He Sells Sanctuary: Roots Rocker James Leclaire Invites Us To “Come On In”

As Bob Dylan figured out long ago, sooner or later we all need shelter from the storm. And that’s exactly what we get on “Come On In,” the highly comforting new single from Manotick, ON roots-rocker James Leclaire.

Check it out on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?si=mzobpJsQwBVF8_-i&v=IexkTpldY2M&feature=youtu.be

Singing in the grizzled, relatable voice of somebody who’s been there, Leclaire throws open a metaphorical door for us, reassuring us that what lies within is a sanctuary where we can recharge our batteries until we have the strength to make another run at life.

Warm yourself from the cold

Shield yourself from the wind

Dry yourself off from the rain, my friend

Oh, it’s time to come on in

Don’t feel shame

Don’t feel sorrow

When the sun sets, life will restart tomorrow

When you’re strong, you can try again

Come on in

Beginning with just Leclaire’s vocal over a stark establishing procession of eighth notes played on the guitar, the track gradually flourishes into a lightly swinging anthem that feels like being pulled around the dance floor by a partner who’s well and truly got you.

“‘Come On In’ depicts a person helping someone close to them who has hit rock bottom,” the singer-songwriter confirms. “They are inviting them into their home to heal, refresh and recharge. It’s uplifting, hopeful and encouraging, yet painful and relatable. We all need a person who can talk us off that ledge and breathe life into us when we feel as though we are on our last breath.

Listen on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3c1awKuoe4FFW7iAc1cZJi?si=QHRRfOP4TPiMP49K2O9RsA&nd=1&dlsi=7fe6047be7af45b3

“The only thing here is that I wrote it in a time when everything was fine. Therefore, for it to help others but when I came to record it, I was in a difficult spot and in turn my own words helped me.” You don’t have to hold an advanced degree in armchair psychology to deduce that Leclaire is singing both about and to himself here. “Come On In” was recorded during a fraught period that saw the sudden end of his 23-year marriage—and affected an unexpected sea change in his approach to writing.

“My sorrowful songs were always written from a fictional place, or as a witness to others’ pain,” the Renfrew-born artist says. “Now it was my sorrow, my pain, my wound, and it caused my pen to bleed ink and my guitar to cry chords.” 

It was a flurry of activity that resulted in a hefty backlog of songs: 68 in total. Leclaire has been releasing one per month over the past 10 months, with the release of “Come On In” supplying the final piece in the puzzle of his first album in nine years and his fourth overall.

The new material was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Phillip Victor Bova at his Bova Sound in Ottawa, with a stellar supporting cast of guest musicians that included guitarist Kevin Breit (Norah Jones), harmonicist Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson/Bob Dylan/Neil Young/Chris Stapleton), JUNO-nominated guitarist/pianist John Fraser Findlay and his longtime friend drummer/guitarist/vocalist Michael Hunter.

The title track augments Leclaire’s vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica with electric guitar from Findlay, drums and harmonies by Hunter and bass laid down by Bova himself.

To say they’ve been a busy bunch is to put it mildly. Of that aforementioned 68 new songs, a full 38 were captured for posterity between January 2020 and the end of 2023. And the rest are fully written and ready to go. Now that we’ve all been invited to “Come On In,” we may never want to leave.