West Coast multi-instrumentalist Cary Pratt motivated to make something that matters with his latest, sunny full-length release.
Cary Pratt evokes the “eyes bigger than my stomach” phrase to describe his current situation.
The Kelowna-raised, Vancouver-based singer-songwriter, who records under the moniker of Prairie Cat, is in the midst of promoting his fourth full-length release titled, appropriately, Is Cary Pratt.
That means the usual interviews and promotional obligations, as well as getting ready for some touring, which includes an opening slot for The Darcys’ Alberta dates, including Friday, June 16 at the Hifi Club.
He also, apparently, thought it wise to earn that final credit-and-a-half he discovered he was short of a degree when he thought he’d wrapped up university more than eight years ago — taking online courses, which required him to knock out a 16-page paper on ragtime piano at the same time as the album was readying to drop.
“I passed, though,” the immensely likeable artist says with a laugh mere days before the release of Is Cary Pratt.
With flying colours. On both accounts.
And which is he most proud of?
“I’m pretty proud of both,” Pratt says of the pair of notable accomplishments. “I think the new record is probably some of the best work I can do as a solo musician, where I’m doing everything.”
Recorded on the West Coast with friend and producer Ryan Dahle — of Age of Electric and Limblifter fame, and with whom Pratt drums for in the Canrock supergroup The Mounties — it features the multi-instrumentalist delivering a disarmingly charming eight-song treatise on soft, sunny melodic rock.
Oddly, the direction of the record came from a somewhat less sunny time — well, a sunny time and place, but a rather dark and morbid experience.
Pratt tells the tale of a couple of years ago, when he was well into the writing of the record, when he and his girlfriend decided to get away from it all and headed to Hawaii for a little taste of paradise.
No sooner had he set himself down in the sand for some much-needed recuperation did he discover a body floating in the surf.
The “juxtaposition” was something that hit him hard, forced him to think about the idea of mortality and making life matter while you can.
“I came back a lot more motivated to make a record that was something that I wanted to listen to,” he says.
That he did. Again, it’s hard not to listen to Is Cary Pratt — songs such as warm, almost innocent opener Crib Talk and the fuzzy, walk in the park, drive on the coast of Ruff, the sexy, saxy slo jazz of Leaving Today and the snazzy, piano man pop of album highlight Someone to Blame — and not be transported back to the AM radio days of the early ’70s.
“I don’t think I actively chase, especially production-wise, anything in that vein. I think there are some inevitabilities in the process,” he says noting the fact that much of the gear he was using was of an older vintage.
But musically, he admits it’s just an inherent presence in his work, those early influences are so much a part of who he is and what he’s drawn to — the singer-songwriter material of those days, artists such as Carly Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Jim Croce, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Elton John and the timeless material they crafted.
“When something jumps out at my ear — I don’t have an iPhone or anything, so I always get my girlfriend to hold up her phone with Shazam on it — whenever I’m like, ‘What is this? What is this?’ it’s alway from 1972 or 1975. That’s what my ear must have heard and stopped …
“That’s where home is for me.”
Prairie Cat performs Friday, June 16 at the Hifi Club with The Darcys. For tickets, please click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.