Songwriting was at a standstill for Dan MacCormack — until one quote inspired an entire album.
A six-year-long project birthed Halifax-based artist MacCormack’s 10-track album, Symphony of Ghosts, entirely based on the characters, places and stories of David Adams Richards’s books.
“I was working on a song and was frustrated and this quote from Those Who Hunt The Wounded Down perfectly captured what would come from my own song.”
MacCormack took his time with the album, reading some of the books more than twice in order to get a concept people could relate to.
“The difficulty was more on how much respect I have for his work. He’s a well-known Canadian author with tons of awards. I didn’t want to just wrap this up in three or four months.”
The album was released on Oct. 17, the day of both MacCormack and Richards’s birthday. Richards heard of MacCormack’s project a few years ago while he was giving a reading at Saint Mary’s University.
“It’s such an honor. To spend so long, a creative artist and a very fine one, to spend that much time to go over my work and love my work enough, my characters enough, to write about them is wonderful,” said Richards.
MacCormack bases the album’s first song, Face Your Hunters, off of one of his favorite character’s Richards created, Jerry Bines.
“Jerry Bines is the type of character that could’ve become a great man and he denies himself that in so many ways and in one final act towards the end of the book he tries to become what he should have been. In a way he’s a symbol for so many of us,” said Richards.
MacCormack said he was able to relate to the characters and settings in the books because of where he’s from in Cape Breton, in a small industrial town like those mentioned in many of the books.
“The way people deal with things emotionally, things like tragedy and globalization, are pretty common things in the Maritimes and especially small communities in the Maritimes,” said MacCormack.
The songs tell a range of stories from a logging community to a father-daughter relationship. MacCormack says he didn’t want to leave any ground uncovered.
“For me, this was a labour of love. I wanted to take my time, I wanted to do a good job, not superficially use the works, so for each song I developed a unique concept.”