When there is a will there is a way.
Folk-Americana act Last Birds, the musical offspring of Lindsay Arnold and her husband Mike Davis, once again proved that statement, completing their first EP. On Oct. 16 they are releasing their debut Worry About It, the first single from the self-titled EP, which was a new and different experience.
"It's been interesting," Arnold said. "We had the first part of the recording process done in February. We had recorded the instrumentation, but we still needed to record vocals and then everything shut down with the pandemic."
Working with producer Brad Prosko and percussionist Jayson Brinkworth, Last Birds recorded the guitar and percussion tracks at Touchwood Studios in Regina before the pandemic hit North America.
"We weren't sure if we'd be able to or when we'd be able to get in to finish all the vocals, and we came up with a great solution," Davis said.
Unable to return to the studio, Davis and Arnold recorded their vocals at the Estevan Days Inn. Using adjoining hotel rooms and a portable recording rig, they were able to maintain social distance while working with Prosco to finish the EP.
"Staff there was really accommodating and in two days we were able to get all the vocals done," Arnold said.
The comfort of the hotel rooms enhanced their experience.
"I think we are kind of spoiled now," Arnold said laughing. "It was actually very enjoyable and it was nice that we could do it in Estevan."
Davis said that time-wise, recording in the hotel would be comparable to going to a professional studio.
"To record a guitar and the percussion was about two days and then we had a break obviously waiting, trying to figure it out. And then vocals took another two days to do, so it was pretty much on par," Davis said.
Last Birds is the new project that follows Arnold and Davis' success with the folk group Hook & Nail, which includes a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for New/Emerging Artist of the Year in 2020 and reaching #4 on the SaskMusic Best Saskatchewan Albums of 2018 list. Over the past two years, Davis and Arnold have been writing songs that focus on vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars, balancing the sound with the musical intimacy possible in a spouse duo. Keeping the instrumentation minimal, their songs hearken to the early days of country-folk music while exploring dilemmas of the modern world.
Last Birds was formed in November 2019, and despite the recording being stopped by the pandemic they still found a way to complete their first EP.
Last Birds' first single, Worry About, was written about two years ago, but it strongly resonates with current events. It follows a troubled mind through a 24-hour period. With great empathy for the human condition, the song touches on growing anxieties that plague our personal and world views.
"It makes a lot of sense these days even though it was written before any of this stuff was happening," Davis said.
"In general you hear a lot about anxiety and mental health. As a whole, we are feeling a lot of worry about what's going on in the world and in Estevan, anxious about the future of the city with a lot of changes that are going to be happening. And it can really be overwhelming. So this song made me really want to strike on the point that it's so important to have people in your life that can see when you are going through a bad time and are with you and look out for you," Arnold added.
Worry About It features a dual lead vocal approach with Arnold and Davis singing close harmonies, a style influenced by the country-rock duo the Everly Brothers. Their voices are layered over interwoven acoustic guitars and supported by accomplished studio musicians Steve Hinson (pedal steel), Brinkworth (percussion) and Prosko (electric guitar).
Last Birds refused to let the current pandemic restrictions stop them from making a video for the release of their first single. Davis and Arnold decided to produce their own video using what they had available at home. The video was shot on location in Estevan using an iPhone. The footage was captured through the cracked and weathered windows of a 20-year-old minivan. An anonymous driver travels through night to day to evening in a disconcerting maze of ordinary life.
"There was no way to get a professional film crew or have multiple people. It was so different. If we wanted a video, we had to make it ourselves," said Davis.
"So we decided to take the idea of somebody driving through their day, going through a 24-hour period. If you watch the video you can definitely see the city of Estevan in the video," Arnold added.
They used some video techniques as well so the video would resonate with an idea of the world around being bewildering and not making sense.
The full-length Worry About It performance will air Oct. 16 or 17 during the United Way Estevan Telethon. One thing the pandemic has taught Arnold and Davis is how to adapt their performance to the ever-increasing reliance on live-streaming and video presentations.
"The release day coincides with the United Way Telethon. We are really fortunate to be a part of that. I think it's important to support local programs that help people in the Estevan area. It's going to be a little different this year. We were able to pre-record a performance. We did that at the North Portal Community Hall," Arnold said.
Also, on the Sunday after the telethon, Last Birds will do a live stream on their Facebook page.
"People can find our Facebook page which is @lastbirdsmusic, they can enjoy a short concert on Sunday at 2 p.m.," Arnold said.
The musicians also added that they are always very grateful for the community support that helps them move forward and keep creating.
"We really treasure the support that Estevan gives us and we really rely on that, it's moving us forward in our music pursuits," Arnold said.
"We do appreciate it very much," Davis added.
Worry About It will be available for digital distribution on iTunes, Spotify and other major online outlets. Last Birds' self-titled EP that contains a collection of six songs is tentatively scheduled for release in February 2021 depending on the situation related to COVID-19.
The music video and the live performance can be found at lastbird.com.