London, Ontario rock band Texas King brought out their EP ‘Changes’ earlier this month and are working on a full-length album that they hope to release next year.
The band comprises frontman Jordan MacDonald, Colin Gray (lead guitar/back-up vocals), Phil Spina (bass) and Melvin Murray on drums. MacDonald formed the band in 2012, having met Gray and Spina at Fanshawe’s Music Industry Arts college in London, Ontario. Their name has a brilliant provenance: ‘I’m adopted,’ MacDonald said, holding up his fingers. ‘My name before was Austin James. It’s a little word flay with the fingers. If you go “Austin Texas and King James”, then, in the middle, there is Texas King.’
The next album ‘will include a batch of songs I wrote right in the middle of COVID’, MacDonald said. Their recent EP ‘Changes’ consists of six tracks that he describes as a ‘storybook’: ‘There are a few chapters,’ he said. ‘Every song takes you on a journey, the EP is a book of short stories. For me, the opening song ‘Not Myself’ is about something not being right. It’s saying, “I’ve been stuck inside for 158 days” or whatever it is. That leads into the next track ‘Changes’ because somewhere down the line, you realise that you need changes. ‘Strange Life’ is about starting to change a bit. You might still go to see the same people but you might not be having fun there. ‘You’ is about me and ‘Small Towns’ talks about coming back to a place, maybe you’d made some enemies there or maybe you’re trying to forget something or someone, then to segue into the last track ‘Frontlines’, you’ve made peace with all of this. You have this freeing sense of relief, you feel that in the music with the light airiness of the female voices. That’s why you feel more upbeat at the end of the album.’
‘COVID had stormed across and I hadn’t thought about music for months’
‘Not Myself’ is a song that will resonate with a lot of people living through the pandemic and is essentially a cry for help. As the track kicks off: ‘I was awakened by the shakin’ in the floor. I was taken advantage of before’. It’s clearly a very personal song for MacDonald, who wrote the lyrics: ‘It’s exactly what I was feeling at the time,’ he said. ‘COVID had stormed across and I hadn’t thought about music for months. That song was the first one that gave me the drive to demo it out, it galvanised me. I think it normalises saying “It’s ok not to be ok”.’ ‘Small Towns’ has undergone a radical transformation since they first played it four years ago, according to MacDonald: ‘We changed the key and we flipped the solo to the end.’
And while normality still feels a long way off, they have just come back from a 10 day Canadian tour, which has lifted their spirits and they are now hoping that their scheduled North American tour from January to March next year can go ahead: ‘The restrictions have come down but we had a few sketchy nights, racing against the clock,’ he said. ‘Shows right now are normally at 50% capacity, and as of Sunday, no food or drinks can be sold at shows in Ontario.’
‘You’ turns out to be about MacDonald having a conversation with himself: ‘It’s me talking to myself, my songwriting leans that way. This was the first time that I didn’t fix it at the end to make it about someone else (laughs). The chorus is big and rousing, there’s something special about it live. We wrote that song as a band, we were out for the Junos (Canada’s annual music awards) in BC, Vancouver. Melvin, our drummer had the riff, our producer found some magic in that one. It got pretty stripped down and built back up. It’s one of my favourites on the album. It started off with a different drum beat with big, open chords. We normally jam things out and then I try to write the lyrics. I really like finding new ways to say what you’re thinking. It can be frustrating if you feel you’re not achieving it, it’s a bit of a battle.’
As it kicks off: ‘I’m up all night, I sleep all day. I tried to keep it in ‘cos I was afraid of what I thought you might say.’
‘I had one of those voices that I kinda thought sounded weird when I watched early videos of me singing’
MacDonald’s interest in music manifested itself when he was a child and he played the drums at his dad’s church. ‘I was watching the lead singer thinking “That guy’s getting all the attention” (laughs). I wanted to try singing but people were like “No, you’re not a good singer”,’ he said. ‘But I didn’t let that put me off and from 13 to 18, that’s what I did. I had one of those voices that I kinda thought sounded weird when I watched early videos of me singing but that started going away and people started to like my voice.’
His parents played gospel music at home and it was also what he was exposed to at church, although he found ways as a teenager to spice it up: ‘Until I was 13 or 14, I listened to Christian rock but I’d find cooler versions of what we were playing in church,’ he grinned. ‘Then I got into Simon Hoskins on the West Coast and Bedouin Soundclash (a Toronto band that mashes up ska and reggae), City and Colour (an acoustic solo project from Canadian musician Dallas Green), John Mayer and Jack Johnson. I always write songs on the acoustic guitar. Ben Howard, I love his tapping on the guitar. I don’t even know how we ended up in this genre, we all have different influences.’
They’ve had some funny, albeit it dangerous, moments as a band: ‘We slammed into a ditch going to Calgary once,’ MacDonald said. ‘We had a trailer on the back, the trailer was hanging into the ditch but amazingly, we still made it to our show on time. We got there and went straight onto the stage, taking our jackets off on the way. Funnily enough, I kept calling Calgary ‘Minton’ that night, I think it happened four times. I think we were still a bit dazed from the accident as that’s where we’d been the night before. The crowd in Calgary were booing me that night!’
He is very appreciative of how tight-knit Ontario’s music scene is: ‘The standard rock scene has been a thing since I was 18,’ he said. ‘I was so intrigued by it, it’s a brother-sisterhood. You pass each other on the highway, everyone supports everyone.’ If he could go to a gig tonight, he’d love to go and see Catfish and the Bottlemen: ‘Our dream tour would be with them, it would be so dope to play with them. They really get the crowd going. We get the crowd going but we could learn something from them!’
(Photo from left to right: Colin, Phil, Jordan and Melvin)
this story first appeared at http://www.inthebucketplaylist.com at December 18th 2021.
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