WEATHER ALERT

Jacob Brodovsky loves it here, and he’s not sorry Local singer-songwriter is unapologetic in his embrace of his home, and the artists who inspire him

Jacob Brodovsky is sitting in a West Broadway diner, sipping cheap coffee, talking about music. He is not shy about the artists who make his world turn around, and he lists a few that he just can’t quit, not that he’d ever want to: Death Cab for Cutie, Neil Young, Charlotte Cornfield, the Saskatoon songwriter Ellen Froese, a personal friend to Brodovsky, who he calls one of the best songwriters he knows.

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Jacob Brodovsky is sitting in a West Broadway diner, sipping cheap coffee, talking about music. He is not shy about the artists who make his world turn around, and he lists a few that he just can’t quit, not that he’d ever want to: Death Cab for Cutie, Neil Young, Charlotte Cornfield, the Saskatoon songwriter Ellen Froese, a personal friend to Brodovsky, who he calls one of the best songwriters he knows.

He finds inspiration in little nuggets of life. He’s a keen observer of human behaviour. He listens, at attention, with intention.

CONCERT PREVIEW

Jacob Brodovsky

● With Ellen Froese

● West End Cultural Centre

● Jan. 19, 7 p.m.

But Brodovsky, 30, is not so used to being heard solo. For years, he played in a band called Kakagi with his brother and some friends from summer camp. When Kakagi froze over, the sweet-voiced singer for the first time seriously considered striking out on his own.

“It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of being vulnerable,” he says, cutlery clanging at the nearest table. “With the idea of saying, ‘This is who I am, and these are my thoughts. Blah, blah, blah.”

On his latest record, I Love You and I’m Sorry, Brodovsky transliterates the blahs into sensitive lyrics, well-paced stories, and gentle melodies that showcase a struggle for personal growth while contending with the pitfalls of existing in a place between now and then.

The story of the record involves a beloved dog, the public library, Winnipeg diners, and members of the band Brodovsky was — as a teen — and remains — as an adult — relentlessly inspired by.


A teenaged Brodovsky was an unwitting passenger when his dad turned the car stereo to a local band he heard a few nights earlier at Le Rendez-Vous, a St. Boniface venue.

“I heard this boom-chick-boom-chick-a-boom-chick-a,” Brodovsky scats, imitating the drum beat of (Manifest), the lead track off Reconstruction Site, the 2003 album by The Weakerthans. The rhythm hooked him, and he was absorbed, first by the beats emanating from Jason Tait’s drumkit, and then by the razor-sharp, yet soft and serene, lyricism of the band, which featured during its storied tenure Tait, John P. Sutton, Greg Smith, Stephen Carroll, and John K. Samson.

Soon, Brodovsky began writing his own music, strumming along in the city and in Lake of the Woods, where he attended and later started working at a Jewish summer gathering place called BB Camp. It was at camp where he wrote many of his earliest songs.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jacob Brodovsky finds inspiration in little nuggets of life.

After graduating from university with a degree in politics, Brodovsky decided to focus full-time on music, living in Toronto for five years and wishing only to be back home. “When I lived in Toronto, I only wrote songs about Winnipeg,” he says.

He and his now-wife moved back to the city, and in 2016, Brodovsky got in touch with a few of his songwriting heroes, Christine Fellows and Samson, who were enjoying a year-long term as the Winnipeg Public Library’s writers in residence. With their guidance, Brodovsky honed his approach to music-making, and later, while walking his dog Mavis through Wolseley, the singer bumped into the drummer whose beat had him hooked a decade earlier.

Tait, it turned out, lived not far from him, and was impressed early on by Brodovsky’s dedication and work ethic. The two of them began discussing and sharing music together. “His lyrics come from a place of honesty,” says Tait.

“When I lived in Toronto, I only wrote songs about Winnipeg.”–Jacob Brodovsky

Brodovsky then applied for a mentorship program through Creative Manitoba, and in 2018, received a late-winter residency at the Banff Centre. While there, holed up in a sylvan hut, Brodovsky sat with a keyboard and a notepad. “I had nothing to do but write songs,” he says. “It’s essentially summer camp for adults.”

He makes that statement from a position of authority: to this day, he and his wife are directors at BB. By virtue of that summer occupation, most of Brodovsky’s songs are written in the cold of winter. In Banff, as in Toronto, he looked to Winnipeg for inspiration in finding a new voice as a songwriter,

“On this record, I think I figured out how to sing in a way I hadn’t previously done,” he says. “Sing quieter, essentially,” he whispers.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Brodovsky's latest record, I Love You and I’m Sorry.

Brodovsky’s use of the spaces lying between sounds stands out on the album, particularly on Likewise, one of the first songs he wrote for it. It’s inspired in part by his time as a server at the Tallest Poppy, where he witnessed dozens of soon-to-be exes enjoying awkward parting meals.

On Get So Mad, Brodovsky travels to the shores of an icy lake. Blockbuster and Night Baker are spiritual siblings, with a familiar inviting drum beat setting the stage for Brodovsky’s hopeful nostalgia, enunciated with exactitude in each and every stanza.

To produce the album, Brodovsky called upon friends and sources of inspiration: folk singers Sophie Stevens and Madeleine Roger; Liam Duncan (Boy Golden); Bill Western, who provides swoony pedal steel; Tait; violinist Julie Penner (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think); bassist Ashley Au (Super Duty Tough Work); Brett Ticzon (Living Hour) on the Rhodes piano; and Art Antony on the synth.

At the core of Brodovsky’s album is a deep yearning for connection, and an ongoing attempt to show appreciation for others. Notably, friends and family, but also, for the dog who shifted his perspective.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

At the core of Brodovsky’s album is a yearning for connection and an ongoing attempt to show appreciation for others.

Pictured with Brodovsky on the record’s cover, Mavis died two weeks after I Love You and I’m Sorry’s release. “I was scared of dogs growing up. My wife never had them either. But we got Mavis and our life changed,” he says. “She thought she was a human, and we’d hold her like a baby. Of course, everybody says that about their dog.”

Two weeks after Mavis’ death, Brodovsky and his wife’s son was born.

Months later, the newborn baby and the couple’s new dog, Lucy, not far away, Brodovsky sips his coffee and reflects on the time it takes to make something special.

“This record took four years to make. Of those four, we recorded it for two,” he says. “It was really nice to have that time to sit and think and choose to do things differently,” he says.

ben.waldman@winnipegfreepress.com

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Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
Reporter

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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