Jim Guthrie's gearing up to take off his water wings.When we last checked in with the shy singer-songwriter, he was spinning his wheels in anticipation of his second record, overwhelmed by the attention being focused on Three Gut Records, the li'l label he helped launch.
Today, with his new Morning Noon Night disc getting glowing reviews and his labelmates hooked up with sweet distribution deals (think Sub Pop and Rough Trade) now that Three Gut is the darling of indie pundits worldwide, Guthrie's learning that exposure might not be such a bad thing.
For starters, he's snagged a decent grant to start work on his next album, which he's obligated to release within a year -- a daunting task for a dude whose sophomore effort dropped three whole years after his much-praised debut.
He's evasive about what kind of grant and for how much, and in typical Guthrie style is humble about the windfall.
"It's not even a grant where they give you money -- it's more that they'll match what you want to spend.
"Still, it's so awesome to have such a great grant system in Canada. It's funny, 'cause they'll still give a grant to, like, Tom Cochrane or somebody who doesn't necessarily need the money. While I have issues with the system, it's great to be recognized. It's just weird that it's such a big popularity contest."
Listen closely: in the cracks of self-effacing humour, you detect a hint of edge. It's a new -- and necessary -- angle for the optimistic philosopher. Methinks Jimmy Three Guts is growing up.
Makes sense. While pals like Three Gut artistic maven Tyler Clark Burke have commented on Guthrie's reluctance to seize the reins in the past (he was more than happy hiding behind bandleader Aaron Riches's shadow as a Royal City guitar slinger), he's learning the ropes of how to head up a band.
At Saturday's show at the El Mo, he's backed by a solid lineup that includes Royal City bassist Simon Osborne, Rockets Red Glare drummer Evan Clarke and even a smallish string section (featuring the Hidden Cameras' Owen Pallett and Michael Olsen).
Guthrie insists he feels responsible for all his band members ("I wanna create an atmosphere where everybody feels comfortable"), but claims he's got a great role model in Riches. A former one-man bedroom-pop band, Guthrie adds that his new collaborations with Pallett are setting the tone for his next record. The lush string arrangements on Morning Noon Night give a taste of what's to come.
His new disc demonstrates a much more confident frontman. With Guthrie's trademark bloopy PlayStation samples (check out the Atari nostalgia of Toy Computer) shivering beside painfully eloquent string-accented love ballads, the variety makes your head spin. Weirdly enough, it firstname.lastname@example.org
JIM GUTHRIE CD release with the Crying Out Loud Choir at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Saturday (January 25). $tba. 416-777-1777.