Brian Bourgault keeps on going. The singer-songwriter and former guitarist was diagnosed in 2005 with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary disorder named after the three doctors who first described the illness. Since his fateful diagnosis, Bourgault, who is in his late forties, has experienced the steady deterioration of his muscles and nerves, and despite losing most of the function of his limbs, has continued to perform when possible and create very compelling music.
Following his debut 2018 release, Be Kind, and a 2019 follow-up LP, Without You, the indefatigable Bourgault is back again with a fresh EP, Remedy, that drops this Thursday, February 13.
Westword caught up with Bourgault to get the scoop on his latest batch of tunes.
Westword: Glad glad to see that you're still at it...
Brian Bourgault: Yeah, Be Kind was sort of my re-entry to music after decades of not playing. It was great, and after that release, I went back to regularly writing material. After the release show, though, I had a hard time booking gigs, because the guys who I played with on that album were all in other projects. So it was hard to lock down dates. I wound up putting an ad on Craigslist and found a drummer, bassist and guitar player to back me up for my next release, Without You, which came out last July. I was really happy with that album, too, but we played one show and then things kind of fizzled out. The guitar player moved to Los Angeles. Performing live presents a lot of hurdles for me.
How do you continue to record and release all this incredible music?
Well, I mix and master my own projects at home, which is fun and which helps cut down on studio time. I'm getting pretty good at it. I'm pretty much paralyzed from the elbows down, but I do it with my two hands. I set my right hand on top of the mouse and set my left hand on top of my right and apply a little bit of pressure to click.
Live performance seems like a door that is locked for now, but what I can do is write, record and release songs. I don't need anyone else to do that. So that's what I'm focusing on for now. If I've learned anything out of all of this it's that I'd rather go through the doors that are open to me rather than using all my energy trying to kick down doors that are locked. To perform live, I really need people who can give my project priority.
You've had some tremendously talented musicians on your past recorded efforts. Is that still the case?
Yeah. I recorded Remedy with pretty much the same band I've been using all along. The lineup includes Carl Sorenson on drums, and John Grigsby from Gregory Alan Isakov's band plays bass on this one. Those guys together are an amazing rhythm section. Adam Bodine plays piano and B3 organ, and James Dumm plays guitar. His slide playing has become a signature sound sound for a lot of these songs. He's a great player.
Is the new EP in the vein of your last releases, in terms of musical style?
I pretty much just write songs without thinking too much about what style and genre I'm doing it in, but it's got some of the same soul and throw-back R&B feel to it that I had on my other stuff. You'll also hear echoes of Pink Floyd and some classic rock vibes, too. James plays some incredible lead parts. I arrange my songs very well before recording them, but the guitar parts, which I don't really pre-arrange, can take the music in a different direction. There's also a lot of keys and horns on there. It was all recorded at Mighty Fine Productions with John Macy engineering. We'd put down tracks in the studio, and then I'd take the sound files home with me so I could edit and mix them. I can also do some vocals recording at my home. This new EP has a total of six tracks, which were all recorded in one day. And yeah, it's pretty much in the same vein.
How do you feel about the business aspect of releasing your work?
There's so much music out now. I think the number of new songs released on Spotify every day is around 42,000. People release a lot of singles now, too. This makes it really hard as an artist. All of this new technology is great because it has removed the middle man, so there's no gatekeepers anymore. But it's almost impossible to make any money on streams. There is a Borgo and Brian Bourgault station on Pandora that seems to get some attention. The new technology is great for getting your music out there, but it's also kind of back to square one, where you gotta tour and play a shitload of shows and have really cool merchandise for sale. And with my physical disability, I'm not hopping in a van and going on tour without a serious support system in place.
Can you tell me a bit about your new songs?
The title track,"Remedy," is something that I was kicking around for a bit. Lyrically my songs are kind of melancholy. The "remedy" that the song is referring to is love. "How do you laugh? How do you sing? How do you do anything?" is a repeating line in it. It's a longing song. The singer is proclaiming his desire and need for someone. That could be the remedy that we're all searching for. That theme comes up in some of the other tracks in there, too. I also touch on going after a dream and the need to love what you do. I don't spend a lot of money traveling like some people do and bringing home souvenirs of my vacations. I spend my money on making music, which is a form of traveling for me. I'm making musical souvenirs. Ultimately these memories that I make for myself might end up being something that other people will want, too.
Remedy drops on February 13 on streaming services.
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