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Bonny Doon’s Dan Frechette Loses Studio to the Fire

Singer-songwriter Dan Frechette recorded 33 albums in his shed, now lost to the fire

Dan Frechette lost his studio less than 24 hours after recording the album ‘By the Time It’s Over.’ He still does not know if his home also burned in the CZU Lightning Complex fires.

On Aug. 22, Dan Frechette released his album By The Time It’s Over amid a lot of uncertainty.

For the past five years, the singer-songwriter has called Bonny Doon home and recorded 33 albums in his shed (By The Time It’s Over is the 33rd—and his 72nd album overall). He recorded this latest one in the evening on Tuesday, Aug. 18, less than 24 hours before the CZU Lightning Complex fires ravaged the area, taking with it the shed and possibly his house. As of this writing, he’s not sure if anything is still standing. 

“I was jamming on my classical [guitar] around the house and figured I’d go up there and cut some 20-25-year-old tunes I’d been thinking of doing,” Frechette says. “Now, looking back, the song selection for some of the songs come off like a premonition.”

The songs were mostly written between 1993 and 1995, and some had allusions to fires. These are passionate but gentle folk-rock songs that yearn to be felt deeply and contemplated thoughtfully. On the final line of the final song he says plainly: “I’ve got the same soul, waiting on a feeling, ready for the fire, ready for rekindling.”

Currently he is in wait-and-see mode as to whether he’ll continue to live in Bonny Doon. It’s a bleak moment, but he can’t help but take the time to contemplate the huge body of work he’s recorded at the shed in the past five years.

With the pandemic ending live shows, he’d been particularly busy recording material. He released his prior album, Rhythm’s In The Soul, only 10 days before By The Time It’s Over. It’s a completely different sounding record, pulling heavily from the blues and evoking angst and frustration that anyone who has been in lockdown the past several months can relate to. It contains songs all over his catalog, including the first song he ever wrote back in 1990. In contrast, By The Time It’s Over sounds like a bittersweet departure.

“It just still blows my mind that there’s songs I’ve written that are 30 years old that I still like playing,” Frechette says.

Originally from rural Canadian town Pinawa, which is located in the Manitoba province, Frechette developed an audience for his music at a young age. He signed a publishing deal with EMI in 1994, landing him songs in movies (“Goodbye Monday” in Universal Soldier: Brothers in Arms Part 2), with others being covered by bands from all over the world: Dervish (Ireland), the Ploughboys (Australia), the Duhks (Canada), and Mary Z Cox (U.S.). When EMI signed him, he moved to Toronto, but didn’t like living there.

After the deal with EMI ended, he moved back to Pinawa shortly, then relocated to Winnipeg. He’d always been a prolific songwriter but carefully considered what material to release. That changed in 2012 when he noticed that fans were requesting songs in specific genres—Frechette writes in every genre.

“People like a genre. They’re like, ‘Oh I love bluegrass, I’ll just buy the record,’” Frechette says. “That got me through 2012 and 2013 really well. I recorded 10 albums in 2012. Ever since then, I’ve been recording as much as I can.”  

On a 2013 tour, he met Santa Cruz local Laurel Thomsen and fell in love. When they married a year later, he decided to move to the Santa Cruz Mountains to be with her. They perform as “Dan Frechette and Laurel Thomsen” even as he continues to write and record his solo material.

“If you listen to the last 40-50 albums I made, it’s all very much me. I’m going to go on my deathbed and lay there dying, knowing I made the music that was true to myself. I wasn’t being told to be a pop star. I had a great time,” Frechette says.

Though much remains unknown for Frechette, it is clear that the shed is no more. That likely means it will be a while until he can record another album. And with the pandemic still raging, he’ll also wait to hit the road again. For now, he tries to keep his head up about what the future may have in store.

“I just want to play for people when we’re all healthy, all happy. When we’re all free. I’ll just wait until then,” Frechette says. “It’ll happen again. It’ll be a wonderful time when that happens. It’ll be just heaven when we can all get together again.”  

All 72 of Dan Frechette’s albums are for sale at officialramblingdanfrechette.bandcamp.com.


Follow continuing in-depth fire coverage here and in our live blog.

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