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Great Lake Swimmers

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Great Lake Swimmers
Performing at the Burlington Sound of Music festival
Performing at the Burlington Sound of Music festival
Background information
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
GenresFolk rock, Indie
Years active2003 (2003)–present
LabelsWeewerk, Nettwerk
MembersTony Dekker
Erik Arnesen
Kelsey McNulty
Bret Higgins
Ryan Granville-Martin
Past membersJulie Fader
Colin Huebert
Mike Overton
Sandro Perri
Greg Millson
Miranda Mulholland
Bret Higgins
Joshua Van Tassel
Darcy Yates

Great Lake Swimmers is a Canadian folk rock band from Wainfleet, Ontario,[1] and currently based in Toronto.

The current touring line-up is Tony Dekker on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, Erik Arnesen on banjo, electric guitar and harmonium, Ryan Granville-Martin on drums and backing vocals, Bret Higgins on upright bass and Kelsey McNulty on keyboards and backing vocals. Past members included Julie Fader on backing vocals, Sandro Perri on guitar, and Greg Millson and Colin Huebert on drums.

The band's style has been compared to Red House Painters, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine and Neil Young,[2] as well as Will Oldham[3] (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and Sufjan Stevens.[4] Dekker has cited influences including Gram Parsons and Hank Williams.[5]


The band released two albums, Great Lake Swimmers in 2003 and Bodies and Minds in 2005, on the independent label (Weewerk) before signing to the larger Nettwerk in 2007.

The band released its third full-length album, Ongiara, on March 27, 2007 in Canada and in May for the rest of the world. Although signing to Nettwerk early in 2007, Great Lake Swimmers continue to be managed by (Weewerk). In September 2007, (weewerk) released a limited edition vinyl version of Ongiara. It was available in Australia through native indie label Speak N Spell.

Their fourth album, Lost Channels, was released on March 31, 2009. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize,[6] and was nominated for a Juno Award, in the category of Roots & Traditional Album of the Year – Group, and a Canadian Folk Music Award.

In 2009 Great Lake Swimmers took part in an interactive documentary series called City Sonic. The series, which featured 20 Toronto artists, had Tony Dekker talk about his daily underground commute along Toronto’s subway system.[7] In 2011, Dekker participated in the documentary series National Parks Project, visiting Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia with filmmaker Keith Behrman and musicians Daniela Gesundheit and Old Man Luedecke.

The band's fifth studio album, New Wild Everywhere, was released on April 3, 2012.[8] The band also composed an instrumental soundtrack for photographer Ian Coristine's One in a Thousand, an e-book of photography from the Thousand Islands region of Ontario, also released in April 2012.[9]

Dekker released a solo album, Prayer of the Woods, in October 2013.[10] The album includes eight original songs as well as covers of Gordon Lightfoot's "Carefree Highway" and Human Sexual Response's "Land of the Glass Pinecones".[10] In 2014 he followed up with Sings 10 Years of Zunior, an album of covers of other Canadian artists — including Old Man Luedecke, Chad VanGaalen, Christine Fellows, Ohbijou, Rae Spoon, Matt Mays, Martin Tielli, Jennifer Castle and Cadence Weapon — released to mark the 10th anniversary of Canadian web music store Zunior.[11]

The sixth studio album by the full band, A Forest of Arms, was released on April 21, 2015.[12] In 2017 they followed up with the Christmas-themed EP They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore.[13]

In February 2018, the band released the single "Falling Apart"/"The Talking Wind", as an advance preview of the forthcoming album The Waves, the Wake.[14]

Their eighth album, Uncertain Country, was released on April 28, 2023.[15] In 2024, they appeared on several tracks from Abigail Lapell's album Anniversary.[16]


Playing at the Tsunami Club in Köln.
Great Lake Swimmers on stage at the Peterborough Folk Festival in 2014

Studio albums[edit]

Acoustic albums[edit]

Cover albums[edit]

  • When Last We Shook Hands: Cover Songs, Vol. 1 (2020)


  • Hands in Dirty Ground (weewerk, 2006)
  • Swimming Away (2016)
  • They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore (2017)
  • Side Effects (2018)[19]

Live albums[edit]

  • Live at the Church of the Redeemer (Nettwerk, 2007)
  • The Legion Sessions (Nettwerk, 2009)
  • Live in Ottawa at the 27 Club, October 3, 2019 (2020)
  • Live at the Redeemer 2007 (Weewerk, 2021)


Year Song Chart peak Album

2005 "To Leave It Behind" × Bodies and Minds
"Bodies and Minds" ×
2007 "Your Rocky Spine" × Ongiara
"Backstage with the Modern Dancers" ×
2009 "Pulling on a Line" × Lost Channels
2012 "Easy Come Easy Go" 28 New Wild Everywhere
"The Great Exhale" ×
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.
"×" denotes periods where charts did not exist or were not archived.



  • This is not like home (Silver Road, 2007)
  • Your Rocky Spine (Weeds, 3x06 Grasshopper, 2007)
  • Passenger Song (Numb3rs, 5x08 Thirty-Six Hours, 2008)
  • Song Sung Blue (original film score, weewerk, 2008)
  • There Is a Light (The Light of Family Burnam, 2008)
  • I Could Be Nothing (Personal Effects), 2010)
  • Leave It Behind (Personal Effects), 2010)
  • Imaginary Bars (Out of Place: a Portrait of Surfing in Cleveland, Ohio, 2010)


In 2006, the band released a "digital box set" on Zunior, consisting of their first two albums, the limited edition Hands in Dirty Ground EP, several digital tour photos and the video for their song "To Leave It Behind" on a 512 MB USB flash drive.[21]

In 2008, Dekker appeared on Jenny Omnichord's album Charlotte or Otis: Duets for Children, Their Parents and Other People Too, performing a duet vocal on the song "Do You Know Karate".

In 2009 the band released a limited double 7" vinyl split single with the Dutch band Audiotransparent. This release includes a cover of the Elvis Presley classic "Don't Be Cruel" and the original song "Send Me a Letter". Dekker and Arnesen also appear on the Audiotransparent song "You Are a Movie".

In 2010, the band contributed four tracks to the online music community Swim Drink Fish Music, including live versions of their songs "Your Rocky Spine", "I Could Be Nothing" and "Everything Is Moving So Fast" and a previously unreleased track, "Ballad of a Fisherman's Wife".

The songs “I Became Awake” and “Various Stages” are heard in the 2010 independent Canadian horror film The Corridor.

The song "Moving Pictures Silent Films" was featured in the August 8, 2011 episode of Warehouse 13, entitled "3...2...1..."

In 2012 the band contributed the Christmas song "Hang a String of Lights" to Paste magazine's annual online Holiday Sampler music collection.


Canadian Indie Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2010 Great Lake Swimmers Favourite Folk/Roots Artist/Group[22] Won


  1. ^ Van Evra, Jennifer. "Songs to dive into", The Globe and Mail, 2007-03-30, p. R4.
  2. ^ "Inspired by nature to pen songs", Evening Chronicle, 2007-04-11, p. 2.
  3. ^ Wilson, Carl. "Pop", The Globe and Mail, 2003-01-18, p. R20.
  4. ^ Pidd, Helen. "Review: Pop: The Great Lake Swimmers", The Guardian, 2007-05-04, p. 42.
  5. ^ McDowell, Adam. "Still learning to swim", National Post, 2005-04-02, p. TO4.
  6. ^ Polaris Music Prize – The 2009 Short List Archived 2009-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Watch Tony Dekker (Great Lake Swimmers) at Spadina Subway Station Video | City Sonic Films | Toronto Music Mobile Video". Archived from the original on 2009-12-08. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  8. ^ Great Lake Swimmers: "Easy Come Easy Go" Archived 2012-01-28 at the Wayback Machine. Exclaim!, January 9, 2012.
  9. ^ "Great Lake Swimmers Pen Original Score for New E-Book". Exclaim!, March 14, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Great Lake Swimmers Frontman Tony Dekker Goes Solo for 'Prayer of the Woods'". Exclaim!, August 13, 2013.
  11. ^ "First Play: Tony Dekker sings 10 years of Zunior" Archived 2016-03-01 at the Wayback Machine. CBC Music, July 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Song Premiere: Great Lake Swimmers - "Zero In The City" Archived 2015-10-04 at the Wayback Machine. Paste, February 2, 2015.
  13. ^ "Great Lake Swimmers Release 'They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore' Holiday EP". Exclaim!, November 24, 2017.
  14. ^ "Great Lake Swimmers premiere hypnotic new song 'The Talking Wind'". CBC Music, February 15, 2018.
  15. ^ Alex Hudson, "Great Lake Swimmers Traverse 'Uncertain Country' on New Album". Exclaim!, February 17, 2023.
  16. ^ Sydney Brasil, "Abigail Lapell Announces New LP 'Anniversary'". Exclaim!, February 3, 2024.
  17. ^ "Great Lake Swimmers Announce 'The Waves, The Wake' LP". Exclaim!, April 11, 2018.
  18. ^ Sarah Murphy, "Great Lake Swimmers Reveal Acoustic Version of 'The Waves, the Wake' LP". Exclaim!, September 20, 2019.
  19. ^ "Watch: Great Lake Swimmers premiere new video, announce EP". CBC Music, April 10, 2018.
  20. ^ "Canadian Active Rock & Alt Rock Chart Archive: Alternative Rock - January 24, 2012". Canadianrockalt.blogspot.com. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  21. ^ Zunior Archived 2007-03-10 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Jessica Lewis (March 15, 2010). "Constantines, Joel Plaskett, Metric, Great Lake Swimmers Honoured at CMW Indie Awards". Exclaim. Archived from the original on May 7, 2010.

External links[edit]