It’s been three years since musician John Wort Hannam produced an album and a lot has happened since then.
The singer-songwriter from southern Alberta has battled moments of self-doubt, depression and panic attacks and is now the father of a three-year-old boy.
But like any good artist, he has used those experiences to write 11 new tracks for his latest album Love Lives On, which will be released Oct. 2.
“I feel like there’s been a lot of big life changes in my life over the last three years and I think they’re reflected in this record,” said Hannam, who will stop at the Jasper Royal Canadian Legion on Oct. 9 during his cross-country tour.
“When my son was born I went into a very, very deep depression and really struggled to find balance. It really knocked me on my ass,” he recalled.
“There was a period there a year and half, two years ago, where I was doing everything I could to stay out on the road and book another show. I just didn’t want to face home.”
He credits his son for making him slow down and realize he could be a dad as well as a musician and a husband, and said he just needed to find the right balance.
“It took me a while to figure it out because for the last 12 years I just had tunnel vision. No matter what or who was in my way I was going to play and I was going to make a living. Nothing was going to stop me.”
Not only did the birth of his son change his outlook on life, it also changed the way he approached his soon-to-be released album.
“I’ve always had a really hard time with what I call ‘me’ songs or ‘I’ songs,” said Hannam.
“I rarely divulge my personal life into songs, but I think in this album, more than any, I was trying to expand,” he said.
With a new found confidence as a father, husband and musician, his new album reveals much more about his personal life than ever before with tracks like “Chasing the Song,” which was written for his wife after he forgot their anniversary while on tour.
Other songs include his signature track “Man of God,” a song about his time as a school teacher on the Kainai Blackfoot reserve, tackling the legacy of residential schools, which earned the endorsement of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“I left the reserve in 2001 and I’ve been trying to figure out how or what to write about for that portion of my life for a long time,” explained Hannam, who spent nine years there, first as a university student and then as a high school teacher, before quitting his job to become a full-time musician in 2002.
He said he wrote the chorus for “Man of God” six years ago before finally finishing it 10 months ago.
He said he was hesitant to finish the song because he isn’t First Nations and it wasn’t his own personal experience.
“I didn’t want that song to be the sound track to the dude wearing a head dress at a folk festival with a can of beer in his hand and misappropriating something that is really sacred and not his.”
To overcome his fears, he rewrote it into the third person, but ultimately he found it stripped the song of its emotional appeal.
After playing with it some more, he decided to put it back into first person and sent it to several elders who live on the reserve to get their opinion.
“They all wrote me back or called me back and said, ‘no, you nailed it. Please sing this song.’”
Since recording the song, it has become one of the biggest hits on his new album and it is sure to be a crowd favourite in Jasper.