Five Questions With… Chris Landry
The Ottawa-based roots songsmith has released a second album. Here he describes his artistic evolution, favourite songs and those he wished he'd written, and a stagecrashing highlight in Fredericton
By Jason Schneider
Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas make the kind of roots music that could be described as, well, rootless. Yes, their sound has a lot of familiar elements—haunting melodies, unflinchingly honest lyrics, raw vocals, shimmering pedal steel—but above all is the deeply personal stories Landry tells that set him apart from other singer/songwriters.
Two Ninety Three is the new offering from the Ottawa-based group, the follow-up to their 2017 debut, One Fifty Five. Why the numbered titles? These are the addresses where Landry was residing when he wrote the records. And like the previous album, Two Ninety Three was recorded at Ottawa’s Tenvolt Audio. Landry sings and plays guitar, Stuart Rutherford plays pedal steel, Jim McDowell plays keys, Kerri Carisse and KJ Thomas sing backing vocals, Steve Donnelly plays bass, and Chris Buttera plays drums.
In keeping with a philosophy of letting his songs develop organically, Landry believes the music can speak for itself rather than try to explain it. Like two of his formative idols, Willie Nelson and Neil Young—the band name Seasick Mommas is borrowed from Neil’s song For The Turnstiles—Landry strives for simplicity and directness while simultaneously turning the tables on tradition as artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Daniel Romano have done so brilliantly in recent years.
Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas officially launch Two Ninety Three in Ottawa on Nov. 29 at Irene’s Pub. Hear more here
What makes Two Ninety Three stand apart from your past work?
I feel like the songwriting has matured. One Fifty Five was the first time I tried writing a country album, and while I think that album is great, I hope that there's been a progression with the new album.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
I’d describe it as a journey. But that's what's so great about music; it's an endless adventure. For me, it started by listening to my parents’ records and singing along with them—lots of Springsteen, John Prine, Neil Young, Carole King. Discovering music on my own after that was when the journey began, but those records always stayed with me.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
That changes a lot. There’s a song on the new album called Feeling It Tonight that I’m proud of. But there’s a song from One Fifty Five called As The Nights Go Shuffling Down that I still like playing a lot too.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
I recorded a song on Two Ninety Three called Carpark Graveyard that was written by a guy named Matty Netzke for precisely that reason. My other choice would be Boulder To Birmingham by Emmylou Harris.
What's your best touring story?
I guess it’s not really a touring story, but I’ll never forget talking my way on to the Harvest Jazz and Blues Fest stage in Fredericton in 2004 and jamming with [Ottawa blues artist] Maria Hawkins and Rick Fines. I wasn't playing the festival at that time.