It’s a Monday morning in southern Ontario, and Daniel Romano doesn’t feel like talking.
“I don’t remember anything about writing that song,” he says of “The One That Got Away (Came Back Today),” a throwback country ballad thick with Spanish horns and strings. “I couldn’t even guess. It’s just another song with 50 percent of the title in parentheses.”
“The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)” is more than that, though. For starters, it’s the first single from Romano’s new album, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, whose 11 songs lead their baritone-voiced creator down a path filled with countrypolitan crooning, honky-tonk heartache and mid-century melodrama. Self-produced and largely self-performed, it’s also a one-man operation, proof that Romano — who recently upgraded from Normaltown Records, New West’s imprint for emerging artists, to the official roster of New West itself — isn’t trading his own traditions for growth.
Like the rest of the upcoming album, due July 28th, “The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)” was recorded at Romano’s home studio in Canada. Romano also tracked a still-untitled follow-up album around the same time, even attaching an unexpected outro to “The One That Got Away” — an outro that’s more psychedelic than rootsy — to hint at the new album’s direction.
As for the song’s tale of heartbreak and loss, Romano says it’s all a work of fiction. . . for him, at least.
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“Is it a true story?” he asks. “For a lot of people, sure. But not me, necessarily. I like to consider myself to be a good sponge, a good listener, a good watcher — someone who has the ability to take a scenario and make it relatable on a human level that’s not too overly dramatic. If you need heartbreak to be able to write heartbreak, you might not be in the right business.”