Northern Chorus brings local bands together

New Brunswick-based band Sleepy Driver released a collaborative album featuring 20 artists in the summer called Northeastern Chorus. (Submitted: Christine Lund)

The New Brunswick-based band, Sleepy Driver, released a collaborative album featuring 20 artists in the summer called Northeastern Chorus. The group of artists, who are also called Northeastern Chorus, was set to perform at the Fredericton Playhouse on Nov. 27 but had to reschedule because of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The Northeastern Chorus started in 2017 and recorded in the basement studio of Peter Hicks, Sleepy Driver’s lead singer, guitarist and songwriter. The project is different from anything that Sleepy Driver has created in the past because of the large team behind it and also the content.

“We didn’t want it to be specifically a Sleepy Driver album,” said Hicks.

The album is currently available for purchase online on Sleepy Driver’s website and in local music stores like Backstreet Records. It’ll also be available through streaming apps such as Spotify.

Inspiration from collaboration

Sleepy Driver is an Americana and alternative band that first formed in 2009. The band has released several independent albums over the years and played across the Maritimes with many artists and bands.

Hicks, Sleepy Driver’s lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, said it was those previous performances with other artists that inspired the creation of the Northeastern Chorus.

“Along the way … we would always invite people up to play with us,” said Hicks. “We thought that was fun and thought, you know, maybe what we should do is a Sleepy Driver and friends album.”

With the added influence of other artists, Hicks said audiences can expect the album to have a bit more of a country and bluegrass sound than what Sleepy Driver usually has.

He said the process of creating the album was a group effort from each of the artists who contributed.

Hicks said he would work with the drummers that we had in and lay down the foundation of the song. Then, they’d bring different people in over to contribute and collaborate with two or three people at a time and work through their contributions.

“See, you know what were really sketches of songs turned into kind of the fully realized thing,” said Hicks.

‘A relaxed and organic pace’

Juanita Bourque, left, is a member of Les Chanterelles who said the process for the collaborative album was relaxing and calm. (Les Chanterelles/YouTube)

Juanita Bourque, a former member of Sissy & the Hobos and a current member of Les Chanterelles, said the process was quite relaxing and calm.

“Peter [Hicks] has this great ability to just put people at ease, which made the recording process feel so natural,” said Bourque. “The project took time … but we were able to piece everything together at a very relaxed and organic pace.”

Bourque said that many of the artists were working on other projects at the same time as the collaborative album, but that she never felt rushed with the project.

Now that most of the province is back to the orange phase, the Northeastern Chorus will perform on May 14, 2021.

“It was all good intentions to bring it to the stage at the Playhouse, but now … we’re feeling like it’s not the time to do it,” said Hicks.

“Hopefully, the second wave will be gone and hopefully there won’t be a third.”