Juno-Award-winning polymath Christopher Ward has recorded a new take on his biggest hit, “Black Velvet” — available now.
Writers who have achieved a number one single belong to a select group, numbering in the hundreds. 31 years after reaching this achievement, Christopher Ward offers a new take on a classic. And it’s worth a listen.
As far as resumes go, Christopher’s is among the nation’s most prolific, working in virtually every corner of the industry over a career that spans decades. From recording artist to television icon, Christopher settled in as a songwriter in the 1990s, composing tunes for the likes of Diana Ross, Amanda Marshall, Colin James, and the Backstreet Boys. Ever the wordsmith, Christopher has also authored three novels.
“Black Velvet” — a paean to Elvis Presley popularized by singer-songwriter Allanah Myles in 1990 — has had no shortage of attention since its release, having been reimagined by a litany of artists.
But now, the songwriter himself breathes new life into an old hit, hinting at the sound of Christopher’s forthcoming album, Same River Twice.
Produced by Christopher, Arun Chaturvedi, and Luke McMaster, the album signals a homecoming of sorts. After a career of writing songs for others, Same River Twice turns the lens toward the storyteller. “It’s a testimony, of sorts, from someone who’s been ‘working life out’ on a guitar and in a notebook for half a century — and counting, and as times change, and we all age, we still have new stories to tell,” Christopher said in an interview. “The ground I cover in Same River Twice is personal, and the telling is honest and hopeful. These are songs that say it was all worth it, that our choices matter, and that we need dreams to live for.”
Recorded in Toronto’s legendary Orange Lounge studio, the album is a consequence of Christopher’s faith in the creative process, capturing an old-school spontaneity. “We recorded in a way that harkened back to the classic Motown and Muscle Shoals style of working; I’d play the song on acoustic guitar for the band, then they’d run it down a few times, making notes and talking about the shape of the song,” Christopher said. “It was my belief that capturing a performance of the song, live off the floor and while the players were still discovering it themselves, would lead to the ‘loose and live’ feeling that’s so elusive in recording sessions.”
That elusive energy certainly comes across in the 13-track LP, capped by a rendition of “Black Velvet” that will “take you to the places where the song was born.”
While its a treat for listeners ever familiar with the tune, for Christopher, the journey has been equally eye-opening.
“The creation of Same River Twice was a process of rediscovery, like falling in love again,” he said. “I started to write songs that reflect my own life experiences, which I hadn’t done in decades and it led me to value what I have and what life’s about a whole lot more. I wanted to share that to empower people to listen to their own inner voices, as I came to terms with mine.”
Drawing inspiration from greats like of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Willie Dixon, Laura Nyro and Hank Williams, Christopher embraces his ongoing drive to create and express himself.
“I’m happy with the work I’ve done, but will always want to write another song,” he said when asked about the future. “I can’t imagine retiring, it’s a terrifying prospect for me. I’m a storyteller with a restless imagination, and with this new album, I want to connect with the listener by trying to make the most out of who I am, how I’ve evolved, and by sharing the process of rediscovery. If I write something true, that touches someone, that’s where the real gratification is.”
“I found something meaningful during the process of making Same River Twice, that I thought I had lost. I believe I’ve just made the best music of my life,” he added. “And I’m not done yet.”
“Black Velvet” is available now. Same River Twice is available May 28, 2021.