Some roles we grow into. And some roles we're born to play. For the past five years Hugh Dillon has been doing the former growing into one of Canada's hottest and most in-demand television actors, earning accolades and industry acknowledgments for his gritty portrayals in programs such as the cop drama Flashpoint and the moody, cerebral, serial thriller Durham County. Now, well, now he's ready to return to the character he's most comfortable and at home in. Hugh Dillon. Musician. And he's a natural.
This fall Dillon drops the stunningly assured Works Well With Others, a testament to who he is, where he is and how far he's come in the past decade. No longer the angry young man, although far too driven and intense to ever be tamed, the 14 tracks, produced by the Tragically Hip's Paul Langlois in his band's Bathhouse Studio, showcase an individual and artist who's mature, confident, in control, and finally ready to express himself on his own terms.
"Music somehow makes me more honest," says the Kingston native, who first gained acclaim in the '90s with his spit 'n' sneer chart-topping rock act The Headstones. "It's almost subconscious but once I sit down and I hear a melody, the words just kind of come out and they just seem to be," he pauses, "they just seem to be less full of shit."
He credits the songwriting process as his creative outlet. "There's a freedom in songwriting when you don't have the pressures of writing for a band or an audience or a live performance," the unapologetic artist says. ‚ÄúI've always considered myself a songwriter. I never really stop thinking about words and music."
Dillon's trademark, no bullshit, tell-it-like-it-is approach rings loud and clear throughout Works Well With Others. From the remarkably restrained yet somehow soaring first single and album-opener Friends of Mine to the poignant and wistful Sentimental Me the swampy, Stonesy throw-back rocker Ten Feet Tall and the effortlessly poppy Surface of the Sun, Dillon is utterly at home and relaxed in the sonic scenes and set dressings he's created for himself on this, his solo major label debut.
Even Dillon's suddenly burgeoning television career couldn't stem the flow, actually helping by providing an outlet to get the songs heard, as producers and directors were rightfully amenable to having tracks grace the soundtracks to their shows -- Flashpoint utilizing the smoldering, Cohen-esque Lost at Sea, and Durham County adopting the gorgeous and contemplative Puzzle I Am.
There was also the opportunity to road test some of the songs in front of audiences as the Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir, which in turn paved the way for the High Cost of Low Living, an independent, limited release CD.
Now? Well, with his acting career at full boil, he's returning to his first passion, making music. He's doing it with songs he's passionate about and with material he feels represents who he is and where he is at this time in his life. And he's even doing it knowing full well that after such a lengthy hiatus and without the name recognition of his previous band it's almost as if he's starting over.
But that's just another challenge, another door Dillon's ready to kick down.
"I've always started from scratch," he scoffs. "Even when I was younger, I moved to England when I was 19 and started playing with my first band. I moved back to Toronto didn't know anybody and it was a struggle, and I started from scratch. And then when I left The Headstones I was chopping wood up north, I was starting from scratch. I got back into acting and built my way up. It's like that with this record. I'm not riding on my reputation, you can't go back. You've got to start from scratch".
And so it is with Works Well With Others. A new episode, a new season, a new series for Hugh Dillon. In the role he was born to play.
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