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Searchlight 2017: Get to know finalist the Long War
By
Kerry Martin

Published

April 5, 2017

Genre

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You watched, you voted, and now, it's time to get to know the Searchlight 2017 final four. Leading up to the April 9 finale broadcast on CBC TV, we'll help you get acquainted with each of the artists vying for the title of Canada's best new music act.

Below, read a Q & A with Jarrett Lee of Vancouver's the Long War.


Tell us a little bit about your song.

"Breathe In Breathe Out" is about a friend who was going through some hard times. He was in a dark place — drinking, completely lost. The riff was always under my fingers when I picked up a guitar so I started writing the song but could never finish it. Around that time I quit music, sold all my gear and moved to Vancouver. Many years later Chad convinced me to play a show with him. I played him the song, he wrote a verse and half of the bridge. It was the first show we played together, the first I’d played in a long time and the first song we co-wrote. It has a really powerful meaning to me and brought me back to life in a way. It’s very cathartic. I think it transcends and takes different meanings for different people. I wrote it for a friend and it ended up being for me.

What inspires you to write music?

The people around me that I connect with. How impactful someone can be on your life and how crazy it is that in one moment your life can change. And the places that haunt me. I was in the Yukon for a few summers and a winter — both are strange and magical. It's just so incredibly peaceful and colourful, so vast and ever changing. I did a lot of writing up there. I’m a very contemplative person so it was a perfect place to get lost in your thoughts and write songs.

Who are your musical idols?

Music was a big part of my life growing up. My Dad is a musician and so is my sister. We used to put CSNY or Leonard Cohen on in the morning before walking to school. I was one of the few kids who listened to Steely Dan, my dad had a lot of good albums. I really like jazz a lot, I’m named after Keith Jarrett. All those artists really rounded me out, helped me develop my writing style and sensibility in some way. I was always a huge fan of Neil Young, just a Canadian icon. I remember the day I bought Harvest. Later I went through a pretty intense Jeff Buckley phase, too. He was out of this world special. I went out of my way to collect all of his live albums, his coffee shop performances, everything I could, which sadly wasn’t much. I still have those CDs!

If you were to describe your sound to somebody in one sentence, what would that sentence be?

Vocal forward with haunting harmonies. Modern Canadian folk rock.

What is your favourite thing about playing music?

It’s really just knowing that you’re doing exactly what you love doing. And it can be hard at times to get a song to the place you want it to go. But it’s really interesting to watch other talented, like-minded people help you develop that song and get it to that place it needs to go. There’s really nothing like playing in a band that can do that so seamlessly. I feel really lucky the Long War is a group of people who share the same sensibilities and whose only interest is in getting the most out of a piece.

If you could play a show with anybody, who would you pick?

The Sam Roberts Band would be fun. They’re one of the most successful Canadian rock artists out there, I feel like I could learn so much from them and have a blast doing it. They have a great sound, the songs are iconic and the show is amazing. They seem like good people to be around which would really go a long way. Maybe I could learn how to surf!

What's your favourite musical memory so far?

I’d have to go all the way back to my first live performance, which was at bar on Sparks Street in Ottawa. It was summer time, we were on the patio which was packed and tourists were wandering by. My folks drove in from Toronto with my sister to surprise me, all my friends were there. So, no pressure! The first song we played was a Thrush Hermit tune which I thought was super clever. The very first line my voice just cracked! It was pretty rough but we got through the night, I felt such a buzz afterwards. The nerves never leave and when I hit stage it feels familiar and keeps me honest. I’m always thinking about that night when I perform.

The Searchlight finale airs Sunday, April 9 at 6 p.m. (6:30 NL) on CBC-TV and at facebook.com/cbcmusic.