Interview with Award-winning Scottish-Canadian musician David Leask

Today on What On What’s Good with Host Jovin Tardif, I am here with David Leask.  His new EP is “Voyageur in Song”.  In our interview, we discuss songwriting tips, favourite artists, creating his seventh record “Voyageur In Song”, and much more.


1. What first inspired you to get into music?

There was a lot of music in our house growing up. My dad was a drummer and taught my brothers and I some basics. My older brother was an avid record collector which exposed me to a lot of different music. He started a band and I joined in as a drummer and then wanted to get out front so I picked up the guitar. The rest as they say is history!

2. What type of music did you like growing up and why?

The first band I joined was a punk band but over the years I played in pickup bands covering all sorts of music. When I moved to Canada, I became more at home with the acoustic guitar, rather than electric, and I think I was influenced by the rootsy sound of some of the great troubadours. Over the years, I grew to understand that the song was King and tried my best to soak in great songs and go chasing them!

3. Who would you say is your all-time favorite artist and why?

Well, that’s not an easy question. I think without doubt Stuart Adamson from the Scottish band Big Country had a powerful influence on me in terms of his brilliant Celtic melodies and passion in how he was able to tackle a song and get it across to the listener. I also gravitate towards someone like Darrell Scott who is an amazing singer, songwriter, musician, and lyric writer in his own original way and embodies so much that I strive for as a writer and performer.

4. With over almost 3000 shows since moving to Canada, what are some of your favourite venues and why?

It’s funny, I don’t necessarily think of the venues as being the most important factor. While I agree a space can be inspiring and have a great vibe, it’s really the combination of that with the connection between who is in attendance on any given night and where I’m at personally. I read a book on the subject of “Musicking” by Christopher Small that talks a lot about the relationship between performer and listener and it was a bit of a reframe for me on what performance means and what is actually involved. It’s worth checking out.

5. How would you describe the creative process in your seventh record “Voyageur In Song”? How long did it take to create the record?

It was a process like no other record. “Voyageur In Song” is a concept record, each song inspired by unique pieces from Voyageur. The project came about after hearing the Six String Nation Guitar project creator, Jowi Taylor’s moving multimedia presentation, and being given the opportunity to spend time writing songs on Voyageur.

The guitar pulled me to write in a way that was both very stirring and very quick. I sat down, put my arms around Voyageur and I asked her to tell me the stories in musical language. I kept listening and tried to translate the emotion I felt from the stories inside, trying to crack the code. Of everything I heard, nothing was denied, it seemed to flow through me at en-lightening speed! I wrote from different points of view, describing these historical objects and the stories that went with them. It took 4 years from the first encounter with the guitar to the project being released with many amazing moments in between.

6. Where do you typically get your writing inspiration?

In short, it’s really life that goes on around me day to day. However, it can be a bit of a mystery where it comes from. Music ideas seem to just flow sometimes, it’s almost like I sense I need to walk towards an instrument and something will happen. It may be something that you are going through and you are not aware of it but an emotion will seep out into a song idea. Those become mostly musical ideas in various forms of completion. In terms of lyric ideas, they generally come from conversations or something I read. When I hear something that’s cool either sonically or conceptually, I immediately try and riff on that idea and get down as much as I can.

7. What advice would you give to a relatively new songwriter?

Listen to great songwriters and their songs, find what resonates in their music and lyrics. Write as much as you can, try not to judge or doubt yourself too much but don’t be scared of outside input and critiques. Try co-writing, see what you can learn from other folks who do this strange thing called songwriting. Ultimately, work hard at finding your own voice, musically and lyrically and that will be a big part of you building up your best songwriting muscle which is your instinct.

8. Do you have any hobbies outside of music?

Walking & reading & watching rugby, a game I grew up playing in the Scottish Borders.

Voyageur In Song by David Leask

1 Against The Grain
2 The Legend Of Joe Labobe
3 Fire & Ice
4 Spirit Wrestlers
5 Take A Seat
6 Les Chansons Du Voyageur

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Jovin Tardif
Jovin Tardif is a freelance writer, storyteller, interviewer, reviewer and conversation starter.