NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Patrick Watson often hangs with artists, many of them in his home of Montreal, so it is only fitting that he will be bringing his artistic brand of indie pop/rock to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art as part of its "Oh Canada" summer-long art and music festival.
It is also fitting that his local stop will be another adventure on his band's worldwide travels -- this one just a little closer to his backyard.
"I am definitely inspired by different visual artists." In fact, he formed his first band after composing the music for Montreal-based visual artist Brigitte Henry's photobook "Waterproof9," Watson said last week in a telephone interview from the road, heading to San Diego from Denver.
Watson, though, says one of his major influences is the road, and he and his bandmates have seen a lot of places and seen a lot of different audiences. "We travel all around the world, and every place has its own charms -- the French audiences are quiet, though," he said. "In America and Canada, it depends more on the city, the region ... West Coast, the Northeast ... than the country."
Next stop, New England.
Watson and his band will perform as part of MASS MoCA's Alt Cabaret series on Saturday, June 30, at 8 p.m., in the Courtyard C Café, or in Club B-10 if it rains.
Raised in Quebec and now residing in Montreal, Watson comes to North Adams known for his ability
"It was a question of time and money," he said. "This is not the day and age when you spend a whole year in the studio, like the Beatles on the "White Album." Over the last 10 years, I have built a great studio. But it was more that we could just spend our time and take the time. It is an important record for us, to pick 12 beautiful songs and put them out."
‘Adventures' of the personal nature
Several of the songs seem personal in nature -- the song "Into Giants" has a line, "Started as lovers don't know where it's gonna end." And Watson agrees.
"A very simple song, a very simple idea," he said. "It is about a family, including our wives and friends, your friends. Any situation you come up with becomes small when you compare them to the bonds; people take you places. Where are they going to take you."
Watson and his band have gone a lot of places, musically.
After working on "Waterproof9," Watson formed his eponymous band with Mishka Stein on bass, Simon Angell on guitar, and Robbie Kuster on drums. They released their first album together in 2003. The band's 2006 album, "Close to Paradise," went gold in Canada, winning the Polaris Prize and selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. In 2007 he was nominated as New Artist of the Year at the Juno Awards, and he and his band have worked with music greats of all genres, such as Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, Feist, Cold War Kids, James Brown, and the Cinematic Orchestra. Watson wrote and performed much of the Cinematic Orchestra's 2007 album, "Ma Fleur," including the popular track "To Build a Home."
He writes all the songs, usually on a piano -- "I am a pianist, the piano comes naturally. I can't play a guitar to save my life."
But Watson doubles as a producer and composer of film scores, in addition to playing piano, singing vocals, and writing songs as the leader of his band.
"Writing and performing music for film is kind of a fun adventure," he said. "You make music to help make the film a better film ... it is more about the music than the song ... you are just making music. But I sometimes come up with jewels (of music) that I incorporate into my songs. It about the arrangements more than melody and harmony. I learned a lot about string by doing them (in film scores) ... it is a way to explore."
Strings are also well used on his newest, "Adventures in Your Own Backyard," released in the Unites States in May.
"I know it is more orchestrated, music inspired by an orchestra gig, working with great arrangers" on film scores, he said. On "Adventures," he said, some songs wanted the big orchestrated sound, but "a song does need to be big unless it is part of the song ... but orchestral arrangements can work more like lyrics in that they can tell a story."
It is always unfair to try to categorize alt music, but that is what music writers do: So Watson's "Adventures" sounds a little like Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois music crossed with lyrics by "Death Cab for Cutie," with a little Joe Henry and, maybe, the vaguely Canadian accent of Cowboy Junkies.
"Every member of the band likes different things, we are definably not linked to one style music," Watson said. "I like classic music. For lyrics, I go to simple stuff, Bob Dylan ... lyrics are a more personal experience. I am definitely a surrealist, I find things that are half surreal and half lyrical. If a sound is totally different than I have heard, I like it."
"We have always had our musical position, we step our beat, musically, where we want to go," he said. "It is an adventure and the adventure kinds of guides us. We always want to take an audience on an amazing adventure."
Like maybe to his backyard in Montreal.
Contact KD. Norris at email@example.com or tweet or follow him on Twitter @banner_arts_KD.
MASS MoCA is located off Marshall St. Tickets are $12 in advance, $16 on the day of show, and $10 for students. For tickets and information call 413-662-2111 or visit massmoca.org.