It wouldn’t be an exageration to say that there seems to be a bit of magic in the Newfoundland band The Once.
From the formation of the band there was something unexpected between the three former actors.
Andrew Dale, Geraldine Hollett and Phil Churchill were all born and raised in various parts of Newfoundland, but it was at the Rising Tide Theatre Festival in Trinity that the foundation of The Once was established.
“One day we were all kind of standing around doing work on this or that,” said Dale. “The artistic director came in and said ‘there’s a variety-type show going off and we need some music for it, so Phil and Gerry you know some songs together and stuff, and Andrew you know some musical instruments and songs. Why don’t the three of you do something together?’”
The three had never played together before and were given the task of pulling together a set of five songs in three hours.
By the time they finished their set they knew that they had stumbled upon something.
“Something kind of clicked. Something went off in our collective minds that said ‘this sounds kind of good, and this might work,’” said Dale.
From there the trio started booking more and more gigs. One performance would lead to the next until they had their first off-island show at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival.
“We went to the Folk Harbour Festival and that’s where our lives took a sharp turn for the better,” said Dale. “We had the most incredible experience playing for people who had no idea who we were and we were so warmly received and the encouragement we were receiving from people we’d just met ourselves was so strong that we were really on this high by the end of the weekend.”
Throughout the Festival The Once kept hearing one thing over and over again “Where’s your CD?”
The group hadn’t recorded an album and one day while on stage an older woman called out saying if they come back again to be sure to bring a CD.
“Everyone kind of chuckled and said ‘Oh yes we’ll do our best to do that.’ And Phil being the quick witted one sort of pipes up and goes ‘If anyone would like to help fund the CD by all means we’ll accept donations,’” said Dale.
Not expecting anything to come from Churchill’s joke, the three walked off the stage to be met by one of the Festival organizers.
“She said to us, ‘Ok guys, don’t freak out but I want you to know there’s a gentleman who would like to help fund your CD, and he’s going to write you a cheque for $5,000’” said Dale. “I remember Phil just kind of standing there gob-smacked, I’m standing there kind of taking a moment leaning over the rail of the harbour there and Gerry immediately fills up.”
With the support of a complete stranger The Once moved their plans for an album from the back burner to the forefront getting to work on their first album Row upon Row of People you know.
“The universe is trying to say something not so subtle any more,” said Dale about the experience.
The Once recently received their first Juno Award nomination which Dale describes as being similar to what they experienced at the Folk Harbour Festival.
“It was like you opened the front door during a huge wind storm and this huge gust of wind started blowing papers all around the house,” he said. “It was just this huge flurry of activity that suddenly happened in an instant.”
The Once brings their modern interpretation of classic Newfoundland music to The Royal on Monday, March 26.