Song Deconstructed: ‘Stay’ by The Bros. Landreth
Joey Landreth dissects a song that contemplates the pull of life on the road versus the desire to be home with the family
When you blend roots and soul as deftly as Winnipeg, Manitoba, duo The Bros. Landreth, it’s no surprise that awards will follow. From Canadian Folk Awards to Juno Awards, brothers Joey and David Landreth have earned serious recognition since the release of their 2013 debut album Let It Lie. Not only that, years of touring and the strength of second album ’87 have helped grow their reputation as a band that can mine the past in order to create something new from its sonic minerals.
Then, like with much of the music industry, the pandemic brought The Bros. Landreth to a standstill. Unable to tour, they retreated and began work on their most intricate album yet. Using the studio as an instrument in itself, the layered and experimental sound that can be heard on the upcoming record Come Morning has the transportive effect of lifting the listener out of harm’s way, dropping them down in a lush post-Americana landscape.
Taken from the album, recent single Stay tries to balance the pull of life on the road with the desire to stay at home with a loving family, as Joey explains…
This was one of the first songs that I wrote after making a point of trying to write from a simpler perspective. I really wanted to channel a plain-spoken narrative that was really honest and not too flowery. I was playing around with conversational lyrics and stumbled into this song. It was inspired, quite simply, by the feeling of not wanting to leave. I think it’s easy to hear this song and think that I don’t want to tour anymore, but that’s not quite right. I’m still hungry to go back to work, play shows and get on the road, but at the same time, I feel so tethered to my family.
I wrote this one with Roman Clarke who played drums in my solo project, produced my second record, Hindsight, and is now playing drums in this newest version of the TBL band. I think we did a good job of achieving our objective, keeping this song direct, lyrically. All the lyrics are meant to sing essentially as you would say them to a friend if you were trying to convey how you felt. Fun to mention, Dave’s wife, Roberta, donated a verse on this song.
Originally the second verse was:
I could put some roots in the ground
Maybe I could be more than just a name
Roberta offered up an idea while we were editing the lyrics, we loved it immediately and it made the cut:
I could put some roots in the ground
A fixed address beneath my name
Funnily enough, I always thought this song was a B-side at best. Roman and I had a rough demo that was kicking around for a while. When we were looking through our pile of songs to figure out what would make it on the record, I almost didn’t play this one for Dave. When I did, his head snapped around and he got super excited. He convinced me to give it a shot and it quickly became a favourite of ours in this collection of songs.
It was really one of the first tracks that we finished on the record. It was also the first one that Aaron Sterling played drums on. Having him cut drums for the record remotely during COVID was a really anxiety-inducing experience. We’ve always really admired his playing so reaching out to him felt a bit ambitious. Thankfully, he was really enthusiastic and super easygoing, but we were still really weirded out by having a drummer send in tracks. It’s just not how we’d ever done it before and we couldn’t imagine how it could possibly work out.
When we got the drum tracks for this song, we plugged them into the session and a 1000-pound weight was lifted from our shoulders immediately. We were blown away by his pocket, his creativity, and his tasteful parts and playing. I think that was really the moment when we realised that, despite the strange COVID challenges that we had to overcome to make this record, we were gonna be able to fall in love with the process and make something really special.
IN THE STUDIO
With the exception of Aaron sending in the drums and percussion, we made this record in our bubble — just Dave and I, and our producer, Murray Pulver in my little studio space. The production on this song was our best attempt at channelling a bunch of my heroes, especially Emily King, Blake Mills, and Paul Jackson Jr.
Despite being made in a pandemic bubble, this tune, in my opinion, is a great picture of collaboration. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as special as I think it is, without the input of everyone involved. In many ways, I count the influence of those artists I mentioned earlier as tacit collaborators.