The title says it all: Breath, Blood & Tempo, three of life’s necessities whether you’re a musician or not. For Chris Gostling, music is life, and his life is in this album, the first full-length he’s made with his band The Tempo.
Although the record marks a new beginning for the Toronto singer/songwriter, it also in many ways culminates the long journey of honing a sound through countless gigs, and developing a lyrical voice in tune with the spirit of folk-rock’s greatest figures.
Recorded with John Dinsmore (NQ Arbuckle) at his Toronto studio, Lincoln County Social Club, Breath, Blood & Tempo presents, on one hand, a clear snapshot of the nights Gostling and his group—bassist Adam McNeill, drummer Justin Cathcart and violinist Andrew Proctor—have kept audiences in jam-packed Toronto venues enraptured for hours. At the same time, the album extends a welcome to the uninitiated by presenting a vital new addition to the Canadian folk-rock scene.
“These 13 songs represent the best of everything we put into this project over the last seven years,” Gostling says. “I had wanted to make this album several years ago, but wasn’t ready to stop playing live to do it properly.”
However, once he connected with Dinsmore and his steady, experienced hand at the controls, the music fully took flight. “I came to terms before going into the studio that the record needed to be different from how we sound live,” Gostling adds. “John really allowed us to experiment with arrangements and explore all of the nuances in the songs that we can’t really do in a loud live bar.”
That’s evident on many of the album’s standout tracks, such as “The Boat” and “Slow Divide,” where the dynamics accentuate the emotional weight of the stories upon which the songs are built. Capturing these moments on tape is one of Breath, Blood & Tempo’s greatest triumphs, and Gostling credits everyone involved for attaining that goal.
“Having a bunch of really talented musicians who know the material was really the key,” he says. “The Lincoln County studio also has some wonderful toys like a Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 and vibraphone that Adam got to play on a few songs. John laid down both banjo and some amazing guitar work. It was really important to stay open to what the band and John were bringing to the table.”
Since the album’s completion, the Tempo’s line-up has become more fluid than it used to be, but no matter what configuration it takes, Gostling’s musical vision remains its driving force. That vision began emerging in 1994 when he started writing original material, leading to his first three-piece rock band in the early 2000s that played such Toronto venues as The 360 and the (pre-makeover) El Mocambo.
Around 2003, Gostling started focusing on performing acoustically and developing his vocal range. Although the Americana aesthetic had been a part of his sound from the beginning, it was during this time that Gostling fully embraced it and transformed his writing approach. By 2008, the musical pieces were more or less in place, and the long-term residency at The Press Club in Toronto proved there was an audience willing to be a part of it.
“We held a monthly residency at The Press Club for six years until it closed,” Gostling says. “The format of the shows ranged from three to seven players at any one time. We even had a horn section for a bit. But just being able to play live was the most important thing, and sometimes we would do nearly four hours of music over three sets. It was exhausting, but the material and arrangements became really tight. The songs I have written in the last five years represent to me a certain level of comfort with the process that I wouldn’t have without gaining all of that live experience.”
Whether he is performing solo or with The Tempo, the time has now come for Chris Gostling to embrace the rest of Canada, and vice versa. Breath, Blood & Tempo is an album that speaks honestly on behalf of us all.