The first album Andy Stochansky ever purchased was The Beatles: 1967-1970


By Steve Newton

If you want to hear simply beautiful—and beautifully simple—pop tunes, look no further than Five Star Motel, the new CD by Toronto singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stochansky. When developing the material for the major-label follow-up to his two indie discs, While You Slept (1995) and Radio Fusebox (’99), he used the K.I.S.S. method—and I don’t mean he studied the works of Gene Simmons and Co. His motto was more like: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

“I think that for the most part, simple is better,” says Stochansky from his Toronto home. “And to me simple means a simple idea, a simple melody, and a simple story. If that is in place, then you can add on and get creative with it, and that’s where I felt like production came into play—like I would add all the different guitar parts or whatever. I knew that the bottom line was, if it worked with just guitar and voice, it would work with the band.”

Stochansky—who performs with his group on a double bill with Emm Gryner at Richard’s on Richards on Friday (November 1)—got a lot of help from his wife, Lisa Whynot, in choosing the tunes for Five Star Hotel. That’s one of the reasons he dedicated the 12-track disc to her.

“I asked her for her advice a lot,” he says. “Whenever I have a new song I let her hear it first, and if it passes her ears, then I know it’s good to go.”

As a youngster, Stochansky developed his knack for simple melodies and sparse arrangements with repeated listenings to Stardust, Willie Nelson’s 1978 collection of pop standards.

“I remember every song on that record,” he says. “And it’s funny, because I’d come back to listening to Willie again a few years ago, and he’s such an incredible songwriter. I’m really hungry for a lot of music, so I guess going from Willie Nelson to the Beatles, as a kid, opened me up for anything.”

As heard throughout Five Star Motel, Stochansky’s skill at marrying craft and emotion to produce catchy, melodic pop also owes much to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The first album he ever purchased was the two-disc compilation, The Beatles: 1967-1970.

“My brother bought the double red one,” he recalls, “and I bought the double blue one, and we would just listen to those songs constantly. And I think that listening to music at that early age—’cause I was six years old when I bought that—listening to pop form and melodies was really an influence on me. It just sounded so exciting and so creative, and really took me to another world. ‘I Am the Walrus’ gave me nightmares!”

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