Five Questions With… Ayla Brook
Ayla Brook (pronounced Ey–Lah) makes music as raw and vast as the Canadian Prairies.
By Jason Schneider
Ayla Brook (pronounced Ey–Lah) makes music as raw and vast as the Canadian Prairies. From his beginnings in Lily Plain, Saskatchewan, to successful records recorded with AA Sound System, to now his solo work, Ayla has never wavered from his original vision of honest roots rock.
What sets Desolation Sounds apart from your previous work?
This album is one made by a bunch of folks who have been playing together for a long while and who have a certain confidence and camaraderie. That being said, we had a willingness to be pointed in new directions by our producer Terra Lightfoot to try new ideas and approaches. The arrangements sit between the stripped-down acoustic production of my first solo record After the Morning After, and the straight-up bar band approach of the Sound Men's first album. Also, we had the gift of having Terra and engineer Emily Bachinski lending their vocals to several tracks, and Kimberley MacGreggor doing a track we co-wrote. So there is much more of a female vocal presence.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
The first song on the record, Lift You Up, is a standout and a bit of a mission statement for the record. It's a love song to my music community. It's about keeping on doing what you love for the people you love. And supporting the folks around you trying to do the same.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
I feel like I've just become a more distilled higher proof version of my younger self. I feel I've found a way to draw on all the disparate music traditions I love and honestly express them.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
I'm a letter carrier in my other life. I've started going to union meetings—getting organized and organizing. Things are rough out there, but better if we stick together.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
My folks met in Winnipeg, so we'd often travel from Saskatchewan to the folk festival there where I got to see so many guitar greats and wonderful songwriters. I'm a short person, so I'd squish right up to the front of the stage, pretty much right between the monitors. There I would drink in the playing of folks like Big Dave McLean, Amos Garrett, Ellen McIlwaine and David Lindley. That's where I fell in love with the electric guitar. That's also where I first figured out what a sound tech was and got the first clue what all those cables were doing. Here I am now all these years later, still strumming guitars and wrapping cables!