Rule Of 3: Port Cities Is More Than 'Montreal'

The singers and songwriters who make up Port Cities – Breagh MacKinnon, Carleton Stone and Dylan Guthro – are in Montreal talking about their song, “Montreal.” 

“I don’t think we’ve ever heard it in Montreal,” says Stone. “We’ve never actually been here and heard it on the radio.”

Perhaps they need to spend more time at a house party in Montreal (Montreal, Montreal), where the song is a staple of local radio.

“We all really liked it when we wrote it but then we didn’t put it out for almost a year,” MacKinnon recalls. “It was kind of journey after we wrote the song of figuring out what the production was like. I think there were three or four versions that we did before we settled on the version that you guys are hearing now.

“But yeah, that was a song that we all knew that there was something special about it – we just had to figure out how to dress it up and put it out to the public.”

“Montreal” came as a standalone single and is not part of Port Cities’ self-titled debut album, which was released in 2017.

Proving the adage omne trium perfectum, the trio excels at crafting infectious songs that explore unfilled dreams (“Astronaut”), jealousy (“On The Nights You Stay Home”) and the depths of relationships (“Back to the Bottom”).

Each of the Nova Scotia natives came from musical backgrounds and had released acclaimed recordings of their own when they came together in 2015, a few years after meeting at a songwriters camp.

“After awhile we were like, we’re all fighting for the same gigs, why don’t we start one band and start writing songs specifically for that,” recalls Stone.

“We know the music business is as hard today as it’s ever been so the ‘three minds working better than one’ has been one thing that has really helped us out, as far as the songwriting and performing.

“Usually when we’re writing, if all three of us aren’t high-fiving over an idea, we know ‘OK maybe it’s not right.’ It helps us just write better songs because three of us are filtering them.”

Guthro says there’s another advantage. “Traveling and hanging out alone definitely sucks,” he admits. “To be on the road with your best buddies all the time and share some of the singing duties and other duties… It’s probably the biggest difference for me, where it’s just like you don’t feel alone anymore, you don’t have to worry about stuff on your own.

“We figure things out together, which is a change for the better.”

Stone says he and his bandmates “write a lot of songs that never see the light of day” and MacKinnon says the group uses live shows to test new material.

“We’ll give it a few tries but if a song doesn’t seem to resonate, even if we selfishly love that song, you kind of have to listen to the public and what they like,” she explains.

Although they haven’t yet heard “Montreal” in Montreal, the three can recall the first time they heard their voices on the radio.

“I remember going home to Cape Breton,” says Stone. “That’s the first place I heard ‘Montreal’ and I cranked it up.”

MacKinnon remembers hearing “Back to the Bottom” while driving around Halifax. “I was like so geeked out and took a little video on my phone.”

Guthro shares his memory of driving with his father, famed Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Guthro. “I remember the first time I heard my voice on the radio was way back when I made a solo album,” he says, “and we just happened to turn on the radio and it was my voice. We high-fived. It was a cool moment."