Music in the Guestroom

Barb Wilson

Five-year-old Emily joins her dad Lee in making music in the guestroom.

[This article ran in the April/May 2014 issue of The SCOOP.]

Lee Casement’s guestroom functions as more than a place to put up friends and relatives overnight. It’s also the room where he conceives his musical projects either by himself or sometimes with the collaboration of his musical friends. His ambitious project is so broad in scope that those “guests” are really an integral part of his trilogy of recordings called appropriately In the Guestroom. The last in the series—Redemption in Disguise was launched in Kingston at the Next Church on Queen Street on Saturday, March 28 at 7:30 pm. The trilogy is primarily a studio project in which each participant added his or her part, usually lead vocals, separately. So, the launch is seeing many of the contributors together at last in a live show.

Casement, who has lived in the Verona area all his life has maintained his connections with many of his high school friends; he played bass at Sydenham High School in the 1990s. Many of those who first played at the school’s talent show, Syd’s CafĂ©, have continued to have music as a significant part of their lives. So when it was time to turn his song ideas into concrete reality, he called on his friends’ special vocal and instrumental talents He insists that he is a writer, an arranger and a multi-instrumentalist, not a lead singer, although he does sing back-up sometimes. Each song on all three recordings features a different singer. His guests include: Chris Murphy, Steve Kennedy and Jon McLurg of Crooked Wood, Brad Smith, Sideshow, Tim Sheffield, Heather Bell and Bill Cassidy of Suns of Static, Jamie Young, his uncle, Grant Bresee, Josh Peck, Jake Deodato, Madyson Doseger, Tom Martinek, and recording engineer Shaun Weima round out the sound.

A fun-loving, gregarious person, Casement is happy to involve so many people and is delighted that they are willing to help him get his music out there. “I have ideas that I want to share with others. I have cousins who are musical, and I know so many musicians around the city, so I thought it would be fun to write with them. I’ve tried to include as many people as possible.”

He admits that there is some similarity to the Broken Social Scene model, but he also recognizes how difficult it is to coordinate so many people. For any live shows “whatever vocalists can make it, that’s the show.”

Although Casement is firmly in control of the final product (it’s his artistic vision) he welcomes input from the other musicians. In fact, one of the aspects he finds so exciting is hearing the interpretative styles that the singer brings to his words. It becomes a true collaboration “a cross-pollination” he says smiling. It’s no wonder that more and more musicians are approaching him and asking to be involved in any new projects he might be dreaming up in the guestroom. But he has decided to make this CD, Redemption in Disguise, the last of the project. He’s ready to move on now and he’s already thinking about what he’d like to explore next. He says that he has learned a great deal from the experience of making three recordings and now he would like to do something more “stripped back” without as much of the lush layering of synthesized sounds found on In the Guestroom. “My tastes have definitely changed since high school. I’ve always come from a rock place but I’m moving towards more folk or folk-rock. I have been influenced by bands such as The National and local and international duo Evening Hymns.”

What does this trilogy sound like? This soundscape has a mellow textured quality which emphasizes the serious nature of the lyrics, reminiscent of Pink Floyd at times, not dark but contemplative. The themes of love, redemption, family, faith, and clarity are represented thoughtfully and poignantly. Blood and Faith sung soulfully by Bill Cassidy of Suns of Static sets the tone:

“Blood and faith,
Lines on our hands
It’s all we need,
It’s all we have”

Casement and Shaun Weima play most of the instruments, with overdubbed synthesized instrument sounds creating the aura of a much larger band. Having several different vocalists gives each song its own flavour. And although it is a very social project, mostly it is recorded through file-sharing rather than having all the musicians in the same guestroom at the same time. In fact, he has never played live with some of the musicians featured in his project!

Casement admits that he has always been an organized person and this enables him to seemingly do everything from writing the material, gathering the musicians, producing the CDs, promoting them, posting them on iTunes, booking the shows - really everything except the recording engineering for which he is grateful to Shaun Weima and his studio in Kingston.

You might think he spends all his time pursuing his hobby as he calls it but in fact, he has a full and rich life beyond music; he and his wife Susanne are busy raising their two young children in Verona, he has a large extended family and a fulltime job as a Grade One teacher at Perth Road Elementary school. He was formerly at Tamworth Elementary for five years. Being organized helps him to keep it all in balance. And as you might expect, the whole family hangs out in the guestroom making live music with him. Luckily too, his hobby finances itself. As he says, “Money made in music is money to spend on music” so iTunes sales and playing in other bands such as Ianspotting and his own alternative electronic band, Telefoto, keeps it all rolling. We hope that sales from this latest CD will keep the guestroom occupied for a long time to come.