I met Aiden Canaday a couple of years ago by pure chance in Lisbon. In the Summer it gets quite hot at night so the bars and streets of Bairro Alto (a bohemian quarter of Lisbon) become crowded with people and there is usually a great atmosphere. Whoever has ever gone to Lisbon on holiday knows how easy it is to strike a conversation to anyone that’s having a drink near you on the streets of Bairro Alto. So that was it, Aiden was there with a couple of friends, I was there with a couple of friends and we all started talking. As locals in-the-know we took them to a few other clubs and said our goodbyes at the end of the night. The next day after a friend’s house party we headed to the bar area and we bumped into them again! It must have been the Universe saying that we were destined to become friends (or maybe that Lisbon is just a very small city, but I prefer the former).
It turned out that Aiden and his friends (not artists, mind you) were having fun organizing and producing a whole art show, to be held anywhere that would accept it. They spoke to some people in a few bars and managed to blag it! I found all of it to be extremely funny so my friends and I all attended the opening and it was a load of fun. Obviously that at this point we started realizing that we did have a lot of things in common and so our friendship was born.
As you may have already realized after this introduction, Aiden is a very creative and artistic man, so I wasn’t surprised at all when I found out that he is also a musician and songwriter and a talented one at that. I have had the chance to see him perform in Oxford and it was great.
So in my endeavour to show off all my cool and creative friends to the world, Aiden had to be interviewed. Enjoy 🙂
When did you start writing songs?
I think I was 16 or 17. I wrote the first one on the toilet actually, the words and melody anyway! Then I started figuring it out on the guitar, back in the bedroom. Not sure how it all came together as I’m pretty shit at guitar. And piano. And singing. But oh well. That was the first one. And then they just came to me here and there over the years.
What inspires you the most?
Probably the people close to me, and words. I used to say ‘People are the inspiration’, and that’s pretty cheesy. But for me, I guess it’s true. Other than that, music and art inspire me. I listen to music all the time and that has it’s effects. And I often take a line from a book and turn it into something new, or it starts a tangent or something. I like the way words sound together, even if they don’t make sense. I only write songs when I have the words. I couldn’t want to write a song if I had a lovely riff all ready to go, the music comes after the meaning for me. Although that could be because I can’t write riffs! Dreams, or images in my dreams, regularly ignite some form or wanting to write a song or paint a painting.
What are your songs mostly about?
The people close to me, family and stuff. War! When I was younger I used to write a lot about war. It’s all my feelings really, things I care about. People say I don’t really show too much emotion, so I guess if I have any, I channel it into my songs. My band mate Alex jokes that I have a small song writing vocabulary, something like ‘love, peace, war, lions’. He has a point. I try to mix it up a bit, but I tend to go back to old poems I’ve written and take a line from here and a line from there and build them up again into something worthwhile for me.
Who are your favourite musicians/ songwriters?
There’s a lot! But my favourites are Nick Drake, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, The Velvet Underground, and more recently The National. All in different ways they have influenced me, and for different reasons I’ve loved them. The list could go on quite easily though. TV on the Radio, Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle & Sebastian..
Tell us a little bit about your band The Cooling Pearls and their sound.
I sing. All the others (the talented ones) write the music. We’ve recently evolved from a thought I once had of fronting a band to a full 7 piece live spectacle. The length between the two points has been quite long and quiet, but it’s very enjoyable and we play live shows and get together to make music rather regularly now, despite me living in London and the rest in Oxford. It’s essentially a folk band, and every song we’ve recorded or written has come about in a completely different manner, which I find really interesting, and it hopefully keeps things fresh. Some of the songs are ones that I wrote years ago and played live on my own, which have either been totally reworked, or kept to their original minimalism. Then with others we have either all jammed together and made songs or Alex has written something wonderful on guitar and then we all play around with it until something feels right. The songs are sad, sometimes haunting, sometimes not, with folk guitar and violin backed up by a swelling accordian and keyboard and differing harmonies here and there. All of us are scared of being boring I think, so we’re always reworking and evolving the songs until we have to play them live. Alex, Sian and I wrote an album 2 years ago, but we’ve since joined forces with some friends to take it a bit more seriously and have written a load of new songs. All I do is basically front the band, the others make the band. It’s a strange set up, but it seems to be working.
What other art projects are you involved with and how did they come along?
Well, I paint when I can. I have a list of different art projects that I want to do/start/continue with but it’ll probably take a lifetime to complete. These include landscape paintings, both attempting to be real and some abstract ones, full figure portraits, lino cuts in all shapes and sizes, some form of lyrical prints, and whatever comes to mind when I start something fresh. I help to run a night called Pop-Up Nights which is a mix of art and music in a lovely little setting – Fusion arts in Oxford. Basically I just get my friends to make some art for the night and we display it and get bands to play, and it’s getting quite a bit of good press. Well, we had one review, but it was positive! Am gonna start doing it in London too, come the autumn.
I’m aware that you have been experimenting with different forms of expression and have recently started a pottery class. What would you like to do next?
Who knows?! I could make pots and ceramic sculptures for the rest of my life! There’s so much to every art form, it’s just crazy really. I’m not great at painting, printmaking or ceramics, but I think those three art forms will do for me for the next few years.
What do you suggest for a day in London- favourite hang outs, things to see?
The Sun Inn on Bethnal Green Road is a wonderful little pub, that I only found out about because the house I live in is basically next door. Very warm and friendly. For football fans, The Albion pub near Broadway Market is a brilliant place to watch football and has a great selection of beers. I like walking up Regents Canal on a sunny day. When I didn’t live in London people who did used to say that it was just great that there’s all of the museums and galleries with exhibitions popping up all the time. They were right, it is great, and I try to go to something like that whenever I have a day off.
Hmmmm, I don’t know. I’ve read The Bell Jar twice, so too The Catcher in the Rye. But it’s probably Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. So incredibly powerful and it’s kinda like a sucker punch to your life and thoughts. Very realistic, very depressing. I’ve got a list of all of his work, and I’m slowly getting through it this year. The main good thing about the Tube is that I read all the time. Orwell and Murakami are wonderful to me too.
I’m a massive fan of painting, and can’t get beyond Picasso. He was a monster that devoured everything and did it so much and so brilliantly. I really love Munch, Van Gogh, Bacon, Matisse and Hockney too. They’re my six, with Picasso on the top.
It used to be Legends of the Fall, until I watched it recently and it didn’t have the same effect on me. Mainly because it’s rubbish. Along the way I’ve loved The Rock, Face/Off, Maid in Manhattan and Daylight, but they were passing favourites (even for silly, fleeting moments). Its between The Lives of Others and Life is Beautiful.
Next vacation trip?
Off to Germany with my football team, Union Street FC, for a weekend tournament in Kassel. It’s no ordinary tournament though, it is known as the DAM, which is a bloody amazing and friendly annual mini festival based around football. It’s basically 31 German teams and us, and it’s pure fun.
And the last, when are we all going back to Lisbon holiday?