Singer songwriter Spade McQuade knows the makings of a good song: melody, hook, and heart. The Atlantic Beach artist tests his new material on a live audience, and if it gets a positive response, it stays in rotation. But before a song hits the stage, it’s played to an intimate audience of one: his wife, Colleen. When compiling material for his first collection of new music in four years, McQuade looked to Colleen as a sounding board. “She’s my muse. So if I play something that she doesn’t like, I can tell by her face,” he says. “It’s like ‘try again.”
Armed with 11 tracks full of heart, McQuade went into the studio to record his new CD An Ocean Between Us. The Belfast native hosted an official launch of his new release on April 1 at the Fly’s Tie Irish Pub, 177 Sailfish Drive E. in Atlantic Beach. Many of the musicians featured on the project were on hand including Trevor Tanner, Jana Light, Bill Moredock, Amanda Estus, Cody Walk Jr., Brian Homan, Joe Gufford, and wife, Colleen McGready. An Ocean Between Us is available on ITunes, CD Baby, and online at spademcquade.com.
Recording An Ocean Between Us was a cathartic process for McQuade, who suffered a series of tragic losses in the last couple years. He lost two close friends and bandmates, drummer Dan Solomon and guitarist Jeff Pierson, both of whom played alongside him for years in Spade McQuade & the Allstars. “Dan was always the one going ‘new album, new album’,” he says. “I felt like it was something I had to do for them as well.”
“I’ve lived here for 20 years in June, and I lived in Belfast for 20 years before that, so I call it Irish Americana.”
In November 2016, he lost Bap Kennedy, his childhood friend and bandmate in the former Irish rock band Energy Orchard, to cancer. McQuade was excited to share his new music with his friend and was planning a trip home when Kennedy’s condition worsened. The distance between them struck a chord, inspiring the album’s title. “He kept telling me to hold on. And then eventually he got so sick, he told me not to come home at all. He said he didn’t want me to see him that way,” says McQuade. “I kept thinking of that line because there was an ocean between us.” McQuade launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds to record An Ocean Between Us at Stay Tuned Studios in Jacksonville.
The majority of the album was recorded live, giving the record the authenticity of a live show. “If you haven’t seen me in a while, it’s not just traditional Irish songs,” he says. “I’ve lived here for 20 years in June, and I lived in Belfast for 20 years before that, so I call it Irish Americana.” Shadows of his friends linger in songs like ‘London Again.’ It tells the story of McQuade and Kennedy and their quest for a record deal. “We had to go to London if we wanted to make it. There are no record labels in Belfast,” says McQuade. “If you wanted a record deal you had to travel to London. We just kept going back again and again.” ‘Humble’ is a nod to Bongo Boy Solomon, who nicknamed McQuade Big Humble and got a kick out of embarrassing his friend after a gig with an exaggerated, but well-meaning, introduction to the crowd.
Solomon also makes an unusual appearance on a special bonus track, a dream sequence about the possibility of a lost friend trying to communicate from the other side. An Ocean Between Us is McQuade’s way of answering back, telling all of his Florida friends, those on the other side of the pond, and beyond, that he’s still here and all heart. Catch McQuade frequently at Fly’s Tie Irish Pub and find his stuff online at www.spademcquade.com.