Whatever you know about singer/songwriter Paul Cargnello, throw it out the window. His new track, “Promises,” shatters whatever expectations you may have had for what Cargnello’s music can sound and feel like, and finds him trying (and succeeding!) at a whole lot of things that many people probably don’t realize he has in him.
Also: holy hot damn, the video is good as hell and I’ve watched it like five times today.
I chatted with Cargnello yesterday to find out more about what went into creating both the song and the video, and why, 20+ years into a career, he decided to try out a new sound.
Dave Jaffer: What are the specifics behind the video? Who made it?
Paul Cargnello: This video is directed by Nik Brovkin, who’s a long-time collaborator at this point. He’s done lots of graphic design work for me. He was behind the animation video for my kids album and is a Montreal beatmaker. He wears many hats, and we just understand each other creatively. When I finished recording the song, I immediately asked
him if he’d be into yet another collaboration. I’m lucky he accepted. Nik is very plugged in to a variety of artistic communities, visual and otherwise. The videography, movement direction, and editing is by Peña León, and the styling/clothing is by Nadia Bunyan (for Maison BLCK MSSN).
DJ: Where was it shot, and when, and why there?
PC: The video was shot in Montréal-Nord, a year or two ago. We needed a cool looking spot, but we also needed a huge space, so Toshiro could tear it up. The dancer is a talented artist named Toshiro Kamara. Toshiro also did all the choreography. Nik, the director, introduced us, and I can’t express how happy I am that he did. I wrote a good song, but
Toshiro’s movements and choreography made it a beautiful thing, a true piece of art. Toshiro is a master in the art of dance, and I’m lucky to have been the backdrop.
DJ: You’re a very political guy, so your choices always seem political to me. Was this song and its video and/or this choice to make something very different, political? Or was it just, “hey, this is a cool idea, let’s do this”?
PC: I am very political, and I always will be. And when I was younger, I feel like my political outspokenness was a little ham-fisted. But now when it comes to my songwriting, I like to weave the personal into every political position I express. I feel like this song, and this video, and even the album is coming from a deeply personal place. Yet, I really believe that there’s always a little politics in everything, even when we aren’t trying.I’m just happy it comes more naturally now.
DJ: This song is wildly, wildly different from the Paul Cargnello sound people know. Why? Why the decision to branch out in this new direction?
PC: I built a studio, and that made a huge difference in my personal life and subsequently my creative choices. I enjoy challenging myself and my audience. I put down the guitar and the harmonica for my upcoming album, and composed mostly with my third and fourth instruments like drums and keys. I‘ve also never liked my voice, and I wanted to prove to myself that I can sing. So yes, it is a very different direction from anything else I’ve ever put out, but my favourite artists were the kinds of artists that made you chase them, creatively speaking. Things would change from album to album, they would challenge me, and sometimes even disappoint, but the important thing is to never be boring.
DJ: Creative reinvention, or play, is good. No one says you have to do the same thing over and over. Still, hearing this new sound suggests that maybe you’re thinking about abandoning the old sound. Are you? Would you ever?
PC: I’ve been at this game for a long time, well over twenty years now. And all that I can be certain about in this industry is the uncertainty I feel with every creative offering. My only answer to this question is a solid “maybe.” Stay tuned.
DJ: Is “Promises” part of a new album or EP or is it just a standalone single?“
PC: “Promises” is the title track, and first single for an album that’s coming out May 3, 2019.
DJ: When’s the first time Montreal audiences will get to see you play “Promises,” and other new songs of this ilk, live?
PC: I’m putting a new band together as we speak. I’ve got some shows here and there, but the first show where we’ll be performing songs from the new album will be at the launch on May 3, and I can’t wait. So like I said, stay tuned! ■
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. For more information on Paul Cargnello, visit paulcargnello.com.