This is not your typical record label. Independently owned and operated, “Recovery Records” is a homegrown, upstart music label with heart and compassion, started by Sound Check Entertainment’s own Leigh Bursey. I had the honour of sitting down with Leigh prior to this weekend’s launch festivities to ask him about his new labour of love.
SCE: How did your love of music start?
Leigh: My love of music began when I realised that a lot of songs I had never really heard before, when still a child, began to say things I couldn’t. Bands like Smashing Pumpkins and The Clash, The Velvet Underground, and earlier works of U2 were telling stories and building castles with their words. I always liked music as a child. My mother was always blaring Bob Seger cassettes and my grandparents turned me on to Jerry Lee Lewis early, but it took hearing music that I didn’t know existed to really develop a passion for it. Adolescence was a beautiful time for musical experimentation.
SCE: Who inspired you?
Leigh: There are too many artists to name to be honest. From Rage Against the Machine to Hank Williams to Stone Temple Pilots, there was never a shortage of sounds to indulge in. That said, no doubt (Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman) Billy Corgan’s lyrical writing style really moved me. The stripped down angst and hook driven sounds of The White Stripes, Nirvana and Pixies have had a profound influence on my songwriting style, but it was The Clash that taught me I could use my art as a weapon for social change. It was Bob Dylan and Neil Young who became lightning rods for activism. I found myself getting lost in the idea of words meaning more than a melody very early on.
SCE: How did Recovery Records start? How long did it take to go from that starting point to preparing to launch?
Leigh: Music has been a huge part of my life for a long time, but so has my own emotional vulnerability. I love too easily. I get hurt like a lot of passionate people tend to. And while that induces a creative urgency, it can often leave scars that don’t heal overnight. I am a communicator first and foremost, and it has taken me a long time to get to this point of comfort, understanding and solitude. I guess I figured it was time to start helping to create that feeling in others and build something bigger than myself. My fingers are crossed anyways.
SCE: Recovery Records is an upstart record label with a social enterprise element to it. What does that mean to you?
Leigh: One day this venture might just pay the bills. But in the meantime, I am satisfied if I can help empower some others tell their stories and in the process create opportunities to help various advocacy groups utilize this medium to help further their causes.
SCE: How did the music from this first disc come together for charity, and which charities are being supported through your initial release?
Leigh: The first volume of Invisible No More is a pretty special release for me actually because it gets right to the root of many problems that I feel art and music echo so often. It wasn’t hard to get thoughtful musicians to lend a track and contribute their talents to supporting some great causes like Equal Voice Canada and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. I think many artists deal with poverty every day. We live in a society where it is hard to convince the masses to pay for original music. And while these artists lent their sounds free of charge, I think it was out of blind empathy knowing that maybe these funds can help someone else use their voice who might not otherwise be heard. Equal Voice is all about encouraging women to use their voices and affect civic and social changes. That theme fits here well too. There are incredible women in my life who have either written some of the best songs I have ever heard or have inspired some of my best work. Their social struggles are all of our social struggles.
Leigh: It might sound political, but all of them. Fourteen original tracks by thirteen different musical acts. Some of my best friends, favourite performers and collaborators are collected on this disc. But of course I have to toot my own horn a bit and lift up my band Project Mantra. We have our biggest song to date “Darkest Before The Dawn” (off of 2016’s “Fusion Manifesto”) rounding out the disc, but we also have a brand new track on the album that has never before been released, called “Sink.” It’s a powerful piece of music which I wrote with Project Mantra’s keyboard player Audrey Cahoon, and I can say with some certainty that this specific experience was a huge piece of deciding to move forward with Recovery Records. There is a lot of symbolism at play there. There are some great Ottawa area acts like ArchyThe Cockroach and Sparklesaurus, and so many more. What’s not to love?
SCE: It is so great to see people who want to give back apply themselves to so many causes. With so many organizations all needing exposure, how did you decide to start with tackling a major problem like homelessness?
Leigh: Art mimics our realities. We live in the first world and people are dying on the streets of cities that we as musicians have played in. Furthermore, there are members of this group, myself included, who have first-hand lived experience with homelessness. It can really happen to just about anyone, and doesn’t always look the way we imagine it to. There is no excuse here in Canada for this to continue to happe,n or for those voices to remain unheard.
SCE: On this disc, is it metal, jazz, rock, pop or everything from Mozart to Metallica?
Leigh: I would say the latter. There is really something for everyone. And I am so grateful to the artists who have chosen to contribute.
SCE: Is there a story behind the name Recovery?
Leigh: There is this line in the song “Thrash Unreal” by iconic punk rockers Against Me! that gets me everytime.
“They don’t know nothing about redemption, they don’t know nothing about recovery.” It’s always stops me in my thoughts. Every journey is different. Part of recovering from heartbreak or abuse or addiction or being a victim of circumstance is who you share your darkness with and who you tell your stories to. If I could be half the songwriter Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me!) is some day, I would be ecstatic. But as opposed to just paying tribute to someone who overcame their obstacles, I thought maybe I could be a part of the solution for someone else. Music is therapy for me and many others. So I think it’s about time I shut up and play!
I got a feeling from Leigh that he really wants to find anyway to help as many people as possible that find themselves with no place to call home. Some never have had a home. Some did, but life can give you a curve ball, and it is all gone. It is not just the someone with the disease of addiction, or the lady suffering from a form of mental health challenges. It is also the woman leaving an abusive relationship who feels safer in her car, where she doesnt have the fear of the fist coming down. It could be the person who had organizations to help them survive, but was let down, not heard, and lost their home, because of a clerical error, maybe fixed but years later, and to late. The small town mom and pop business owners, who lost it because they just couldn’t keep the business going anymore. This cause is universal to so many.
Enough of that for now, as Leigh said.. GO PLAY!!