The Once

The Once

 St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, CAN

"Perfect vocal harmonies thick enough to stand on. Think of the heavenly mix of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch, back them up with The Chieftans, and let Daniel Lanois swim around in it, and you’re still only halfway there." -Amelia Curran


Named for a unique Newfoundland phrase that means ‘imminently’, now is indeed the time for The Once.

From their beginnings as three actors who also loved to sing together, The Once has embraced a different vision of Newfoundland music. Their sounds do not come from the noisy pubs and dockside taverns that fuel so much of the Island’s energy. Instead, their music comes from a quieter and more thoughtful place. Hope and tragedy are intertwined in their music, whether they are singing an old lament from World War I, original songs that speak of love defeated, or tasteful songs from the artists whose music inspires them.

Their title of their new album comes from a poem by poet George Murray, a poem that so inspired them they built a song around it. Song For Memory speaks of the power of words and music to freeze time and emotions, to make small moments large, and large moments small. The song’s climax features the memorable line, "row upon row, of the people you know", life’s expectations writ both in a personal and expansive way at the same time.

As a trio, the band has kept it uncomplicated, depending on the power of their voices and acoustic instruments. Lead singer Geraldine Hollett, has an instrument of rare power; she is a singer who can still a noisy room, so expressive she can tell a novel-length story with a few words. Accompanied by Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bouzouki, they create a perfect blend of voice and melody. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes funny, always poignant,The Once sound like nothing else that has ever come from Newfoundland.

Their debut album has built a gradual but fervent following, and their live show is unique in its combination of intimacy and power. They have won several East Coast Music and Canadian Folk Music awards, and the country is slowly waking up to just what an amazing band they are. Since they signed to Borealis Records in 2010, they have toured through out the country and Europe, drawing huge crowds and glowing reviews wherever they go. With Row Upon Row of the People They Know, The Once will take their place amongst Canada’s finest performers.

the once – in their own words

The Once has only been a band for a few years. They did not grow up dreaming of playing music together - it was more of an after-hours hobby, an adjunct to busy acting careers. Over time, it became more and more important. The busy years since they recorded their first album have allowed the band to grow and mature, and Row Upon Row of the People They Know represents the full flowering of that growth.

"We've definitely learned more about each other, what makes each of us tick (in good ways and bad ways), but also what each of our strengths and weaknesses are," said singer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dale. "We're also a bit braver with our music. We've gained confidence with our own abilities, both on our own and as a band."

Singer and instrumentalist Phil Churchill made similar points: "We are much less polite and have stopped trying to impress each other. We are more open, more honest, more relaxed, more confident around each other. We work faster. We decide smarter. We dream bigger."

All three members agreed that this album represents a massive step forward for them.

"We were participants in the making of the first album - we are the creators of this one. The songs that we played together before releasing The Once, our self-titled debut, were the songs that we had learned in order to make up a long enough set to fill a night. They encapsulate a very short and very specific period of time for us”, said Churchill. "Row Upon Row of the People They Know is made of pieces of the three of us as individuals over kitchen tables full of tea and happiness and pressure and frustration. It's each of us putting ourselves out there in front of each other like we've never done. It's the first step towards becoming the band we want to be rather than the band we're expected to be."

Lead singer Geraldine Hollett explained that the two years of extensive touring and intense creativity have changed the way they collaborated.

"I think we have learned to really listen to each other, and make an album that represents who we are individually, and as a group, without compromising too much. We are all very strong-minded. Or stubborn – it’s a fine line."

The new album represents a crossroad in the bands creative process. All are fond of traditional Newfoundland music, but the quiet and moving songs they sing are miles away from the rowdy drinking songs and shanties that often represent the Island’s music.

"Songs like I’se The B’y are already provided with great enthusiasm and capability by other bands," explains Dale. "Our focus tends to wander down many different avenues underneath the folk music umbrella. We have a fairly wide range of interest musically and we believe the variety of material on the new album reflects that."



Song for Memory

Written By: George Murray/The Once

The Old Men are proud of the songs that they've picked
Humming in time where the words come unfixed
Just five Kings left, only four can turn tricks
The tallow is burning a bath for the wicks

Some get while some make mistakes
Some hear the chorus, some only the breaks
One singing the verse through the sips that he takes
And some close their eyes as their memories ache

A full house is Five men but very few glances
Shuffle the cards and hand out the chances
One eye to the Queen while the clock still advances
And pondering time in long empty trances

Stuck in a town where your reach meets the view
Where the dreams that you held were both fleeting and few
They crackle like fire on their way up the flue
While each day you work and at weeks end your'e due

And it's Row Upon Row Of the People You Know
And it's Row Upon Row Of the People You Know

Stand still as a choir that hasn't yet sung
Stand still as a choir that hasn't yet sung

No head goes un-nodded, no head goes unhung
And the time to head home has long ago come
But Courage runs high, men are filling their lungs
The song goes around like a black vinyl tongue
A guitar in the corner, it's neck left unstrung
And the girl at the bar is impossibly young

And it's Row Upon Row of the People You Know
And it's Row Upon Row of the People You Know
And it's Row Upon Row of the People You Know

Stand still as a choir that hasn't yet sung
Stand still as a choir that hasn't yet sung
Stand still as a choir that hasn't yet sung


LPs released:
Row Upon Row of the People They Know Oct 2011
The Once (debut album)

Singles released:
You're My Best Friend October 2011
Maid On The Shore (radio airplay)

Set List

Typically two 45-50 minutes sets, flowing seamlessly between original songs, traditional folk material and covers, all with fresh and original arrangements.