The album, which Lightburn jokes is an audio version of a biopic, was inspired by the passing of his father, a jazz musician from Belize who moved to Montreal via New York to reconnect with his teenage sweetheart. The two were married for 56 years, until he passed in April 2020 in a Quebec nursing home where he’d been living with Alzheimer’s.
Despite growing up with the man, Lightburn—the youngest brother of three—says his father “was almost a complete stranger to me. I could almost count the conversations we had, and none of them were very meaningful. I had to deduce that our happy moments were listening to Expos games together. I never knew how he felt about my career or the things I’d achieved—all of which I got from him.”
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‘Once Upon A Time In Montreal’ was produced by Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, The Weather Station, Godspeed You! Black Emperor), who Lightburn worked with on ‘Hear Me Out’. The album features Dears drummer Jeff Luciani along with a number of talented, local jazz players, including Frank Lozano, who delivers a soaring sax solo on the title track, which for Murray conjured the ghost of his father, who—after abandoning music when he became a born-again Christian—had picked up his sax again in the 2000s to play on two Dears songs. As soon as Lozano finished, “I knew it was a 400-foot home run,” says Lightburn. “I knew it was something that would hold. I knew also at that moment how much my dad would love this record. Even if he never told me, I know that it would be on repeat in his car if he was still with us and driving around. That was my motivation—to make something I know he would love. It’s not indie rock, you know?”