MARTIN TIELLI with LUKE DOUCET and BEETHOVEN FRIEZE at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, September 13). $8. 416-598-4753.
The tired excuse about doing a solo project to try things your bandmates won't let you just doesn't hold up for Martin Tielli.
The Toronto songwriter is guitarist/vocalist with the Rheostatics, the kind of group that creates everything from children's songs to ragged Crazy Horse rockers -- not a context that's likely to cramp anyone's artistic freedom.
Still, the guitarist cranked out more than six times the necessary songs for his new solo set, We Didn't Even Suspect That He Was The Poppy Salesman, in between sessions for the Rheos' Night Of The Shooting Stars album due in October. What gives?
"I had to do this," Tielli explains. "I had a songwriting pile-up over a month and a half and realized that most of the tunes would never come to fruition if I did them with the Rheos.
"I always write, but usually very slowly. For some reason, this was effortless. The first time this happened, I was working at an all-night gas station and I'd get nine customers a night. There was nothing to do but listen to Brave New Waves and write tunes. This was kinda similar."
The feel of ...Poppy Salesman is completely different from that of Tielli's day job. The 11-song disc is entirely acoustic and exceedingly intimate, with tracks like hushed opener I'll Never Tear You Apart almost shocking in their starkness.
With none of the feedback and electric twang that he's known for, the only real connection between the solo set and Tielli's Rheostatics work is his elastic voice.
"This is the way I wanted to do music when I started. What made me want to play music was 60s folk music, the records my hippie uncle would give my parents."
As can be heard from his cover of Scott Walker's grim ditty Farmer In The City, it's also a very dark record.
"I find adulthood to be a very black situation," Tielli mutters. "I toyed with the idea of doing a serious album, but left that.
"The modus operandi of the Rheostatics is that you can be a complete buffoon one minute and then say something profound the next. That's what I went back to."