Sometimes you have to get lost to find something. For Howie Beck, it was music.

The Toronto-based singer-songwriter has returned with How To Fall Down In Public, his first full-length album in almost five years. The disc departs from what fans and critics have typically come to expect from Beck. While the personal melancholy still exists in his lyrics, the musical tone has taken a cheerful turn with buoyant rhythms and bubbly acoustic strings accompanied by urban and pastoral sound effects (crickets chirping and horse hooves clomping on one song, as an example.).

Birthing the album, a process Beck describes as “getting out of my comfort zone,” came after a lengthy self-imposed exile to Paris in search of some inspiration, and to play with longtime friend and co-producer Gonzales. New surroundings gave him the spark he needed to put pen to paper.

“I had written some stuff that I wasn’t really happy with,” Beck said. “For me, Paris was perfect. There’s total anonymity there, and there was something very liberating about spending that time by myself. Half the time I’d look up and I wouldn’t know where I was: I’d be thinking about music and lyrics all day.”

Recording the album also proved initially difficult for Beck, who co-produced and played every instrument. In recent years, he has collaborated with the likes of Hayden and Sarah Harmer on their respective projects, and wore the production hat on Jason Collett’s last two albums. Mastering and editing your own work can be tricky business, he notes, and Beck felt the tension of sitting on both sides of the glass. But a little help from his old pal went a long way.

“Gonzales was a pretty big part of the process for me,” he said. “When I produce, those two sides of producer and musician flow easily. When I’m a musician first, it can be very frustrating. I have no objectivity there. But it was about getting away from the usual and challenging the way I think about recording my own music, instead of just, ‘Meh, I’ll try this, I’ll try that.’ This time, it was like a switch that flicked.”