Accordionist ‘slept on a bench’: Cowboy Junkies plan to return to New Zealand

The Cowboy Junkies have announced a New Zealand tour. Songwriter Michael Timmins talks to Vicki Anderson about recording their classic album, The Trinity Session.

It was a mammoth day-long recording session in a Toronto church that changed their lives and paved the way for alternative country.

Canadian alternative country pioneers The Cowboy Junkies have released their acclaimed second album, The Trinity Sessionin 1987 at Holy Trinity Church in Toronto.

Recorded using a single Ambisonic microphone, the album captured the attention of critics and fans around the world. It sold over a million copies, but its influence was much greater.

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Cowboy Junkies – siblings Michael, Peter and Margo Timmins and bassist Alan Anton – enjoyed new mainstream success following their Velvet Underground cover. Sweet Jane was used in the 1994 film soundtrack born killers.

“‘We recorded the album in one session in one day,'” recalls songwriter Michael Timmins.

“But there was a lot of preparation upstream. We rehearsed well, many parts were improvised. We spent half the day, six hours, trying to find the right location for the microphone.

The band spent an additional six hours performing and recording, determined to capture their sound live.

“We finally settled in a place where we were happy with the way things were going. Then we spent another six hours playing, we played each song maybe three or four times, and then we were done. We went out that day with the record.

The Church of the Holy Trinity was a functional church. The band praised it after drawing inspiration from some earlier classic recordings by recording engineer Peter J. Moore.

“I remember that day so much,” Timmins said.

“It was an incredible day from a musical point of view, you can hear it, that’s what’s great about this record. I have lots of memories. »

He met accordionist Jaro Czwewinec, a session musician who would play with the band for a few years, for the first time that day.

“He lived four hours away so we never got to get him to rehearse. He showed up that day and had just come out of his gig which was this traditional Ukrainian dance band,” Timmins said.

“He came there in his finery, he showed up with his red boots, his tassels. He was exhausted and slept on one of the benches while we recorded. Someone woke him up and he played beautifully.

A few days later, once the song on gold mining was recorded, the album was complete.

In over three decades the band’s line-up has remained cohesive, they have recorded 16 studio albums and five live albums, often a mix of covers and originals, never deviating from being “true to them- themselves” and their artistic vision.

“I grew up listening to albums, we love the artwork, the story. Whether it’s economically relevant or not doesn’t matter to us, it’s all about the album,” said said Timmins.

songs of remembranceThe band’s latest album, due out March 11, pays homage to songs “that have found their way into our lives and ultimately into our repertoire over the past 50 years”.

“We grew up sitting around the record player listening to each other’s record collections and having our heads blown. It was the passion we shared. Our goal has always been to create music that grabs the listener as that music grabs us.

Cowboy Junkies last performed in New Zealand on the main stage at Sweetwaters Music Festival in Auckland in 1999, sharing the line-up with Elvis Costello, The Stranglers and The Melvins, among others.

“I remember it was controversial,” Timmins said.

“People were scrambling to get paid, we got paid, but a lot of people didn’t. That’s what I remember most. We had a great time in New Zealand, it was fun to be there.

The group returns to New Zealand in January 2023 with shows in Auckland, Wellington and Isaac Theater Royal in Christchurch and Timmins hope to find some quiet time during their visit.

“I plan to arrive in New Zealand a few days early, so I can take a few days to fish,” Timmins said.

“I’m a fly fisherman hoping to find some trout.”

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