Phil Dickson is on a roll.
The personable, upbeat White Rock-raised troubadour has every reason to celebrate. He and his girlfriend Talia are expecting their first child in early October, and he is riding a high wave of creativity with an album’s worth of new material ready to be recorded.
Icing on the cake will be previewing some of the new material for a hometown crowd as he headlines the Bear Stage (at the end of the promenade on East Beach) for the Spirit of the Sea Festival, Saturday night (Aug. 3) at 8 p.m.
Talking on the phone from a beach near Victoria, Dickson reflected on the developments in his life since he was last featured in these pages, at the time of his first album-release party in December 2011.
The successful release was followed by a two-month stint of playing music – and simply experiencing life – in New Zealand.
“I hit the road and did some couch surfing,” he said. “In New Zealand I was doing gigs for trade – a free stay and a couple of meals. I even ended up on the radio there.”
He doesn’t have any regrets about the experience, which was followed by a similar sojourn in Australia.
“It was the the best move I could have made – leaving my regular job and going for the music. It’s not only getting material for the new album, but simply talking to all the people. It’s the best education you can get, sharing stories, getting to meet people and listen to other music.”
Not that the trip didn’t provide plenty of inspiration, Dickson said.
“I was writing the entire time,” he said. “In the past year-and-a-half, I got enough new songs for the new album.”
Now he and his musical colleague, drummer Daniel Klenner, are planning the steps of producing his joyful brand of alternative contemporary music.
“What we’re thinking of doing is renting a cabin somewhere isolated during the winter, maybe December – locking ourselves away, like we’re trapped in the cabin – and recording live off the floor,” he said.
“Then we’ll come back and mix it and have it released by next summer.”
It’s very easy to become distracted by the details of producing a multi-tracked recording, he notes.
“I definitely don’t want to lose that live element of the music. We’ll have to mic the floor really well, set every mic perfectly, and, even if we have to play 100 takes of each song, we’ll get it.
“With the right musicians it means you’ve got the potential for the magic of the moment, when everything clicks and everyone looks at each other and smiles.”
Dickson’s music hasn’t really changed character, but it has grown, he feels.
“The first album had a lot of lullabies and love songs, and I still like to play those whenever I perform for people,” he said.
“About the only thing I’d like to change is that now I really want to make people dance. On the first album (and in the video) the song Nothing But The Love had this dancing-around-the-campfire, share-the-love feeling, and I want to make that energy even more danceable.”
Dickson can’t avoid a positive vibe in his music, he said.
“I came from Oddchild, which was kind of a grungy band; came from a darker place in my head, but now I’ve really hit the positive in things,” he said.
The feeling really crystallized on a cruise trip he took with Talia and his family, he said, during which he won the on-board talent competition and got to perform for an audience of 400-500 people.
“It kind of captured what I’m talking about,” he said. “(Talia) told me ‘it looks like you’re in my element’.”
Playing at this year’s Spirit of the Sea will be a special thrill, he said.
“The last three or four years, I played at the bandshell in Semiahmoo Park, which was exciting in itself. I remember, growing up in White Rock, being seven years old and playing that I was performing on that stage, being a rock star.
“(The organizers) evidently liked the music so much they asked me to be the headliner for the other stage. I can’t put into words how honoured that makes me feel – I’m just so thankful.”