Canadian rockers Cedar Sky have put a field trip thru the Peruvian Amazon while drinking Ayahuasca to song, releasing sophomore single, “Free Verse Life,” along with an equally trippy video — available now!
The track — fresh from their debut LP Crossing the Rubicon — was written by Saskatchewan-based frontman and singer/songwriter Joshua James about his journey through the rainforest, drinking the potently pyschedelic tea in complete isolation. “I was a prisoner in my own mind,” he recalls. “The only way to escape was to break down the walls I built myself.”
Although James says he confronted many things on that trip — both literally and figuratively — there was a singular theme that continued to dominate the forefront of his mind. “One thing that became very evident was the choices we make in life, and the paths that they create. Sometimes, we hack through the jungle of life without knowing what lays ahead, while other times we can see the road that others have traveled many times before we arrived at those very same crossroads.
“There’s easy routes, and hard routes… Selfish roads, and selfless trails. The path you choose ultimately determines your salvation, or living hell. We have a choice to live a life of good or evil, and the internal discussion of our consciousness will ultimately decide what path we take.
“This song describes our internal battle.”
Evaluating and re-evaluating life paths is something of a theme for Crossing the Rubicon as a whole.
While the band first formed in 2013, albeit with a different line-up, Joshua James toured heavily before setting his sights on Nashville. He loaded his guitars in the car and beelined it to the musical mecca, and his six month residency resulted in playing hard and fully actualizing his artistic intent. “I realized what I wanted to write wasn’t aligned with the industry,” he recalls. “I moved home to start fresh.”
Two years later, today’s iteration of Cedar Sky would be clear as day and another two thereafter, the four-piece would release their debut EP, Saving Grace (May 2019).
Crossing the Rubicon and its earliest beginnings has James looking to one thing in common with Julius Caesar, circa 49 BC; after a solid decade of self-proclaimed stalemates, the Saskatoon rocker readied a mission to the point of his own ‘no return’ with the album’s long-awaited release.
“The story goes, as the water rushed past their feet in Gaul, Caesar and his army knew there was no going back,” James says of the long-late figurehead’s historic passage into Rome. “This album symbolizes something similar for me.”
After ten years of James feeling like he was starting over, falling flat on his face, he started “leaning into new perspectives and shaking the ‘Etch A Sketch’ of life,” he says. “It finally became time to lay it all on the line.
“I put everything I could into releasing one of the most emotionally charged — yet microscopically complex — albums in me.”
While the similarities with the controversial leader end there for James, he does have his own version of the ancient warlord’s 13th Legion at his side in musical comrades Cole Jordan on percussion and backing vox, Jesse Kane with lead guitar, and Aaron Hamoki Seaman on bass.
“Crossing the Rubicon is a journey through my life and the stories I’ve lived,” says James. “It focuses on love, compassion, fear, loneliness, and curiosity for the unknown… The complexities that make us all human.
“When we went in to record, we took what I wrote and let each of the other members add their own takes on how the songs made them feel,” James recalls of the process. “This, in the end, morphed a completely different — and very much a collective — representation on what the songs mean, and made them sound super cool.
“When ‘City Lights’ was written, for example, it was extremely raw and meant to show pain. We added Cole’s drums, and then Jesse’s guitar — which, I can only describe as water throughout the first half — it turned into a ballad of hope and strength.
“This continues throughout the album and shows everybody has their own stories and struggles, and how music should be whatever the hell someone needs it to be.”
“There’s something inside each and every one of us that drives us to do the things we do, think what we think, and feel what we feel. Possibly some data that skipped through time and was printed on our individual code, who knows… It could be based on our upbringing and the family that raised us, or learned through lessons from others.
“But more often than not we only learn from our own experiences.
“This includes failures and victories.”
For Joshua James, Crossing the Rubicon counts as the latter; after all, Caesar is quoted for saying “experience is the teacher of all things.”
Crossing the Rubicon and “Free Verse Life are available now.