The critically-acclaimed Canadian singer on the making of Parakeets with Parasols.
Canadian singer and songwriter Gabriel Minnikin may have lived in Manchester for nine years, but home is most definitely Halifax, Nova Scotia. And home is still a very special place. “It means everything to me. It’s such a wonderful place. I forget sometimes how beautiful the land is – how open and loving the Maritimers [the collective name for those from the east coast of Canada] are.”
Music brought Minnikin to the UK in the shape of Alt-Country darlings, The Guthries, with whom he played (with his sister Ruth) until 2003 – the band released two critically acclaimed albums in the early 2000s. At the time, US promoter Cosmic American Music Group was touring bands all over the UK, and Minnikin looked forward to the Manchester shows as the audiences were very special. “They were more than fans, they became friends,” he says. So when the Guthries broke up, it seemed natural for Minnikin to make Manchester his home.
Growing up in Canada, Minnikin had long been a fan of bands such as Joy Division, but once here he discovered that there’s more to Manchester music than the Factory legacy might imply. “It feels a lot like at home – a total community of musicians who are open to everything,” he says. “I’ve been so lucky to have some of Manchester’s best musicians play with me, and there’s music of every genre.”
Musical heritage aside, the city’s industrial history, architecture and art has been an inspiration, with Minnikin’s latest album, Parakeets with Parasols, mostly recorded – with the help of a full orchestra – at St. Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range. “It was pretty cool. A church is a big enough space to hold an orchestra but also the acoustics are great,” he says, “and it sounded so wonderful to make music there.” The resulting album is a stride away from classic Americana – this is a rich, expansive, swirling sound – and represents a step up from previous, more intimate recordings.
Despite an album tour currently underway, and having recently returned from a few Christmas gigs in Canada, Minnikin isn’t taking any time out. He’s already working on his next release which, he hopes, will have a different feel again. “It’ll be stripped down like a rock and roll band, in a Traveling Wilburys, ELO kind of way,” he says. However the next album turns out, now is the time to catch Minnikin – he’s a guest of country devotees, The Lonesome & Penniless Cowboys, at The King’s Arms in March. And although his heart may always be in Nova Scotia, we are glad indeed that Minnikin has chosen Manchester, for now at least, as the place in which to live, work and make new music.