Riding Mountain National Park inspiration for Field Guide's latest album

·5 min read

A Winnipeg artist has created a cover of the Coldplay album “Parachutes,” partially inspired by the picturesque views at Riding Mountain National Park.

The first single, “Yellow” — released by musician Field Guide, a.k.a. Dylan MacDonald, featuring Lizzy McAlpine — is a love letter to Coldplay.

The song is an intimate acoustic experience featuring raw, heart-aching vocals from the artist. The ticking drum beat paired with acoustic guitar crafts a feeling of sitting in the recording studio with the band as the song builds to a rousing crescendo of emotion.

MacDonald’s love for Coldplay can be felt in each note.

The “Parachutes” album was an essential record to MacDonald when he was a young musician living in Brandon.

“I specifically remember how I got into Coldplay … I heard a few songs by Coldplay that I really liked, and I definitely was somewhat aware of them. But in my first year of going to Crocus [Plains Regional Secondary School], I was in CP Express, and a really good friend of mine now, Natalie Bohrn [of the band Slow Spirit], she brought in a song called “Violet Hill” to sing in CP Express. That totally launched me into Coldplay,” MacDonald said.

The early Coldplay tunes continue to influence him as an artist, and his latest album is a love letter honouring the bands that have impacted his life.

MacDonald first started out with the idea to create a show based on performing “Parachutes” front to back in concert. He had a spot booked and musicians lined up for the homage, but then COVID-19 struck, killing the possibility of live music for the foreseeable future.

“The world stopped,” MacDonald said. “In the winter I decided to do it as a type of recording project instead.”

The end result was a special record created in Winnipeg and in Riding Mountain National Park.

MacDonald’s best friend and co-producer Kris Ulrich worked on the project while at his parent’s cabin and the album slowly began to take shape.

“I love it up there [in Riding Mountain] so much and the last couple years especially, having all that space up there, it’s quiet and dark and absolutely inspired the moodiness for [the album],” MacDonald said.

The idea to cover “Parachutes” and record the album at Riding Mountain National Park occurred in tandem.

He and Ulrich had been planning to collaborate on a creative project together. The duo did a little bit of writing, demoed some new songs and treated the trips essentially as a creative retreat.

The first song they recorded was “Sparks” and the record began to take shape around the single.

The end result was a rousing homage to Coldplay with MacDonald’s take on the album “Parachutes.”

“It’s a moody record, to begin with, so we didn’t necessarily change that. But it’s a little bit more intimate, it’s a little bit more close. It’s smaller sounding. It doesn’t sound like a band playing loud in a large room, which is kind of what the original sounds like,” MacDonald said. “It’s a little bit more soft-spoken.”

The record took just under a year to write, record and engineer.

For the album, MacDonald learned all the songs on acoustic guitar before bringing them to the band to arrange their music around. While performing and arranging the music, they treated it as if he had just written the songs.

“It was very organic,” MacDonald said.

He added it was a unique experience because, for the most part, no audiences heard the songs before they were pressed because live concerts were a no-go during COVID-19.

It was a one-of-a-kind experience, he said, because at least half the record had never been played live.

“It’s only now that they’re actually getting the live test,” MacDonald said.

The style of “Parachutes” is typical of his music, MacDonald said, describing how his tunes generally start with him playing acoustic and building out the music from a raw sound.

MacDonald said over the years creating music has evolved for him and it feels completely different from when he first launched his career.

He was in a band in high school. He and his bandmates wrote everything together, he said, but in the last four or five years, he has been able to really find his own voice as a writer.

“It feels like a completely different thing to me in a way,” MacDonald said.

To celebrate the release of “Parachutes,” MacDonald has a show at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg on Nov. 26. The concert will feature a few tunes from the new album.

He hopes to perform a Coldplay-specific concert in the new year.

MacDonald said he is grateful to have live music back and hopes people will be comfortable going to in-person concerts.

“There’s still a bit of a road on people potentially feeling comfortable on that type of thing, but this little run out east has been a pretty good re-introduction,” MacDonald said. “It’s easy to know that [live music is] missing, but not really understand the weight of how much it’s missing.”

The energy between audience and performer is irreplaceable, he said, and creates a special feeling that can not be captured virtually.

It’s inspiring to perform in front of people again, he said, and the interaction with audiences does affect his music. Playing with a live audience allows him to try out new songs and debut music he has recorded to gauge the audience’s reaction.

“There’s something cool about recording music that hasn’t been played live because you just do whatever the song needs. Right now, I’m really enjoying playing the new ones and getting a feel for what people are liking,” MacDonald said.

“It’s finding that balance between just making what you like because you’ve kind of got to like it first no matter what, but it’s cool to have that live feedback from people too,” he said.

For those looking to listen to Field Guide’s take on “Parachutes,” the album will be available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services starting Nov. 19. The current single “Yellow” is out now.

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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