Barefoot & back to his roots

Nich Worby releases sophomore album—Oh, How?—on Brantford's Ford Plant label

Worby, ArtSci '07, celebrates the Kingston release of his new CD tonight at The Grad Club.
Worby, ArtSci '07, celebrates the Kingston release of his new CD tonight at The Grad Club.
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Interview: Nich Worby CD Release Concert @ The GradClub, Tonight

Brantford is to Nich Worby what barley is to beer.

The southwestern Ontario city seeps into the Queen's singer-songwriter’s work in one way or another whether he likes it or not, and his recent album, Oh, How? is no different.

“There’s still a lot of Brantfordisms poking out of the bushes,” he said.

More than over a year in the making, Worby released Oh, How? in September. The eighttrack disc put out by the Ford Plant, a Brantford venue/gallery/label that has a special place in Worby’s heart.

“It’s a collective with the immediate goal of urban renewal in Brantford,” he said.

“When I was growing up, [Brantford] was a really economically depressed area, higher than average, and there was a huge factory pull-out and the cultural aspects of the city were in neutral—there wasn’t much going on.” Created in 2002, the alcoholfree, all-ages and not-for-profit concert venue, run by a collective of nine volunteers, became an initiative to halt the city’s cultural stagnancy. The Ford Plant is something with which Worby is proud to be associated.

“Just being affiliated with them is great. They were around for me in the beginning and … it is good to not feel disconnected from my roots and where I came from,”he said.

Oh, How? is the followup to Anyone Lived in a Pretty How-Town, Worby’s nine-song debut album, which he sold in mini-disc format. He recorded Pretty How- Town in his grandmother’s basement on a four-track cassette recorder. Worby also performed and recorded in the raucous duo of Tomate Potate, who disbanded after drummer Devon Lougheed graduated in April. For Oh, How?, the original concept was to record a seven-inch vinyl of a four-song cycle which originally included tracks “Effie Jones,” “Of Meatheads and Martyrs,” “Emperor Achoo,” and “Our Yardsale,” Worby said. “I originally went into the studio with the four songs that I wanted to record … and they were all bastardized versions of stories that my Grandma told me,” he said, adding that he changed names and details.

“And then [a few months] went by and I decided I wanted to record more songs.”

For his sophomore album, he called on his friends in Ohbijou—a band originally from Brantford and based in Toronto—to lend their strings and glockenspiels, as well as background vocals and plenty of handclaps, to the album. “Working with Ohbijou is great because I have been friends with them for years and years and they had been at my first shows … It just made sense to work with them,” Worby said.

“They put a lot in creatively. It was really informal. I had never done string arrangements or anything like that, so I was really nervous about it and we all pulled together our thoughts.”

It was also Worby’s first time in a recording studio. “We recorded half of it in a studio, and the other half in the basement of a house,” he said, explaining that he wasn’t completely comfortable in the studio.

Getting out of the studio allowed Worby to utilize creative recording techniques, including mic-ing the
stairwell to capture the marching band sounds of “All Blind Mice”, and recording softer songs such as “Ghost Bike” in Ohbijou bassist Heather Kirby’s bedroom.

His grandmother’s stories shine through most prominently in “Effie Jones,” which Worby explained is
based on an amalgamation of two of her most exceptional stories. “One of them my grandma used to talk about was how Dylan Thomas, who is also from Wales, drove the bus in her town,” he said. “I later found out that that was historically and biographically impossible.”

The second story was how Worby’s grandmother would hide in doorframes during the battle of Britain to avoid getting bombed as planes would fly over her hometown of Cardiff.

“Just hearing her talk about it, I thought it was a really interesting image of her,” he said.

To give his album a more personal and intimate feel, Worby is hand-sewing the packages of the first 50 copies, something that he said relates back to growing up in Brantford. So far, he’s only been selling copies at his live show, but next month (or whenever he finishes up the artwork) the album will receive a full, mass-produced release and will then be available in stores.

“I think Brantford is really fortunate that it is [a] good enough distance away from Toronto,” he said. “It’s cool to be outside of that. The DIY culture, of course it’s happening in Toronto, but I feel it is more pervasive in small towns.”

Worby feels this is especially true for his hometown. “We grew up without social resources that a lot of people would have had [living in bigger cities],” he said.

Despite the hardships, Worby says he’s proud to hail from Brantford. “Not a lot of people are.”

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Worby is celebrating the release of Oh, How? tonight at the Grad Club with Jonas Bonnetta and Timber Timbre. Doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets are $5 at the door.

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