Five Questions With… Wide Mouth Mason
The gold-selling Saskatoon blues-rock duo releases a new album on Friday. Here Shaun Verreault and Safwan Javed discuss returning to their roots, favourite new songs, high school gigs together, and a much-loved Bowie tune.
By Jason Schneider
Wide Mouth Mason formed in 1995 in Saskatoon, releasing its debut album, The Nazarene, the following year. In 1997, a self-titled sophomore recording firmly launched a career as one of Canada’s most popular blues-based rock bands, earning gold status in Canada and a Juno nomination for Best New Group.
In the years that followed, Wide Mouth Mason had another gold record with 1999’s Where I Started, and another Juno nomination for Best Rock Album for their 2000 release Stew. In between, they received two invitations to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival as well as for tours with AC/DC, ZZ Top and The Rolling Stones.
Fast forward to 2019, where Wide Mouth Mason is now a duo consisting of guitarist/vocalist Shaun Verreault and drummer Safwan Javed, with their eighth release, I Wanna Go With You, set to come out digitally on Oct. 25 (with physical copies to follow) via We Are Busy Bodies. It is Wide Mouth Mason reinvented and unapologetically playing the blues.
Recorded by Ryan Dahle (Limblifter, Age Of Electric, Mounties), who also plays bass on some of the songs, I Wanna Go With You shows one of Canada’s most beloved bands taking a fresh approach to the music that initially inspired them. It is everything that longtime Wide Mouth Mason fans have been waiting for and everything new fans didn’t even know they needed.
We caught up with Verreault and Javed as they prepared to launch the album with a show on Nov. 1 at Edmonton’s Blues On Whyte to celebrate the venerable club’s 35th anniversary. For more info, go to widemouthmason.com.
What makes I Wanna Go With You stand apart from your past work?
Safwan: This album is the most blues-focused in the Wide Mouth Mason catalogue. We cut our teeth playing the music of B.B. King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton and others throughout the western Canadian blues bar circuit. It’s a return to our musical roots.
Shaun: A lot of our other records meander around eclectically, almost like mixtapes, channel surfing from one colour to another. I Wanna Go With You starts and stays within shades of blue. I also created a whole different style of guitar playing for it, using three slides on my left hand. It looks like I have C3PO’s fingers.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
Shaun: Some songs had been around for a while. There are a few co-writes that appeared on other records first, like David Gogo’s version of Erase Any Trace, or Every Red Light, which was first recorded by Shawn Hook. But we’re especially pleased with the ones that were written and recorded quickly. Nothing on the record took more than one or two takes, with a few songs being the first time we’d ever played them all the way through.
What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
Safwan: It’s been the process of recording this album. Shaun and I both became fathers a few years ago, and we’ve spent the time since raising our children, so this album was a long time coming. It feels similar to what it felt like to make our first album.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
Safwan: Shaun and I went to elementary and high school together. We’d play in the school bands and would often do step-out performances at school assemblies. Those moments were uniquely thrilling and planted the seed for the birth of Wide Mouth Mason.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
Shaun: There are so many! But I’ve always loved Bowie’s Modern Love, which is why we decided to record it for I Wanna Go With You. It’s an oddball tune for sure—who knows what he was on about in the verses—but it was a blast to revamp it as a one-chord bluesy stomp on our record.