When Tragically Hip guitarist Paul Langlois founded Ching Music in 2005, he did so specifically to release The High Cost of Low Living, fellow Kingstonian and Headstones' frontman, Hugh Dillon's debut record.
Given the changing landscape of the industry in the mid-2000s, and the fact that major labels were investing in fewer projects than they previously had, starting Ching Music seemed the best way to provide Dillon with the opportunity to make the record he wanted, with Langlois at the helm as producer. Since, however, the Kingston, Ontario-based indie label has grown substantially, adding other local talents to its roster and becoming a truly unique community of like-minded artists dedicated to reaching a wider audience, individually and collectively.
With a distribution deal in hand from MapleNationwide (now Fontana North) and Ching's first release under his belt, Langlois headed back into the studio with Dillon in 2006 to record Works Well With Others. Ultimately, however, the strength of the record and Dillon's growing profile as an actor attracted attention from the majors and led Ching and Dillon to part ways.
"But it was an entirely amicable split,” Langlois adds, owing not only to their longstanding friendship, but also to Langlois' belief that – creatively and professionally – artists should always follow the path they believe is best for them; a principle he's continued to apply to his work on the debut records of other emerging Kingston-based artists. Among them; Songs From the Middle (2008) by My Friend Andy, Jim Tidman's Stealing Ghosts (2009) and Greg Ball's Excessive Until August (2011).
In 2012, Langlois also released his own solo debut, Fix This Head, on Ching, but the album that perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of community that's central to Langlois vision for the label is Out To Lunch by The Campfire Liars Club, which showcases the collective talents of Langlois, Tidman, Ball, and My Friend Andy's Jeff Montgomery.
"I'm looking for unique voices,” Langlois explains. "Songwriting and storytelling are what's most important. It's not about following a particular trend. It's about trying to be true to the artists and allow them to record music that's raw, true and organic.”
Going forward, that remains a determining factor in Langlois' approach to Ching; an approach informed heavily by his 27 years of writing, recording and touring with the Tragically Hip. During that time, the Hip has released thirteen records – nine of which have reached No. 1 on the Canadian charts. They've also won fourteen JUNO Awards, been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and were honoured with a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in 2002.
Awards and accolades aside, however, the value Langlois brings to his artists is based on his talents as a producer/songwriter in his own right and the knowledge he's gained from collaborating with the Hip and producers such as Hugh Padgham (The Police, David Bowie), Adam Kasper (Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam) and Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica).
"The Tragically Hip may not be an indie band, but all of us have a huge amount of respect for indie artists and labels. We've been lucky in that we've been able to do our own thing over time and that's impacted my songwriting, how I assess other people's music and my ability to put myself in a listener's head and be objective,” Langlois says.
Although Langlois continues to identify closely with the Kingston music scene as Ching Music becomes an increasingly important focus for him he intends to expand the label's operations, not only to serve the needs of Ching's current roster's more effectively, but to provide other dedicated songwriters, performers and storytellers with a welcoming home for their music.