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'The Sherpa of Heartbreak'
Billy Bragg on the making of Tooth & Nail...

The songs on Tooth and Nail had their genesis in a comment that turned up in my twitter feed sometime in 2011. It said something like ‘Getting over break-up by listening to @billybragg, the Sherpa of Heartbreak’. It made me smile to think of my love songs doing some emotional heavy lifting for the heart-broken. Most people, when they hear my name, think of polemical anthems born in struggle. I often find myself having to remind people that I am also the Sherpa of Heartbreak, writing songs about the struggle to maintain our relationships with those we love the most.

Since the release of my last studio album, Mr Love & Justice in 2008, I’d become rather disillusioned with the record industry, wondering if there was any place for a middle-aged Billy Bragg in a market dominated by the X-Factor. Plenty of people wanted to see me in concert, but was there really any point in me going into the studio for six weeks to record another album? Did I still have the appetite for such a huge undertaking?

2011 had started badly. My mother fell ill in January and passed away six weeks later. Such things force you to take stock, of where you are, what you’ve been doing, but most of all, what you want to do with the time you have left. The ‘Sherpa of Heartbreak’ tweet was a nudge, reminding me that I also write love songs. Driven by this impulse, I put in a call to my old friend Joe Henry.

Joe and I go back a long way. I’ve admired his lyrical song writing since we first met in the Rockefeller Centre in New York sometime in the 80s. Over the years, I’ve watched admiringly as he extended his talents into the sphere of record production. We’d often talked about recording together, with Joe assuring me that making an album need not be a long drawn out process with an uncontrollable budget.

But did I have an album of songs? Not really. I needed something concrete to focus my attention. That focus came when I made a commitment to Joe to come to his studio in January 2012 and make an album. Any ambiguities I might have felt were banished by my decision to fund the sessions myself.

Joe assured me that we could make an album in his basement in five days. I wasn’t so sure. I hadn’t done anything like that since Life’s A Riot, my debut album 30 years ago. But the recording of Tooth & Nail proved to be very different from any album I had made.

Firstly, I would be playing with a bunch of musicians that I hadn't recruited myself. Joe assembled his regular crew in the basement of his house in South Pasadena, California, each one of them an amazing musician. Over in the corner was guitarist Greg Leisz, whose pedal steel I’d been enjoying on the Bon Iver album. Patrick Warren had just finished playing keyboards on Lana del Rey’s debut. In the drum booth was Jay Bellerose, fresh from recording with Regina Spektor and David Piltch had recently played his upright bass on the Grammy winning album that Joe produced for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.

Secondly, I sang the vocals as we laid down the tracks. Usually when recording, I sing a scratch vocal for the band to follow, which is later replaced by a more polished vocal that can sometimes take hours to get right. Received wisdom says that Billy Bragg isn’t a natural singer. Joe didn’t buy this. Instead, in a huge boost to my confidence, he encouraged me to perform each song as if it were definitive. As a result, the album is ‘live’ - we didn’t do any vocal retakes or overdubs, which is a first for me.

Thirdly, we made the whole album in five days. It helped greatly that we were at Joe’s house. The atmosphere there was just so much more conducive to creativity than if we’d have been locked away in some sterile studio environment. Instead, things were very relaxed and, as a result, highly spontaneous. I’d teach the band a song, we’d run through it a few times, then go for a take. In the first two days, we recorded eight of the tracks on the album this way.

And finally, I didn’t tell anyone that I was in the studio.

By the time Joe and I agreed to make the album, my 2012 was already full of commitments. The Mermaid Avenue Complete Sessions, the Grammy nominated album of Woody Guthrie songs that I recorded with Wilco in 1998, was due to be re-issued with 17 extra tracks in the spring. I had dates booked in Germany and the US and tours planned for Australia and New Zealand. Telling everyone I was in the studio would have set in train a series of events aimed at getting my new album out as soon as possible.

By going under the radar to make the record, I was able to spend 2012 celebrating the centenary of Woody Guthrie without having the added pressure of promoting a new album. It is fitting that Tooth & Nail should be my next release after the re-issue of the Billy Bragg & Wilco collaboration as, stylistically, it is the follow-up to Mermaid Avenue that I never made.
Back in 2000, responding to the troubling rise of the far right in Britain, my next album, England, Half English, addressed the politics of identity through a multicultural mix of musical styles. Tooth & Nail returns to the rootsy sound of the Mermaid Avenue Sessions, drawing on soul, country and folk music influences to explore the ups and downs of relationships that have stood the test of time.

In 2011, I took a long, hard look at who I am and what I do. This album is the result.

Billy Bragg
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Billy Bragg announces Canadian tour dates

Orator, entertainer and rabble-rouser Billy Bragg brings his signature mix of pop and politics to Canada's East coast for four shows!

Sept 23 - Fredericton NB, The Fredericton Playhouse
Sept 24 - Charlottetown PEI, PEI Brewing Company
Sept 25 - Halifax NS, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium
Sept 27 - St. John's, NL, Holy Heart Theatre

www.sonicconcerts.com target="_blank">Get tickets to see Billy Bragg now.

From his very first album Life's a Rio with Spy vs Spy, bringing him to "semi-obscurity", to 2013's Tooth and Nail, Bragg continues to explore folk and alternative-country under his earned reputation as a political-songwriter.

bit.ly target="_blank">Click here for all the latest from Billy Bragg.
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Billy Bragg's Tooth & Nail now available

The highly anticipated album from legendary folk singer Billy Bragg, Tooth & Nail, is now available in Canada.

bit.ly target="_blank">Click here to grab Billy Bragg’s Tooth & Nail on iTunes.

Bragg will be touring North America this spring with a handful of Canadian dates. Find show details and ticket info bit.ly target="_blank">HERE.

Billy Bragg Canadian Tour Dates:
April 4 – Victoria, BC – Alix Goolden Hall
April 5 – Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre
April 6 – Nelson, BC – Live at the Royal
April 8 – Calgary, BC – MacEwan Hall
April 9 – Regina, SK – Orr Centre
April 10 – Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Centre
May 3 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
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Stream Billy Bragg’s upcoming album on CBC Music

The legendary folk singer’s forthcoming album Tooth & Nail is set for a March 19 release, but fans can stream the album from front-to-back via CBC Music now.

bit.ly target="_blank"> Click to stream Tooth & Nail now!

Bragg will be touring around North America this spring – a must see for old and new fans alike. You can view all tour dates dinealonerecords.com target="_blank">HERE.

Billy Bragg Canadian Tour Dates:
April 4 – Victoria, BC – Alix Goolden Hall
April 5 – Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre
April 6 – Nelson, BC – Live at the Royal
April 8 – Calgary, AB - MacEwan Hall
April 9 – Regina, SK – Orr Centre
April 10 – Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Centre
May 3 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
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Pre-order Billy Bragg's Tooth & Nail now!

The legendary UK singer/songwriter's first album in five years, Tooth & Nail, may not drop until March 19 - but fans can lock in their pre-order ahead of time:

itunes.apple.com target="_blank">Click to pre-order your copy of Tooth & Nail on iTunes.

Be sure to check out the video for Bragg's first single, "No One Knows Nothing Anymore" via Exclaim! right exclaim.ca target="_blank">HERE. You can also grab the single, plus "Handyman Blues" off iTunes right itunes.apple.com target="_blank">HERE.

Billy Bragg will tour North America this Spring, with a handful of Canadian dates confirmed. For all dates, click dinealonerecords.com target="_blank">HERE.
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Billy Bragg premieres "No One Knows Nothing Any More"

The legendary UK singer-songwriter has released the video for his first single "No One Knows Nothing Any More." Check it out above, or right youtu.be target="_blank">HERE.

Bragg will release Tooth & Nail, his first album in five years, on March 19th via Dine Alone Records (Canada). Pre-order will launch February 19th.

In the meantime, fans can grab the above single, as well as "Handyman Blues" on iTunes right itunes.apple.com target="_blank">HERE.

Bragg will also be touring North America this Spring, with a string of Canadian dates confirmed. View all tour dates bit.ly target="_blank">HERE.
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Video

Billy Bragg - No One Knows Nothing Anymore

Audio

Billy Bragg - Handyman Blues

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Billy Bragg
Tooth & Nail

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