More than just a concert film, more than just another behind-the-music rock doc, “No Roads In” is the story of two men’s quest for artistic truth in a world given over to pre-fabricated entertainments. It chronicles the odyssey of Canadian sound engineer Adam Naugler and singer-songwriter Blake Reid as they seek to record an album of original music in a century-old farmhouse in the middle of a wheat field in southern Alberta. In a recent phone interview, Naugler and Reid discuss the recording project, how they came to work together, and how their musical journey turned into a cinematic one, as well.
Scruffington Post: What was the genesis of “No Roads In?”
Adam Naugler: It started over five years ago. I’m a sound man in the film and TV industry, and I was doing a lot of projects that didn’t inspire me. Lots of reality TV stuff, or as I like to say, “non-reality” TV. I was feeling lost, and I wanted to get back to my craft. I’m passionate about music, and I wanted to do something that would make me feel excited again.
I’m also a country boy at heart. And I wanted to bring those worlds together, my love of music and my love of a certain rural way of life. I started looking for a house to do some kind of recording project in. And I looked through a whole bunch of houses, but somehow, none of them were quit right.”
SP: How did Blake become involved with the film?
AN: I knew I wanted to do a recording project. And although I am a musician myself, I’m not a singer or a songwriter. As it happens, Blake and I have a mutual friend. He had introduced me to a record Blake had done, while we were off filming polar bears in Manitoba in the middle of a snow storm. I had nothing to do but listen to that record, and I was blown away. It drew me in from the first song. He has a way where the words he crafts transport you right into the moment he’s singing about.
Fast forward to 2014. That album had been one of my favorites ever since. I was in Nashville filming a food show, and that same director said, “Hey, Blake’s in town. Let’s all have lunch.” We had lunch, and I started telling Blake about this recording project. And he was into it from the start. From that moment on, we determined to find a way to make this work.
Blake Reid: I always had it in mind to do a live recording project. So when I met Adam, I already had some songs that were very organic, that didn’t fit in with a lot of the commercial country I work in. Then I just started writing more material, just sort of writing without boundaries. It was an opportunity to really get back in touch with who I am as an artist.
SP: Describe the process of finding the house that was eventually used in the film.
AN: The job was to find a house with a story to tell. And while we saw a lot of great houses, there was always something that just wasn’t there. Then one day, I was driving around southern Alberta, and I went down this road I had driven a thousand times before. But this time, I saw the top of a roof that I’d somehow never seen before. This house just looked like it had been set down in the middle of nowhere. It was an empty farmhouse; the last time it was occupied was 1939.
At first, the owner didn’t want anything to do with me. He was not interested in anything I had to say. But it was eating away at me, so I went back again the next day, and I wouldn’t leave. I told my story, and after a couple hours, I was able to convince them it would be okay.
BR: That old house had such a warmth to it. A lot of old houses are spooky, but not this one. There was a uniqueness about that house, and about the way we recorded there. We recorded everything live, with a generator just outside. The house and all of its ambient sounds were a part of the recording — the wind, the rustling wheat, the way the plaster on the walls pushed back against the sounds the musicians made. As a songwriter, it was really interesting for me to have the environment as an element in the songs, and the recording. We didn’t run away from that; we embraced it.
SP: At what point did the recording turn into a film?
AN: We decided early on that we should document our journey, just hang some GoPros and run with it. But the nature of our journey was we never really knew what it was going to be. The project had a way of finding its own way. It had a mind of its own, and it transformed into a full-fledged documentary.