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Roddy Hart bookmarks his future

By Jason MacNeil, April 2007

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Hart had a rapport with Kristofferson during the shows, something he says he never took for granted. In fact, Kristofferson had Hart open up his shows earlier this year, even performing with Hart during his support slot.

"He was such an encouragement, he said to me the last night to never give up because it's so hard these days to get noticed, but never give up. I told him I was about to start recording my first album ("Bookmarks") and said, 'I'll send it to you when it's finished.' He said, 'Well, I'll sing on it.' It was as easy as that. I was gobsmacked!"

Kristofferson recorded his vocals in Hawaii for both songs, including "My Greatest Success," which Hart describes as being "country-oriented."

"I put his vocals together with a Scottish singer called Eddi Reader who I've toured with before," he says of the song. "She was singing in this Emmylou Harris kind of way, she's sort of a Scottish Emmylou Harris, she's got a brilliant voice. So, I put their voices and their parts together, and I had my part in the middle." "I got shivers down my spine, it just was a great moment to hear these two people that I admire so much as songwriters and performers and then me singing with them," he adds. "It's really of the moment, sometimes things can arrive out of nothing, and you get a real buzz from it."

Of the baker's dozen on the album, perhaps the fastest, upbeat song is the pretty and catchy "Flames," which would make Ryan Adams jealous. Hart says it was also one of the songs taken from "Home Tapes" and brought to "Bookmarks."

"The 'Home Tapes' version had a real Van Morrison arrangement to it," he says. "I played a bit of saxophone as well, and I threw that on there on the 'Home Tapes' recording. It wasn't quite right, so I decided to transpose it a wee bit and took it down a couple of keys. We set the tempo a wee bit different. Paul Livingston, the lead guitarist from the Trashcan Sinatras, came up with this brilliant, brilliant riff. We sat and worked out the song together, but he's got these syncopated rhythms and riffs that really set up the song.

"'Flames' is okay, I don't mean it's a throwaway pop song, but there's value in that as well," Hart adds. "It's three and a half to four minutes, and it serves its purpose. It's great fun, and it always seems to be the one that people instantly like, and that gives you the passageway into the rest of the album and songs that might take a bit longer to get into or grow on you."

Another memorable tune is the opening track "The Life And Times Of Joseph Rowe," a song which Hart is a bit coy about. "I don't know if Joseph Rowe is my alter ego, but his identity shall remain unrevealed," he says with a laugh. "That song was inspired by The Band and Jackson Browne's early stuff. There's piano, bass, drums, and there's these big harmonies in the chorus. It was just a song I wrote in 5 or 10 minutes and just loved it."

"There are about 10 verses for that song, and only 2 or 3 verses made it to the final cut. I redrafted and redrafted, so there's probably a few bootleg versions of that song going about. It's a great song, and I wanted to do a song that had subtleties, a kind of stripped down arrangement. It was always just a no-brainer that was the opener for the album. It really set the tone."

Although he's relishing the current response to "Bookmarks," Hart is already looking forward to getting back into the studio. He says he has about 20 songs at various stages for the next record and will probably pare that number down to an even dozen. He thinks he'll be back recording later this summer.

For the time being, Hart will have to be content with playing shows and having his fan base growing slowly but surely. "The people that are coming to the shows are really loving it and are big fans of the album rather than just being indifferent to it," he says. "There are people that are showing a lot of enthusiasm for what I'm trying to do and that means a lot as well and there's something to build on."

And he feels that his career will only go up from here.

"I think gradually things are getting bigger and better for me, and that's the thing that keeps me going," he says. "It's almost like the carrot in front of the donkey, there's always something that's getting bigger and bigger. Even the people who play on 'Bookmarks' and doing tours with Kris Kristofferson and people like that, that's encouraging me not to give up and to keep going.

"It's not necessarily coming from a major label, but people are sort of seeing some value in it, which means more than anything to me. I always would find it too difficult to give up anyway because I've always got about 10 to 15 new songs that I feel people have to hear."

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