JUNO Award-winning Canadian songwriter, artist, author and MuchMusic original VJ Christopher Ward has recorded a new take on his most recognizable song, the Billboard #1 hit “Black Velvet” — available now.
The writers who have achieved a #1 single number in the hundreds. This songwriter’s take on the classic comes 31 years after this achievement. It is worthy of your attention.
As far as resumes go, Ward’s is among the nation’s most prolific: To leap by decades, he was a recording artist throughout the 70s, a television icon and founding VJ through the 80s, and a hit songwriter in the 90s. He’s written songs for many — including Diana Ross, Amanda Marshall, Colin James, and the Backstreet Boys — as well as for CTV’s Instant Star, the Degrassi franchise, Cirque du Soleil, and more. His songs have been performed on Idol shows around the world, and he’s won a JUNO Award for Songwriter of the Year. Ward has also authored three novels, Is This Live?, and co-hosts a podcast, Famous Lost Words.
Now, Ward’s take on “Black Velvet” is one of many; the song precedes his forthcoming album, Same River Twice — set for release on May 28, 2021.
Check out “Black Velvet” on YouTube here:
Produced by Ward, Arun Chaturvedi, and Luke McMaster, the album signals a homecoming, or a return, if you will. After a career of writing songs for others, Same River Twice tells his own tale as an artist and writer. “It’s a testimony, of sorts, from someone who’s been ‘working life out’ on a guitar and in a notebook for half a century — and counting, and as times change, and we all age, we still have new stories to tell.
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“The ground I cover in Same River Twice is personal, and the telling is honest and hopeful. These are songs that say it was all worth it, that our choices matter, and that we need dreams to live for.”
A deep faith in the creative process led to the making of Same River Twice this past summer. “A group of brilliant players and singers gathered in the legendary Orange Lounge studio,” Ward recalls. “We recorded in a way that harkened back to the classic Motown and Muscle Shoals style of working; I’d play the song on acoustic guitar for the band, then they’d run it down a few times, making notes and talking about the shape of the song.
“We’d press record,” he continues, “and once everyone was happy, on to the next!
“It was my belief that capturing a performance of the song, live off the floor and while the players were still discovering it themselves, would lead to the ‘loose and live’ feeling that’s so elusive in recording sessions.”
And capture it, they did. The result is a 13-track LP, along with Ward’s reinvention of “Black Velvet,” that will “take you to the places where the song was born.”
“The creation of Same River Twice was a process of rediscovery, like falling in love again,” Ward explains. “I started to write songs that reflect my own life experiences, which I hadn’t done in decades and it led me to value what I have and what life’s about a whole lot more. I wanted to share that to empower people to listen to their own inner voices, as I came to terms with mine.”
Ward talks about the process of making Same River Twice, “How to get those songs recorded was going to be a challenge, but together, my collaborators and I found a way to work safely and still explore the intimacy of playing as a group, bouncing ideas back and forth as we went along. For the players, who had been working exclusively at home for a while, it was like coming out of hibernation, and for me there’s nothing like the joy of playing together and seeing a song evolve before your eyes.”
With inspiration drawn from the greatest songwriters of all time including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Willie Dixon, Laura Nyro and Hank Williams, Ward embraces the possibilities of limitless artistic self-expression and a continued and ongoing drive to create. A lover of the process of collaboration, he believes it ultimately makes for a better song -- like travelling down a river to discover something new as the ultimate reward.
“I’m happy with the work I’ve done, but will always want to write another song,” Ward explains, when asked about who else he would like to write for, or with, next. “I can’t imagine retiring, it’s a terrifying prospect for me. I’m a storyteller with a restless imagination, and with this new album, I want to connect with the listener by trying to make the most out of who I am, how I’ve evolved, and by sharing the process of rediscovery. If I write something true, that touches someone, that’s where the real gratification is.
“I found something meaningful during the process of making Same River Twice, that I thought I had lost. I believe I’ve just made the best music of my life,” he adds. “And I’m not done yet.”
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