Murray A. Lightburn Creates An Audio Version Of A Biopic For His Father With ‘Once Upon A Time In Montreal’

[Cover photo credit to Richmond Lam]

Murray A. Lightburn, the longtime frontman of Montreal’s The Dears, has revealed a deeply personal new single, Dumpster Gold,” to announce his third solo full-length album, Once Upon A Time In Montreal, for a March 31, 2023 release via Dangerbird Records.

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.  

Discussing “Dumpster Gold”, Lightburn notes:

About a year or so after my old man passed, my mom called and said, ‘Murray, I’ve made a big decision: I’m selling the house’. She’d been there for 50 years. We were the only family that ever lived in it, one of many identical houses in a section of Brossard, Quebec. On our way out, we sifted through everything; most of it was going to the dump. There were many worthless treasures that were meaningful only to us. A couple of things now sit around my house. My father wasn’t an expressive man to me. I am left with these fragments to piece together a connection to him. 

Murray’s 86-year-old mother started revealing details of their married life together with Murray. This eventually led to Murray’s narrative album focusing on his father’s life.

He explains:

She painted a portrait of a man that I had never met in my life. I then pieced the story together.

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 local jazz players, including Frank Lozano on saxophone whose work conjured Murray’s father’s saxophone playing.

As soon as Lozano finished, Murray says:

I knew it was a 400-foot home run. 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? 

Murray A. Lightburn will hit the road next month in the EU/UK largely supporting Stars. North American dates are in the works for the Spring.

Tour Dates (supporting Stars):

02/03 – Galway, IE @ Roisin Dubh

02/04 – Dublin, IE @ Whelan’s

02/05 – Cork, IE @ Cyprus Avenue

02/07 – Belfast, UK @ Ulster Hall

02/08 – Glasgow, UK @ King Tuts Wah Wah Hut

02/09 – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club

02/10 – Manchester, UK @ The Deaf Institute

02/11 – London, UK @ Lafayette

02/12 – London, UK @ Lafayette

02/14 – Paris, FR @ Petit Bain

02/16 – Utrecht, NE @ Tivoli Vredenburg ^

02/17 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust

02/18 – Berlin, DE @ Lido

^ headlining date

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