"I just wanted to write songs that came from my heart."
So said songwriter Robbie Patterson on the making of his debut CD, Slow Walker, a self-produced album recorded almost entirely in his basement studio. The music is rich with acoustic guitar, textural percussive elements and lush string arrangements. Melodies haunt and enchant and are juxtaposed with poignantly off-kilter keyboards.
It's difficult to say exactly how long it took to make the album. Patterson had been working for a decade as a songwriter and his own record emerged during his efforts in the production and writing of several other artists work. Slow Walker touches on the appreciation of the "here and now" and the individuals who are most important in our lives. The album also speaks to Patterson's transition away from the commercial songwriting arena and into his own realm as indie songwriter, performer and band leader. "The One To Blame was really about my relationship with, and need to move away from the mainstream pop atmosphere, of writing for other people and toward making music that was more important to me. There was a sense of exploitation, and I needed to enter my own sphere as an artist and create music that was personal. It was a move that was long overdue".
By no means is Patterson suggesting that writing songs in the commercial music industry was all hardship, and he reminisces on some amazing moments with other songwriters and musicians. He wrote radio singles, soundtracks, and scores he was proud of and those songs have been heard in many countries around the world. One point of pride was his collaboration with Toronto artist, Snow, on several releases. Patterson co-wrote most of the songs on Snow's Mind on the Moon CD including hit singles "Joke Thing" and "Everybody Wants to Be Like You". His writing on the album earned Patterson several music industry awards in 2001 and Juno nominations for Best Songwriter and Best Pop Album.
Although Patterson has stepped away from mainstream writing, he continues to produce selected artists albums.
His obsession with music began when he learned to play bass at the age of eleven. He went on to explore guitar and various other instruments while involved in several popular Toronto bands. One of the earliest groups was Lazy Ace, and in 1992, they won the Q107 Homegrown contest for "Chooser", a song written by Patterson. He then joined another rock outfit, Blyss, and toured extensively with his bandmates.
It wasn't long into touring before he found himself signed with PeerMusic as a full-time writer for numerous big-name acts. In the end, though, he found that he missed playing live. As the songs for Slow Walker were being finalized, Patterson began approaching musician friends with the hope of forming a new band.
Enter guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Darrell Wallace (Hello Beautiful, The Sea Monsters). The two began playing together toward the end of Slow Walker's production phase and forged a partnership with the aim of creating a band of like-minded musicians. "I've always loved what Darrell brings to the music. He adds textures and melodies I would never have thought of, and once we started working out the songs live; they really came to life." With the addition of core bandmates Graham Shaw (drums, percussion), Chris Eakins (keys, piano, percussion), Ryan Nicholls (bass), Corey Zaks (guitar), and accompanied by Alex McMaster (cello) and Amanda Penner (Viola), they've developed a rousing live show and are now working on new songs for a future release.
To say that Patterson has passion in what he does would be an understatement. He becomes animated when discussing the music and his eyes brighten and sparkle with an intensity that only a person with great love for his craft can. At once he is dramatic but unassuming, deadly serious but whimsical. Regarding the upcoming album, Patterson states, "with artistic freedom comes more authentic and heartfelt music. I'm always searching to get closer to the truth, but it's a lifetime endeavour. You can never be finished with that."
Indeed. And, like Slow Walker, the new songs and upcoming CD will most certainly come straight from the heart.