The Pigott Brothers (Oliver & Sebastian) are a Canadian band that makes ‘harmony-rich acoustic pop music with a blues, country and folk rock influence’. On tour in Europe last month, they agreed to meet with us for an interview about music, touring, songwriting, and Sebastian’s acting career.
Here’s our interview with them in two parts, as well as a full transcript. Later this week we’ll also be posting pictures and videos from one of their concerts in Paris.
If you have issues watching on YouTube, here’s the playlist on DailyMotion.
Please do not quote without crediting and do not repost in its entirety anywhere.
Benelie: Did you enjoy your tour in Europe?
Oliver: Oh we had a great time, oh I have a great time.
Sebastian: Yeah, very much
B: And, why did you make this tour in Europe, is ‘Alien Like You’ the start of this tour?
S: Well, I do a show back in Canada called Being Erica, where I did, I did ‘Alien Like You’ on the second season, and me and my brother, Oliver, wrote that. So we were lucky enough that that got a real audience over here and in the UK. And so, yeah, Oliver was really the one who was encouraging me to come to Europe and he set up the tour in England and then France, so we’d like to come back at the end of March. We’re coming back again for another…
B: Yeah, but only in London as I saw on the website?
S: So far. We kind of let things unfold as they do.
B: Because we have some fans who have asked us to ask you if you can come back to France because they couldn’t come to the concert this weekend.
O: What, Paris?
B: Yeah, to Paris.
S: Okay, we will come back to Paris. We want to go to Berlin next time too
B: Oh I am sure there will be some happy fans.
How did it all come together, you having an acting career, you having a musician career? How do you make it work?
O: That’s a good question. Is that your question?
B: Yeah, ours and some fans’.
O: Oh, okay. Well I mean, it seems to work quit well. We, I mean, when we started playing together again it was very much tied into television because we were doing Idol, Canadian Idol. Then, got led to sort of, peripherally it let to Being Erica, and so that’s where part of the whole acting world, and so it’s worked in conjunction with our music quite well. Well, there’s a bit of a balancing act ‘cause Sebastian shoots a fair amount, but I’m very confident that we can make it work.
S: It’s hard. I have to split up my time. So I only concentrate on one at a time because if I have to concentrate on both things at once, it’s impossible to be focused. So I divide it up so that for the past month, what we’ve been on tour, I’m only a musician and not an actor. And then when I’m acting and working in the show, it’s just that and [not anything else].
B: Did you consider yourself as a musician or as an actor, or you don’t want to put a name on what you do-what you like to do?
S: To me acting and- thank you- singing, to me singing and acting are part of the same thing. I don’t look at them as separate, really. It’s all my art, and – (random people approach and distract) I see them as both my art, and so far with Being Erica and before that with Canadian Idol, they’ve sort of fed each other. So as long as possible I want to do both, and I’m lucky. You know, so far I’m lucky.
B: And about the concert, do you have some songs everyone wants to hear during the show?
O: ‘Alien like You’ is the popular tune.
S: We did an album three years ago, and since then we’ve done the stuff on Being Erica and some other small releases, but we haven’t done a full album. So last Fall, Oliver started saying to me, and I was kind of reluctant, but he insisted that we record some stuff just to put on YouTube. Just me and him in our living room. And I thought ‘no, no it won’t look that good’, but he was really adamant about it. So we started putting up these tunes, and I didn’t think much, but then we started getting notes back from fans. And then when we came over here to play in London and then in France, everybody knew the songs. And the only place we had put them up was on YouTube, so that was very cool.
O: Yeah, ‘Falling In Love’ is another one people really seem to like
B: It’s a cool song, so…
O: ‘Crazy in Your Heart’ I think is quite popular
B: We heard you have a new album coming in, this year?
S: I nag him about it
S: (Pointing at Oliver) Ask him, ask him to do a new album
Emeline: Do a new album!
E: You don’t want to?
O: Uh, I think I’m going to become an accountant.
B: Noo, no. You’re very talented as a musician.
S: You can do both, you can do both. I’m an actor and a musician. He could be an accountant [and a musician.]
O: Like a superhero. I’ll wear a cape
E: You haven’t seen his accounting work!
S: His accounting work is more brilliant.
B: Yeah, but we like him as a musician and singer.
O: So many numbers, you should see all the numbers!
E: On YouTube, look at the numbers…
S: Yeah, (nods) that’s right.
B: At which state are you on, about the new album? Do you already have other songs, did you start to record it?
O: We’ve been- I mean, one of the reasons why I wanted to put some of the songs on YouTube was to get an idea as to which songs were more popular than other songs. So, we definitely know- we have a good idea as to which ones are gonna be singles. And we have all the songs for the album written. We haven’t begun recording anything yet, in the studio.
S: We like to let the audience tell us what they want to hear. So we’ve been trying different stuff out. I’ve been playing with some new sounds too, because you want things well up and sometimes you have an idea but you don’t quite know yet. So we’ve been taking time to play too, and we’ve been playing a lot more with falsettos. Like… (demonstrates), a high voice.
O: We had a conversation about it when we were in London and we were scheduled to start recording at the beginning of March so, it shouldn’t take too long.
B: Oh, that’s good.
B: Is there a link between who’s singing and who’s writing the songs. Because we saw you both write songs, but it is not (necessarily) the one who wrote the songs who is the lead singer.
O: Yeah, that’s a very good question
B: Thank you
O: Most of the- Yeah, it seems the songs that the songs that Sebastian writes, generally, I think 100% of the time you sing. Right?
O: And then there’s one or two that I’ve written that Sebastian sings, but for the most part that’s true. But then there are songs that we write together which are my favorites. And in those cases, what happens? What do we do?
S: We usually split it up based on who sounds better.
O: It’s funny how that works actually, because now that I think about it, those are the tunes that we seem to be sharing lead vocals.
O: Other than ‘Alien [Like You]’, which Sebastian sings. But we have ‘Turned Your Back on Me’ which is actually the two of us singing leads and trading off.
B: Okay, and what is your process for writing a song? What are your inspirations and how do you proceed?
S: Well, you just- you need an idea, and once you have a really-You need an idea and once you have a really- and the idea can be very simple- but once you have the idea, really, the song is- can be quite fun. But if you don’t have a really strong, solid idea, you know, writing can be a very difficult thing to do. But if you have a very- like there’s a new song that we do called ‘Tell me, does he, treat you right? I only wanna know’
(Oliver takes a swig of Sebastian’s beer and Sebastian stops singing with a ‘hey’ look on his face)
O: Sorry, just parched.
S: Now I’m all distracted… But with that it’s, I was trying to- there was a scene in Being Erica that they needed a song for and so I started thinking, trying to come up with an idea and ultimately they used another song. But I started thinking of this idea that, you know, ‘does he treat you right’ just that very simple idea. And a guy who’s not necessarily hitting on the the girl, he’s not trying to be, you know, to cut in or anything. He’s just saying, I just wanna know that he knows how special you are, and he knows what he has, tell me does he know what he has in you. And just that simple idea and from then on the song was very easy because the idea was really simple. But I think another one of my favorites is Oliver’s song. ‘Still in Your Mind’ because it’s, once again it’s a very simple idea, but it’s very specific and I haven’t heard any other songs quite like that. Where he’s singing to a girl he used to be with and he’s saying, you know, I’m still on your mind I know you’re thinking about me.
B: And do you prefer to write the lyrics before writing the music or it depends on the song?
S: I do.
O: Usually, when it comes to my writing, and you’d be surprised when we sit down and write something together, I have a catch of phrases, so it’d be like one line. And, so I have those on a document and then we either work through melodies together or I’m working on a song on my own which I, with the melody and the melody will dictate a certain rhythm. And then I go back to the document and I look at the phrases that I have and see if any of them fit into the melody. Sometimes they don’t and in which case the melody as I said, the rhythm of the melody will have certain consonants which sound like words and then I expand on that. So, I fill in the blanks from there. It’s either the melody starting off the song for me, or the melody starting off the song and I insert a phrase that I already have and then build the song from there.
S: And then I think, even whether, even if it’s a melody or a lyric. Once again it’s still about having one kind of focused idea and then playing around with that. And I remember for that song ‘Turn Your Back On Me’, for me it was that one phrase. ‘You’ll never know me better than if you turn your back on me’. You know and the idea that you’re with somebody and you sort of play these games, and you try to be- and, you know, they’re not always bad games, they’re good games too. And you’re always trying to show a certain side of you, but then when they turn their back on you, you think, they get a very different side. You know what I mean? And we all…yeah
O: It’s slightly menacing…
S: Huh? Yeah, absolutely, well… It’s not always anger, right? It’s sadness and all that.
B: Oliver do you have any solo projects on your own other than the Pigott Brothers?
O: I mean I have quite a few songs that have been recorded and they’re on iTunes, and things like that, which everyone is welcome to buy. But I’m not focused on anything solo right now. You know I have friends with studios and things and if Sebastian’s maybe not available I may or may not cut a track on my own. I like recording and it’s nice to have music out- released. But even then, you know, I’d probably overdub some instrumentation by Sebastian or backing vocals anyway and it will be a bigger, better song in the end, regardless. Right? So chances are most of the music will be a joint venture.
B: And talking about that, how do you differentiate your work as a solo artist and your work with the Pigott Brothers when you’re writing a song. When do you say, this is mine, this is for the Pigott Brothers or there is no-
S:You have such good questions, I like your questions.
B: We do some research…
O: Yeah. Well some of the time that I’m writing is for something specific. I was working on a solo project a year and a half ago. And, so I wrote music in that vein, and it was with a record label. So, with the possibility of releasing a solo album, and the music was to be a certain style. So what I did was I wrote an entire record in that style because my catalogue of music wasn’t appropriate for that- for what we were doing. And when I moved forward from there and we didn’t end up moving forward with the full album, I took it and we re-worked them. So I do sometimes write with something in mind that may not be for our project but then it turns out to be a Pigott Brothers project, so yeah it depends. Sometimes, I mean recently, nowadays, everything is with the project in mind for the most part.
B: And, what is the difference between your touring in the USA where you did, you all alone, and the touring with your brother in Europe. What was the difference? What do you prefer?
O: Well I was also in London for years on my own.
B: Oh, yeah.
O: Yeah, it’s much better doing this project because of many reasons, right? But on a live basis it’s just so much easier and it’s more interesting for people to watch. I mean one guy as opposed to two guys working together. It’s just that it’s a more interesting thing, for me and I think for everybody else.
B: And one last question for your solo work. In retropect, how do you feel about your experience on Canadian Idol. Was it all good, or did you feel some bad things that happened?
O: I had an overall positive experience. I still keep in touch with many of the people on the production team and the singers that were on the show, contestants. I would have liked to have been on longer, I was definitely not happy about that, right? And, you know you resent leaving earlier. I thought I should have stayed on longer. So, yeah if you want me to be totally honest, yeah, right? There’s some of that. But, the reason we went on the show originally was we saw it as a great forum to showcase what we did. And it proved to be a great idea. We got lots of fans, and as I said, I keep in touch with the people that put on the show, the production team and everybody. They were great. Really, really wonderful people. So, yeah. I think I’ve maybe forgotten a little bit of what the original question was.
B: It’s ok. Sebastian…Oh, Sebastien, Sebastian…sorry
S: I like how you said it. Anyway you say it is fine with me.
B: Yeah I have a French accent, I don’t like it.
S: You do have a French accent, I like it.
B: Let’s talk about Being Erica and your role as a rock star. How did you prepare the role? Was it easy or not because as you’re a musician, how difficult and how far are you from the character of Kai?
S: Well I think there’s certain parts of the character that I get for free, because I’m a musician. And then there’s other parts that were much harder, for example when I started playing the role of Kai I was 26 and he was 32. Even though he’s in a young man’s body, he’s older. And so that part of the character was very important to me and I had to figure out how, you know. What’s that like? How is that different from me? And so there’s only certain parts of myself I could use and then there where other parts- and also he was a drug addict, he was an opium addict which is of course completely foreign to me, I’m glad to say. So when I first started on the character he was a very different man from when I finished with the character. And in the beginning I had to work on what that struggle was like, and he was much darker and he was in need of help. And in many ways he was younger than me because he was so spoiled because he was a rock star and used to getting everything he wanted and he was in a really bad place. So, I played him as a cross between someone much older than me and someone much younger. You know, but in many ways… he’s me. He’s just some parts of me and not other parts you know?
B: Ok and at the end of Being Erica we have to say goodbye to Kai in a very strange way because Erica broke up with him-
S: (Playfully) Bitch
B: -Yeah, what a bitch- and he left our present to his present. How do you imagine his future, what kind of man is he now? And… I dunno.
S: Yeah I understand. I think we see him- we never quite see Kai at the beginning of his journey and we never see Kai quite at the end of his journey. When we meet him on Being Erica we meet him just as he’s stated to take the steps towards becoming a better person.
B: But we saw him when Erica traveled to the future, so we can imagine where he was?
S: Yes, yes you did, you saw him there you did that’s right. And you’re right and that’s him right before he hit rock bottom and then at the end of the show we see him just before he takes the final step. And he’s very happy, I thought, in the last season of Being Erica. I- going into it I thought here’s a guy who’s, he’s starting to live right and he’s started to see how living right makes him feel good. You know? And sometimes I think people don’t know that and they don’t trust that. You know, that if they live right they’re gonna be happy, and they think they have to do all these other things. And for him it was about drugs. And then he goes and- but he’s still not quite there, because for him he needs Erica and that’s what he thinks.
B: He’s transferred his drug addiction to Erica?
S: Yeah, but it’s not as bad.
B: No (laughs).
S: It’s not as bad. And so I think after, in many ways we see him learning his, one of his final lessons. And I think that from everything we see in the character through the three seasons I think his future is very good. And I think he goes home and it’s hard and he’s very much heart broken cause he’s in love with her, like he really is- it’s not. For her, they kind of voted that it was a- maybe it was all fantasy, you know, and for her it was a choice between fantasy. But for him, he was really deeply in love with her and she was really important to him in his life. And so I think in the future he will, he’ll heal from that, and his heart will heal and he’ll go on to become a great man because he’s a talented guy and he has all this good stuff in him and now he’s beaten a lot of his demons. And so I think he’ll go on to do great things, and probably write better music, too.
B: And, have you heard about the re-make from the USA and from the UK, about- of the show?
B: If they ever called you, are you, will you agree to go on the show as a guest, or for a spin-off? Why not?
S: Yeah, if they can afford me. (Laughter)
B: You currently are starring in the new series called Bomb Girls. Do you want to talk about it? And how did you prepare for this role, that is very different from your other characters?
S: I was very lucky. Bomb Girls is something that doesn’t come along very often. It’s set in the 40s and I get to dress up in the beautiful Humphrey Bogart clothing. And the writing is fantastic and the lead actress on the show is Meg Tilly who’s an Academy Award nominated actress. So, it was daunting, you know? And it was such a different character. He’s from a different era and so a lot of preparing for that character was figuring out what that head space is like, because that character, James, his story is about his wife’s breaking out of the usual stereotypes of that time. Like, women weren’t allowed to do a lot of things and she’s going to work in a factory and not telling him. And so for him, he always thought that he was very progressive and very liberal. But then he starts to realize, oh there all- there’s this whole world and so you see a kind of naive dude. So he’s almost like a Mad Men chauvinist, but not really ‘cause he’s got a good heart. You know what I mean? And so for me that was interesting because he doesn’t realize that he’s acting like a jerk. You know? And for a lot of people they’re not- they have a good heart, a lot of people that we meet in life, they have a good heart but they’re just in a box. You know? And so that was him, and so I just had to kind of prepare for it by understanding what his box was like, cause it was different than my box. You know what I mean? And things that would bother him, wouldn’t bother me and likewise. And he for example has an affair. He cheats on his wife or his fiancé and for him he’s just preparing for their wedding night. And he thinks, this is ok, why would this be bad, but for me I was, like (lifts hands in confusion) I just couldn’t relate. You know? So I had to kind of really learn what that was about, and put myself in that headspace. It was really interesting.
E: And will you ever play someone from the present?
S: (Laughter) I don’t care as long as I play someone.
E: Next time it will be an astronaut, or…
B: You also guest starred in many, many shows like Covert Affairs and Haven, what do you prefer? Guest starring in a lot of TV shows or having a recurring- or being a regular in a TV show?
S: Being a regular is better. You make more money. You get to really dig in and prepare properly and spend more time. But guest stars are good too because you work with all new people, and you might one week show up and be a police officer and then the next week you might show up and be a, you know, something completely- you might be a vampire you now? You play a million different things, and so that’s very cool. But the thing is you never quite feel like you got it right, you know, because you just don’t have the time. But that’s always true.
B: And in which show would you love to be in?
S: Oh, so many. So many, Breaking Bad is my favorite show.
B: Okay. Just one last question. If you could time travel, where would you go?
O: I’d have to say the 60s. The best music…yeah.
B: What about you?
S: I’d go back to my childhood. When I was two…
S: I would go there.
B: Why, just because it was…
S: To hang out with my dad.
B: Oh, okay.
E: As an adult?
O: You could hang out with him in the 60s too.
S: Yeah I could, I could hang out with him in the 60s too. Okay, yeah, I take that back…I take that back!
E: So you have both music and family…
B: Thank you very much for your time.
S: Thank you very much, that was a lovely interview. Thank you very much
S: I wish all interviews were that good.
O: I forgot to…No, I was looking over, I was looking at you. Sorry it’s gonna come off weird.
B: Ok, let’s go. You can do it one more time.
S: We’ll do it in harmony.
O: Yeah yeah
E: You can sing it.
S: No…we cannn’t
S and O: Merci d’écouter notre musique.+
END OF TRANSCRIPT.
+ : French for « Thank you for listening to our music. »