In Dreams with Tom Brosseau
What happens when you move from North Dakota to Bristol, England
By Doug Freeman,
2:04PM, Wed. Mar. 12, 2008
Tom Brosseau's high trill seems otherworldly, simultaneously comforting in its gentleness and unsettling in its plaintive uniqueness. While 2006’s Grand Forks (Loveless) wove vignettes of Brosseau’s North Dakota hometown into an evocative, nostalgic exploration, for the recording of last year’s Cavalier (Fat Cat), he intentionally uprooted to untrodden terrain in Bristol, England.
“I was basically unfamiliar with the surroundings,” says the soft-voiced Brosseau. “Even though I’d been there several times before, it was always to play, so going to Bristol to record was a totally different thing. Everything, it seemed, even the places in Bristol I had been to, was unfamiliar. It was good, because there's no past, there was no memory. Things were familiar, but there was no memory so it was very easy to go in record and it kind of heightened the importance of what I felt I was doing. I can’t explain exactly why that is, but I felt that we're all in a place that had no memory, we were all just on new ground together.”
Memory has always swirled uneasily in Brosseau’s songs, flicking in detailed imagery, but feeling ever elusive, as if in a dream, half-remembered upon waking. Appropriate, then, that Brosseau should find the inspiration for Cavalier in his dreams rather than his memories.
“I think that things choose you,” he offers in relation to his songwriting. “It’s not necessarily that you’re looking for something, but just something in the ether comes down and it chooses you. So for me, it was 'Cavalier,' this word, this kind of hard sounding C-word, and it had just been recurring, and coming to me again and again in my dreams, and it just made sense to me.
“So I just kept on writing it down on my hand, and it looked good. I could see the color of what it was. And it just made sense, and that was it. I didn’t tell anybody about it, and then when I was recording this record with John [Parish] in Bristol, he stopped me during one take, and he said, ‘I appreciate your cavalier approach.’ And I thought, ‘How funny is this!’ I didn’t say anything to him and I later found out it was just going to be the title all along. So I think that this title really chose this record, this concept.”