doing, and he said, ‘Sure, let’s do this.’ ”

All That’s True was recorded off and on, and then mixed, over the next six months, with Guthro playing most of the instruments, plus Slowcoaster’s Brian Talbot on drums, MacKinnon on backing vocals and the duet Sing to Me, and some backup from Gunning on guitar and bass and cello dubbed in from Toronto by Nova Scotia native Kevin Fox.

There was also some family composing input from sister Jodi on three of the songs and Bruce, who co-wrote five.

“I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and said, ‘Let’s write a song,’ ” says Dylan, who also co-wrote four of the songs on his dad’s previous album No Final Destination. “Usually he’ll hear me working on a song, or I’ll hear him, and we’ll swap ideas and bounce things off each other.

“Recently he’s been having so much success over in Europe, a lot of East Coast Canadians probably don’t even know about it, and it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to step out of the box and look at him, not just as dad, but as a guy in the music industry, and have that bird’s-eye view of how much he’s done.”

Bruce Guthro also contributes lead guitar to his son’s solo composition Canso, a tribute to the beleaguered community at the northeast tip of mainland Nova Scotia and a haunting fable inspired by the aura of an old house where they both stayed while performing at Stanfest.

“The place is over 100 years old, there’s a big coal stove right when you walk in, and everything creaks and cracks — it’s kind of spooky,” says Dylan. “It was the first time I walked through a place that has these spots where you just feel a chill in the air, and I’m wondering if it’s something psychological, or if there’s some kind of spirit in the house.

“I’m not a big believer in ghosts and stuff like that, but this was an eye-opener. I remember a door slamming shut all by itself, and Dad went over and opened it and tried to slam it himself, and it wouldn’t. I thought it would turn into a song one day, and eventually it did, with that first line ‘You can feel its soul in the night’ and that feeds into the hook line, ‘She wouldn’t be the first one that wouldn’t want to leave Canso.’ ”

Both Guthros will be travelling to Canso for a Saturday, Feb. 25, double CD release show for All That’s True and the senior singer-songwriter’s new traditional project Celtic Crossing, call 1-888-554-7826 for ticket info. There will also be a dual Guthro show at Antigonish’s Dragonfly Café on Friday, Feb. 24, advance tickets are $30 at the café.

Bruce Guthro and Dave Gunning will do the opening honours at tonight’s Dylan Guthro show at the Carleton. On Thursday, Breagh MacKinnon will open.

by Stephen Cooke