“The best songs always come from people,” said musician Brian Buchanan. “Every person that you see has their own story going on.”
Buchanan is a vocalist and instrumentalist for Enter the Haggis, an indie/folk-rock band with Toronto roots. The group is also the star of the March 7 Celtic Concert, an annual performance sponsored by the Emmitsburg and Thurmont Libraries. This year’s sold out concert will be held at the Marion Burk Knott Auditorium at Mount St. Mary’s, Emmitsburg. Though the Celtic Concert is sold out, the band will also be performing at Wolf Trap in Virginia on March 9.
“Because we’ve grown up in the Irish and Celtic community, March tends to be a big touring month for us,” Buchanan said.
The Celtic Concert is part of the band’s latest tour to promote their most recent album, “The Modest Revolution,” a record with unconventional inspiration.
All of the tracks on “The Modest Revolution” are based on the contents of one day in one newspaper.
“The basic idea came about talking about all of the towns and places that we visit,” said Buchanan. “Every town ... has its own story ... [Guitarist] Trevor [Lewington] had the idea of kind of picking the newspaper ... A print newspaper has more space and tends to pay a little more attention to things that wouldn’t make splashy front headlines.”
With plans to distribute 1,500 copies of the newspaper along with the album to fans, the guys of Enter the Haggis had to choose a day months in advance. They randomly selected the March 30, 2012, edition of The Globe and Mail.
“... We had to commit to a day in advance and hoped something newsworthy would happen,” Buchanan said.
March 30, 2012, happened to be the day Canada released its federal budget, meaning many of the stories in the day’s paper were dry, economic pieces. But as the band began digging through the day’s events, they found inspiration in every section.
“There is always news,” said Buchanan. “there are always stories going on.”
A “this day in history” feature about dog sled teams assembled to help transport patients during an outbreak of diphtheria in northern Canada 100 years ago, inspired guitarist Trevor Lewington to write a song called “Balto.” A mysteriously-worded obituary for a woman named Cheryl sparked the idea for Buchanan’s song “Footnote.”
“[Some songs] were more directly literal and others are more just inspired by the overall mood of the newspaper that day,” said Buchanan.
Though the record isn’t set for official release until March 30, many “Haggis Heads” have already heard several singles off of “The Modest Revolution” thanks to free downloads and special promotions for fans.
Last year, the band set a goal to raise $20,000 in recording funds through Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform that allowed people to make donations. After just three months, Enter the Haggis had more than tripled their initial goal, raising $66,035.
“We’ve done fan-fundraising before,” Buchanan said. “It’s nice to eliminate all of the gatekeepers and middlemen ... It remains to be seen if this is the direction of the industry. You can only go to the well so many times.”
Thanks to the fans who donated through the Kickstarter campaign, Buchanan said Enter the Haggis was able “to take the time [they] needed to make the album they wanted to make.”
“It enabled us to go to an amazing studio in Lexington, Ky.,” Buchanan said. “It was amazing to be able to go and sequester ourselves from the world for 30 days.”
The 1,000 backers on Kickstarter were the first to receive a copy of “The Modest Revolution,” on Valentine’s Day, more than a month before the official release.
But donors aren’t the only ones who were granted a sneak peek. Every Monday throughout the month of February, Enter the Haggis has released one single off the album, free for download.
“We thought it might be a nice way to draw some people and create some excitement,” Buchanan said. “It’s the power of the Internet. We don’t have major radio play or a video on MTV, but people share it with their friends.”
Every Monday night, Enter the Haggis also has held Google Hangouts; live chat sessions where fans can ask questions of all five members of the band, plus special guests, at the same time.
“All five guys in the band ... can sign on to their own computers; we can chat about the album or the song that was released that day,” Buchanan said. “... We’ve always tried to stay as available to our fans as we can, whether that means sticking around after the show or live blogging.”
Fans looking for an even more interactive experience are invited to join the band on tour in Ireland this June.
“A tour company in New York has set up packages for our fans where they can fly with us, ride on the bus with us ...” said Buchanan. “This will be our fifth time going to Ireland.”
While Buchanan said other bands may be wary about taking fans on the road with them, Enter the Haggis “has never had anything but a wonderful experience.”
“It’s a really fun way to get to know some of the fans more as people and less as faces in the crowd,” Buchanan said.
And who knows, a fan could very well inspire the band’s next album.
“It pays dividends as well,” said Buchanan. “[A fan] will have an incredible story from their life and it’ll inspire a song.”