Culture Music

Jon Bryant’s music gets the chill out of your bones

It was while Jon Bryant was driving on the Trans-Canada Highway that reality came crashing in, rudely interrupting the game of avoidance he says he had been playing.

“I wasn’t able to process anything for a long time. The feeling of being alone or homeless was something I ignored because it was easy,” Bryant says. “I was always surrounded by people. I could smile and put on a face. I laughed, I drank, and I played away my sorrows.

“Then in an instant as clear in my memory as daylight, I hit a wall while listening to the first few lines of Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia,’” Bryant says. “I lost it.”

Tour after tour and his absence from home had contributed to the demise of his new marriage, and created an ever-growing distance between him and his family in Halifax, says Bryant.

“I couldn’t stomach the ‘I’m great’ routine anymore. I had done it so long and I hated the idea of being the walking wounded. I was under the impression that I didn’t need help. I was the helper, I was the saviour.” Bryant even mentions that, for a moment, he hated God. After a moment, however, a realization dawned: “I just hated myself.”

There’s a reason I listen to Bryant’s music on rainy days. It’s a blend of mellow and uplifting. Perfect for driving with the windshield wipers on, it warms the chill in your bones. His lyrics are poetic. His storytelling brings characters to life, and his voice can make anyone swoon. A little folk, a little Americana — James Taylor meets Gordon Lightfoot — the Halifax native’s music is unique in his own right.

“I like telling stories because it means you have a voice,” he says. “Stories bring ideas to life. They teach us and draw out emotion.”

“Souls of Manhattan” describes the frustration of a lonely girl in New York. “Take Me If You Must” makes you think about dying in the happiest way possible. Inspired by the life of a missionary, “David Livingstone” is a sweet and clever love song. Regardless of his subject matter, Bryant’s music makes you feel deeply. Whether it’s joy or sorrow — or maybe a little tongue-in-cheek — he writes songs that work their way into your heart.

I first met Bryant at a Starfield concert a few years ago. He was the opening act, and I was a merch girl. When it was his turn to take the stage, I was still in the church foyer. After hearing the first few bars of music he played, I was drawn into the auditorium. Who was this tall, ginger-bearded fellow who could gently coax beauty out of every note he sang? His smooth vocals and ability to seamlessly transition from original songs into old hymns astounded me.

Some friends and I went to a couple more of his shows to investigate further. We were sold on Bryant from the start. Now, going to his shows isn’t just about listening to good music; it’s an opportunity to catch up with a friend.

Bryant is currently on a tour across Canada, playing songs from his second album “What Takes You,” as well as a few new ones. He hasn’t decided what his new album will look like. It could be a full-length album or a couple of shorter EPs.

“Recovering from loss of a ‘home’ has been hard,” Jon says. “It leaves you in limbo, unsure of what to do next or where to go.”

As for what he’s learned throughout this past year? He’s not sure of the “why.”

“For now I will be content with what I’ve been through and seek to be a ‘home’ to others. Perhaps to people like me who just need someone to encourage them,” he says. “Maybe just be an ear.”