Nelson Little Ain’t Afraid Of The Truth
Looking back on his debut album, Nelson Little is the first to admit he had some growing up to do. But two years, nine tracks and a healthy dose of introspection later, the country artist from rural Manitoba believes he’s come a long way.
“I was just blind and naïve in how I was living as a young man,” says Little, who released his followup to 2013’s The Little Things at the Black Rabbit Bistro Lounge in Winnipeg on Oct. 22. “These new songs are more about what life is really like. I called it Ain’t Afraid of the Truth because of the lessons I learned in between the two albums.”
First and foremost among those lessons, Little says, is that talent and ambition are no match for experience and expertise. Despite moderate success on the NCI FM National Aboriginal Music Countdown and a nomination for Best Country CD at the 2014 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards (now known as the Indigenous Music Awards), The Little Things never took off the way Little hoped it would.
“At the time, I didn’t really know anybody in the business,” he admits. “It was a matter of me just going to the studio, recording and getting the songs out. I’m a songwriter; I don’t know too much about the performing industry. I don’t know much about marketing or promoting.”
With Ain’t Afraid of the Truth, however, Little sought outside help. In addition to teaming up with Dale Penner of Paradise Alley Productions and applying for grants, he brought aboard talented studio musicians including Stephen Arundell, Ryan Voth, Julian Bradford, Marc Arnould, Steve Hinson, Michelle Lambert, Shandra Levreault, Sasha Smith and Joey Landreth. The end result, Little says, was an album far more polished and professional than his debut effort.
“It was a long, grueling road,” says Little, who also works a full-time day job as a drywaller. “But if you work with a professional, you’ll get professional results.”
Production value aside, Little says another major difference between his first and second albums is the content. While tones of his old-school country twang and upbeat rock riffs remain in tact (particularly Load Me Up and the album’s first single, When I Fly), the conversation has become more personal – and more genuine. Instead of singing about alcohol (Whiskey Devil, Go Hard or Go Home) and infidelity (Cheat on Your Boyfriend With Me), Little digs deeper and tackles more intimate issues, from relationships (That’s On Your Side) and redemption (Lost and Found) to matters of mortality (Fast One, My Heart).
According to Little, the evolution of his songwriting on Ain’t Afraid of the Truth is just another byproduct of his maturity as a musician. Instead of merely creating slick guitar licks or catchy choruses, he says, he used his own emotions and experiences to explore universal themes.
“Some of the songs aren’t all that fun if you listen to the lyrics, but I think that’s what people relate to,” he says. “People fall in love, people fall out of love, you get hurt, you lose people.
“Keeping relationships together in general is a struggle, so that’s kind of what’s in the album.”
For a behind-the-scenes look at Nelson Little’s album release party for Ain’t Afraid of the Truth, check out our feature video below.