Have you ever had a question for a folk musician but were afraid to ask? Of course not. Folk musicians are the most approachable and friendly people on the planet.
We asked Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman to answer a few questions and they happily obliged. Here’s their fun take on music and life.
- What keeps you motivated in the music business for over 30 years? Karen: Hearing someone say that our show has improved their day, or that our music has helped them get through a difficult time.
- If you were chosen for the Amazing Race, would you and Pete make a good team?
Pete: We cut our cable TV a few years ago, so we had to look this up. We wouldn’t make it very far. There’s the issue of our height difference, and also our tendency to be unmanageable even by each other.
- You have written music for a few film scores. How is that process different and is this something you’d like to do more? Karen: Yes, we’d love to do more scoring. Film work is very different because the story is already there, so it’s more of a supportive role. With music, you’re creating an entire world with sound, the story, the spacial environment, everything.
- What does your perfect day look like? Pete: I suppose a perfect day would be when nothing challenges my confirmation biases. But that never happens.
- What do you think has been the biggest change to the music industry in the past 10 years? Pete: On the positive side, the internet offers extraordinary opportunities for independent artists. Anyone can be heard by anyone, anywhere. Karen: On the negative side – ubiquitous Autotune!
- What advice would you give a songwriter just starting out in the business? Karen: Songwriting is so intensely personal, so I don’t often give advice, but I’d say, never try to write a commercial hit. If you write a song you truly believe in, it will connect with someone.
- What do you like to do when you’re not touring or writing music? Karen: Cooking and gardening. Pete: Fishing and making pasta.
- If your life was a TV show, what would your theme song be and why? Pete: Perhaps, “Weather With You” by Crowded House. It’s about trying to maintain your own atmosphere as you move through the world, and not letting others jerk your chain with their projections and hallucinations. But I imagine our TV ratings would be far better if we were utterly overwhelmed by all that. That’s more fun to watch, isn’t it?
- What does the committee in your head usually argue about? Karen: I don’t know… the committees in our heads are spending a lot of time parsing US politics these days. How can seemingly well-intentioned people have opposing world views? Pete: I can tell you what we argue about… driving directions!
- Karen, you’re born in New Jersey. I have to ask since I’m a Springsteen fan … any Bruce stories? Pete: I have a Bruce story. He and his band once heard a bar band I was in, before he was known. He called us over to his table and was very kind; he liked our Beatles medley. He said, “Stick with it. I used to play bars too.” He’d just signed with Columbia Records, and I advised him that they had a reputation for not supporting some of their new acts. He said, thanks, and that he’d be attentive to that. About a year later, he was on the cover of Time, Newsweek, Life, etc. Apparently, he heeded my warning. So, to all the Bruce fans … you’re welcome!
We asked the lovely girls from DALA a few questions and they provided us with entertaining answers. Read for yourself!
- How has your songwriting style shifted as you’ve gotten older? Amanda: I think the essence of how we approach songwriting is the same, but perhaps we’re more comfortable being vulnerable. Sheila: Also, the themes have changed as we’ve gotten older. We may be entering our “Dala Ma’am” years.
- What song evokes the strongest memories for you, and why? Amanda: “Horses.” Every time we sing that song, and we sing it every night, I am catapulted back to the moment when we met the young man who inspired it.
- If you were chosen for the Amazing Race, who would you pick as your partner and why? Sheila: Chuck Norris. Needs no explanation.
- What song best describes you first thing in the morning? Amanda: Here it is!
- When was the last time you took a big risk? Sheila: I tried an improv class, and I was terrible. You’re supposed to say “no” to everything, right?
- What motivates you to stay in the music business, keep writing and going out on the road? Amanda: Sheila. Creating and performing with Sheila is the light of my life.
- What draws you to someone else? Sheila: Sense of humour. Amanda: agreed!
- What do you do each day that matters? Sheila: I talk to my mom on the phone. And I’ve started doing yoga every morning and it’s making me less insane. Amanda: I hug my son.
- What act of kindness were you once shown that you will never forget? Sheila: everything my parents have done for me from the day I was born. It’s overwhelming to think of how devoted parents can be.
- So, who takes longer to get ready? Sheila: I do. These eyelashes don’t curl themselves
We asked legendary singer-songwriter Lynn Miles a few questions and she was happy to oblige. Below are her responses to 10 questions.
- What advice would you give a young songwriter? Work hard; work with people who are better than you; learn to take criticism from people whose opinion you respect; and stay curious.
- What is the best and worst thing about being on the road? Playing shows is the best thing about being on the road. The worst thing is missing birthdays and special moments, etc. for the folks back home.
- You tour a lot with Keith Glass. What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about him? He’s 103 years old!
- Where is your favourite place on earth? Wherever my mom is.
- How do you think your music has evolved over the years? I hope I’m a more succinct writer, and more relaxed singer.
- What moment from your life would you choose to relive if you could? Impossible to answer.
- What songs are on the soundtrack to your life? Somewhere over the Rainbow is definitely one of them.
- Where do you draw your energy from? Being an artist gives me energy. Always being on the lookout for the next song, performing and singing are also very key.
- What does success mean to you? Doing what I love and not having to compromise very often.
- What do you do each day that matters? I try to keep my gratitude level as high as possible. I also try to remember that everyone is fighting a great battle, and everyone’s battle is different.
We asked legendary singer-songwriter Shari Ulrich and she was quick with her responses. Enjoy!
- You had the opportunity to share the stage with your daughter. What’s the best part of touring with family? My sense of awe that we get to do that – that life has unfolded in such a remarkable way – that she turned out to be this gifted musician and I get to look over and see that sweet smile. And, when I hear her heartbreakingly beautiful tone on the violin.
- What makes you laugh? Quick-witted humans with a wicked sense of humour, preferably irreverent and riddled with truth. And dogs.
- Who or what have you learned the most from with regards to your career? Rick Scott for being in the moment with music and an audience, Bill Henderson for professional integrity, Barney Bentall for overriding my innate resistance and getting me out of my comfort zone, and my audience for constantly reminding me what it’s really about.
- What song evokes the strongest memories for you? Funny … I’m about to do a “My Playlist” show for CBC, and even breaking it down to 10 songs was torturous. Because that’s what songs do – hearing them evokes that time in our lives and the myriad of emotions that were a part of that time. It’s impossible to even describe the richness of that feeling. So it’s impossible to pick out a single song. You can take the first four bars of so many: the organ intro on Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street,” Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood” or “Imagine,” Richie Haven’s “Follow” . . . oh, there are dozens . . . and the flood of an indescribable feeling that represents that time in your life just infuses you heartbeat. Oh . . . okay, bringing our newborn daughter home and her father dancing her around the room to John Lennon’s “Julia.”
- What are you holding on to that you need to let go of? Guilt.
- If your life was a television show, what would your theme song be and why? “In my Life,” for obvious reasons.
- What do you want more of in your life? TIME! I figure for every week I’m living, I could use another to stay on top of it all. And more importantly, to build in some rest and relaxation … something I simply never do.
- If you could send a three-sentence email to the entire world, what would it say? If it was to the human race: Be kinder to one another – and to yourselves. Always imagine walking in their shoes first. Get a hit of nature every single day – It’s good for you. If it was to the planet: I’m so sorry for our greed and what we’ve done to you.
- If you could live one day over and over again, what day would you choose? Oh gosh … that relies on actually recalling them! Today is pretty darn great.
- If you came with a warning label, what would it say? Beware of impatience. It is recommended you get to the point.
We posted a few questions to Juno award winner David Francey, and he graciously agreed, despite his busy touring schedule. Thank you David!
- What song evokes the strongest memories for you? “Paperboy.” It evokes strong memories of a lovely time in my life.
- You often talk about the number of different careers you worked in before becoming a musician. Which was the most memorable or worst? I had a pressure washing business in Toronto cleaning the dirtiest things imaginable. Garbage chutes, bins, waste drains and sewage sump pits. Believe it or not I liked it. Hard graft though.
- What do you think the secret to living well is? Reducing the stress to a minimum and not worrying about what you can’t control. Easier said than done.
- What advice would you give a singer/songwriter just starting out in the industry? Keep focused, be patient and treat people well. Remember that the music industry owes you nothing and no one gig is the be all and end all. Keep your perspective.
- Where is your favourite place on earth? Australia would be the first among many.
- If you could have one super power, what would it be and why? I would choose invisibility. That would be handy.
- Where do you draw your energy from? I get a lot out of touring; it is a constant source of energy for me. It provides me with new places and new people to meet and play for.
- What makes love last? Laughing, consideration and a sense of being in it together.
- What does the committee in your head usually argue about? Maintaining a sense of self worth. That never ends.
- What 12 songs would be on the soundtrack to your life? Number one would be “Lucky Man” by Alan Price. After that it gets very difficult. It would change from day to day. I would include the Don Bray tune “Taxi, Moon and I.” He’s a brilliant writer. It would also include “Remember Me” by Melwood Cutlery, “Dialogue with the Devil” by Bruce Cockburn, “Raggle Taggle Gypsy” by Planxty, “New Morning” by Dylan, “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles, “You Turn Me On (I’m a Radio)” by Joni Mitchell, “Are Friends Electric?” by Tubeway Army, “Blackleg Miner” by Steeleye Span, “Louisiana” by Randy Newman and “Let’s Go Down to the Water” by Willie P. Bennett.
We posed a few questions to Katherine Wheatley and Wendell Ferguson and they provided their answers. Please enjoy!
- What’s you biggest regret? My biggest musical regret is that I didn’t do a decade of cover gigs when I first got into this business. The day I got a guitar was the day I started writing songs and for the first 20 years in the music business, I pretty well performed only my songs (a sprinkle of jazz standards). You learn a ton by performing other people’s songs (like the Beatles did in Germany). It’s only in the last few years that I’ve been doing a gig in Antarctica and the Arctic – Zodiac driver by day, pub musician by night. It’s all cover songs. And I love it.
- What song evokes the strongest memory for you? Moon River. I adore the melody and the lyrics are perfection…especially the huckleberry friend line. In terms of memories – I used to believe it was written about the Moon River south of Parry Sound. My friends and I were puzzled by the line “Wider than a mile,” so as we waltzed around the living room, we’d sing “wider than an inch. You can cross it in a cinch.” Then we’d fall on the couches laughing, thinking we were so darn funny. I hadn’t met Wendell yet.
- What has love taught you? Boy – that’s a toughie. One of the prices of deep love is deep pain when there’s loss. When I experienced deep loss, I became a much more compassionate person towards those who have lost love or who may not have had tons of love in their lives. So I’d say –the greatest lesson love has taught me has been compassion. Which I suppose is like saying the greatest lesson love has taught me is love itself.
- If you could trade places with anyone for a month, who would that be and why? It would be a lot of fun to check out what it felt like to be Bobby Orr in the 70/71 season. Or maybe earlier, when he grew up playing hockey on the Bay when he didn’t have to wear a helmet and he was outside – wind through his hair, skating fast fast fast fast and so perfectly. (I grew up in the same town a decade later. Never played hockey – no girl’s hockey back then, but I loved skating outdoors after school and on Saturday mornings.)
- If you had no fear, what would you do? Scuba dive.
- What advice would you give to a young songwriter? One of my first shows was opening for Ian Tyson. He watched my opening set and when I got off the stage, he said to me, “LEARN YOUR ROOTS.” That was 20 years ago. So here is my advice: Listen to the classics. Listen to a bunch of genres. Learn a lot of songs. That doesn’t mean hold off on writing. Au contraire . . . make writing a habit. The more you write, the better chance you’ll have of writing a great song.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you? Without out a doubt, the most meaningful compliment I’ve ever received was from an artist in South River, Ontario. Her name is Jane Bonnell and she’s a generation ahead of me. After a show one night, she took both my hands and said, “You are what the women of my generation worked so hard for.” I often think of that compliment when I need to find motivation to keep going in this business. I feel the same way about some of the fearless young women coming up in the music business today.
- What song do you wish you had written? Silent Night. I’m not religious, but boy, do I love the melody of that song.
- On your most challenging day, the thing that gets you out of bed is . . . A pot of coffee and a good book. The best part about being a musician is that I get to have my mornings. They start with two big cups of very good, carefully brewed coffee and a few chapters of whatever book I’m reading.
- Who takes longer to get ready: you or Wendell? Seriously? Wendell of course. He’s got all that thick silver hair to comb down. And it takes a lot of time and careful maneuvering to squeeze himself into those jeans. And his make-up takes skill and many, many layers.
Wendell Ferguson questions
- You’re a pretty funny guy. What makes you laugh? Funny you should ask. You know humour is a funny thing, well at least it should be. I really enjoy paradoxical humour, and wordplay. I’m a punishing punster so my brain seems to think in puns.
- What has been your most defining moment? Could you define that? Musically, I guess the first time I won the Canadian Country Music Association guitarist of the year award back in ‘95. It sort of put me on a path to refining and creating my particular style. Personally, it would be the moment I met my wife. We clicked instantly and have been together for 31 years now.
- So, what’s your big issue with Christmas? Oh there are many. The fact that it starts the day Halloween ends and builds up right until the day; and then the second it’s over, the radio acts as if it didn’t exist. They should ramp up and ramp down more gently. I still like to hear Christmas songs on December 27 and into early January. I also don’t like the crass commercialism of it. Nowadays I tend to do most of my shopping at the LCBO. Not sure what that says about me or my friends.
- Is there a song you can’t play on guitar or one that challenges you? They all challenge me. Honestly, I’m usually working on about 10 pieces at a time. Writing one, learning one, remembering one, etc. I try and expose myself to many other players and their styles. See what they’re doing and trying to do it. I usually can’t, so I come up with my own version of it. You constantly have to expand your knowledge and grow your talent. To play the same old stuff breeds stagnation.
- If you could trade places with anyone for a month, who would that be and why? I’ve never thought about changing with anyone, but perhaps it would be fun to be a Beatle back in the 60s for just for a day . . . probably George . . . just to breath that rarified air.
- If your life was a television show, your theme song would be . . . Mine would be a sitcom with me as a two-bit talent trying to make it in this crazy business and nothing would ever work out. It would be called, ‘Livin’ The Dream’ and the theme song would be ‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out.’ It’s practically a reality show now.
- Who are some of your musical heroes? There are so many in every genre of music. Chet, Merle, Lenny and Jerry for fingerstyle. Christopher Parkening, Julian Bream and Segovia for classical, and Tarrega and Sor for their composing ability. Jeff Beck, Roy Buchanan, Steve Morse, Richie Blackmore, John Jorgenson for rock. Jerry Donahue, Redd Volkaert, Kenny Vaughan, Albert Lee, James Burton, Vince Gill, Brent Mason, Steve Piticco, Paul Chapman and Danny Gatton for country chicken-pickin’. Carl Perkins, Scotty Moore, Cliff Gallup and Brian Setzer for rockabilly, and of course talented multi-genre monsters like Tommy Emmanuel and JP Cormier. There are a million I’m missing.
- What do you draw your energy from? From my audiences. If I give myself some challenges in every show and I can get in the swing of the moment while I’m playing and entertaining, then the audience and I are in for a treat. An audience can’t have a good time unless the performer is having a good time.
- What’s one thing about you people would be surprised by? I love art in all its forms. Music, obviously, paintings, drawings, sculpture, illustration, comic books, literature, poetry, plays, stage productions, musicals – all of it. I’ve never regretted spending one cent on anything artistic. On the other hand I’m a miser when it comes to auto repairs, plumbers, phone bills and the crap you need to get through life.
- Who takes longer to get ready: you or Katherine? Is that even a real question? Last time we played BarrieFolk we had to stop and get her a hotel room, then go to Shoppers Drug Mart so she could buy some make-up. Then between loading into the venue and going on, she lost the make-up. She also lost her purse and her coat. I generally put on nicer shoes, a jacket and check my teeth (to see that they’re in) and I’m ready to go. It’s no contest, Katherine takes wayyyyy longer.
We posed a few questions to Ian Tamblyn, our November performer and he was gracious enough to answer.
- How does being in nature inspire you? Being in nature has several dramatic effects on me. Because nature simply is, any landscape or state of nature will inform me of my state or balance within if I am open to experience it. Being in nature can also have the effect of balancing me if I am willing to slow down, acknowledge her rhythms and wait awhile within her arms. Once being in nature yourself – your self can get out of the way and go deeper. Inspiration flows more freely here and I seek it.
- What or who has been the big love of your life? Amanda Shaughnessy has been the big love in my life. However, she would say my creative life has been the driving force in my life.
- The song that evokes the strongest memories for me is . . . The song that evokes the strongest memories for me is a difficult question to answer in that it might change as different angles of my life come into focus. However, I remember listening to WLS as a teenager in Chicago. I would stay up until 4 a.m. each night waiting to hear The Cascades “Listen to the Rhythm of The Falling Rain” one more time. The memories around that song are troubled and confusing for me still, but that song and the desperate need to hang on to the dial on that tube radio remain.
- What is your favourite place on earth? My favourite place on earth is usually where things are scraped down and elemental – the Arctic, the Labrador coast, the coastline of Superior, the north shore of Georgian Bay – the desert around Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. In their raw elemental state, a clearer vision of one’s own spiritual relation to place and space is possible. In complete contrast to this, the absolute fecundity of Haida Gwaii or the cloud forest of Costa Rica offers the same thing in an entirely bountiful way.
- What historical event do you wish you’d been alive to witness? I doubt the veracity of most historical events because it seems to me the past is no more fixed than the present or the future and- those who recorded those historical events had either an axe to grind or were propagandists for the victor’s press. Given this, I remember visiting the ancient village of Scara Brae on the Orkney Islands several years ago. It was a brilliant day and looking out over the turquoise sea, I couldn’t help but wonder if on a good day such as this 5,000 years ago, life was, like the day I stood there, as good as it gets! The people of Scara Brae had built incredible structures for homes, there was fresh water, there were fish in the sea, and they had time to consider art and time itself in their circles at Brodgar and Steness. Yes, the average life expectancy was 25 years but I still wondered on this glorious day if their best day (such as this day) that life might have been as good as it gets.
- You’ve done so much with your life. What is left on your bucket list? I don’t feel I have done that much with my life. Much of the time I feel like a lazy bastard or that I have gotten away with murder. As for a bucket list, I don’t have one. I will continue to be a lazy bastard and continue to get away with as much as I possibly can in the time that remains.
- What’s the biggest piece of advice you give to young songwriters? The biggest piece of advice I could give to a young songwriter would be to write when the Muse is with you, and also when she is not. The Muse appreciates hard work and craft as much as she appreciates the writer acknowledging her presence when she is there. I would also add to put in the hours on your instruments when you are writing – voice or instrument – because once in the business, time will be taken from you and your discipline threatened. Build on a good foundation. Hmmmm, that was more than one bit of advice.
- What’s your proudest accomplishment? As for my proudest accomplishment, I must confess I struggle to answer this question. In some ways I leave it to others to decide. However, I have tried to surround the country with songs through 38 quite different recording projects as well as plays and soundtracks. I have worked with environmental and social groups much of my life. But probably the best thing is that which is invisible to most people. By good fortune, I have been able to do this while raising a family and for the most part, living a healthy vibrant life. I don’t think I destroyed myself for art but rather lived for it.
- If you could have a conversation with someone who has passed, who would you choose and what would you say? I would like to have a conversation with my father. The last five years of his life were troubled by Parkinson’s and dementia and that time was taken away. He was not an easy man to have a conversation with but I would like to give it a go. What we would talk about – that’s between me and him.
- What are you most grateful for? I am most grateful for the good fortune in my life. I have had the many advantages we all have growing up in North America, just to begin with. The circumstances of my life have given me opportunities and I had the good luck to take them and then make something of them. I have been most fortunate in those I have befriended in life and in those who have tolerated me. I am most grateful for the fact that I have been lucky enough in life to pursue my artistic passions and that I have been able to do this for my entire adult life. For this I am very grateful.
We posted a few questions to Ken Whiteley, our September performer and he provided some great answers.
- What’s the secret to your longevity in the music business? I love music – many kinds of music and at the end of the day, the music is what it’s really alla bout. While the business aspects have their ups and downs, it is the music and the relationships with people that keep me going. Years ago, in conversation with a visual artist friend (Viktor Tinkl), I had an epiphany where I realized I was an “artist” and I was going to keep making my art regardless of other external circumstances. I make art as a way of communicating with people, so whether it is other musicians, audience members, folks who purchase recordings, presenters or just people singing with me in a room, it is in making those connections that something special occurs. I try and make something special happen every time I play music.
- What are the three things you know to be true? It is in this moment, the “now” that life happens. We can’t change the past (though we can learn from it). Tomorrow is another day and the sun will keep coming up and setting for a long time to come.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew 25 years ago? About 23 years ago I started a daily meditation and yoga practice and that has been enormously beneficial in many levels of my life – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. One of those benefits has been opening up the intuitive faculties. I had thought that a regular meditation practice would be helpful ever since my teens, but it took certain events for me to finally act on that thought. I would encourage people to act on thoughts they think to be true. At the same time, circumstances, whether internal or external, have to be right for any of us to successfully make changes in our lives (or in the world). Making “good effort” will bear good results, even if those results aren’t necessarily immediate.
- What’s the best thing about performing with family members? Whether with my son, Ben, my brother Chris or my niece and nephews (Jenny, Dan, Jesse) I love the chance to make music with my family. We all bring a lot of shared personal and musical history to the music-making and performing. Especially with Ben and Chris, we know each other so well as musicians and people that I can go wherever the spirit leads and I know they will pick up on it.
- What does your perfect day look like? Today.
- What makes you laugh? Things that are funny. There are lots of things in life that are amusing. Some of the times I’ve laughed uncontrollably have been with Chris, Jenny and Dan.
- One musician I really enjoy listening to is . . . There are too many to keep it to one. Here are seven of my favourites: The Golden Gate Quartet, Pete Seeger, The Nat King Cole Trio, Louis Jordan, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters and Mahalia Jackson.
- Where is your favourite place on Earth? Wherever I am in this moment. However I do like being around mountains and natural bodies of water are beautiful. I don’t mind it hot, but I don’t care for biting insects. And I like living in Southern Ontario.
- What moment in life would you like to relive? When I was in Grade Two and I made the rounds of several classrooms singing “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces.” I had a manager/agent (from Grade Three) at that point and it was my first taste of musical “success.
- At this moment in time, what song lyric best describes your life? “It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for.” (from “The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For” by Ken Whiteley and The Beulah Band).
We posed a few questions to Toronto singer-songwriter Jory Nash, our May performer and he provided some entertaining and enlightening responses.
- Why did it take so long to do a hat CD cover and can a person have too many hats? I actually hadn’t really thought of a hat cover before. I knew if I ever had a Greatest Hits CD I would call it “The Greatest Hats of Jory Nash” but I didn’t think of the cover art concept until this year. And because I likely will never have a Greatest Hits CD I decided I didn’t want that great title to go to waste so I used it for this new one. Ummmm, what do you mean can a person have too many hats? This question does not compute.
- What are the three things you know to be true? 1) Rob Ford was the worst mayor in the history of Toronto. No, Canada. No, ever. 2) I’m going to marry my girlfriend Brittany one day. Shhh, don’t tell her. I don’t want to scare her off. 3)
- Who are some of your favourite up-and-coming musicians? I’m not as in touch with the up-and-coming scene as I’d like to be, but I really like The Young Novelists. I also really like Steph Cameron’s new CD. And there’s this new group from Britain called The Beatles. I think they might go far.
- What is the best thing about living in Toronto? What is the worst? Best thing about Toronto is the never-ending list of cool things to do. Worst thing is the cost of living. I can deal with the gridlock, I can deal with the smog, I can deal with the crappy hockey team. But I worry I’ll have to move simply because it’s getting harder and harder to afford to live here, and I’m making less and less as a musician each year.
- Does being a musician help or hinder in the dating process? And what’s your best dating advice? This answer would depend on a) one’s age b) the stage of one’s career c) whether one is actively dating. I deleted all my online profiles after I met my current girlfriend. I only have eyes for her. Best dating advice? Try to date someone (like a teacher) who has a pension and a partner medical plan, so you can eventually get on their medical plan. Dental coverage is GOLD to a self-employed musician.
- Of all the tribute shows you’ve been involved with at Hugh’s Room, which has been the most fun to do? Most satisfying would be my annual Gordon Lightfoot show. Most fun would be our annual Smooth Sweet Sounds of the 70s show. It’s Dy-No-Mite!
- With your songwriting style, do you usually start with a lyric or a tune? I always start with the music. Sometimes the lyrics come after, sometimes they are concurrent with the music writing. Lyrics almost never come first, and if they do it’s usually only a starting line or an idea for a lyrical thread.
- What’s the strangest (or memorable) thing a fan has ever said to you? “Will you consider artificially inseminating my best friend? She wants to raise a child on her own and wants it to be artistic.”
- You’re out on tour right now. What’s the best (and worst) part about being on the road? BEST: Seeing different parts of the country, meeting people I would never otherwise meet. WORST: Small audiences, being away from home (family and girlfriend) for long stretches of time. Too much downtime.
- Do you think it was the right move to fire everyone in the Leafs’ organization? What advice would you have for the team? I’ve just today been reading about yesterday’s bloodletting in Leafland, Frankly, the organization needs an enema, and I support the firings 100%. The team has made so many mistakes, from poor trades to poor coaching hirings to TERRIBLE salary cap management. I LOVE that they are finally doing a rebuild the right way. My advice would be to do the rebuild the right way. They have two potentially great players from the last two drafts (Reilly & Nylander). They will get another cornerstone at this year’s draft. Suck again next year and get one more high draft pick. Then we will start to see the team be better in the long term.
We posed a few questions to Valdy, our March performer, and he was more than happy to supply answers.
- What, if any, is the significance of the red Converse? Are they a good luck performing talisman of sorts? It is said that wearing red shoes opens the Chakras in one’s energy path. Be that as it may, I wear them for shtick, as an identifier, and for the stability of a good skater shoe.
- What is the best thing about living on an island? What is the worse thing? The best thing about living on an island is the isolation, being out of the fast lane by choice. The worst thing about living on an island is also isolation, with limited accessibility.
- You’re on the road a good portion of the time and you’ve recently celebrated over 30 years with Kathleen. What’s the secret (or the best advice you can give) to maintaining a healthy relationship when you’re gone a lot? Kathleen is a unique woman, fiercely intelligent, easy going, artistic and empathetic. These characteristics blend well with a frequently-absent partner. The secret to maintaining any relationship is a facility to listen, discuss and co-create a life for both partners.
- There a lot of talk these days about sites like Spotify, live streaming and those that say music should be “free.” As a songwriter, what can one do to argue against this trend? Is technology still a friend to musicians? One cannot argue against a trend, but one need not follow it. However, I encourage sales of music on the internet via portals that provide some remuneration for the creators. All contemporary musicians must be techs, as we encounter sound gear and lighting rigs that often require some tweaking to let us look and sound as good as we can.
- What is down time for Valdy? What does that look like? I like to putter, which is the exercise of doing sequential and overlapping mini-tasks, usually aimed at organization, project furtherance and tidying up. It is a solitary activity, and I tend not to putter when I’m in another’s company.
- Who are some of your favourite emerging artists? Walk On the Earth are impressive, the Foggy Hog Town Boys are marvelous, Arcade Fire rock, and every summer I hear a stunning array of singer-songwriters and instrumentalists at festivals, too many people to list.
- What has been one of your most memorable (or favourite) gigs? My most memorable gigs are the ones where audience and performer connect, creating musical magic, thickening the air with an emulsion that is a sum greater than its parts. Fortunately this happens a bit for me, and it can be a living room or an expansive concert hall. The main ingredient is openness.
- You have been granted one do-over in life. What would that be? I would have children with Kathleen.
- You have played in several amazing places. What’s one of the best places you’ve visited? New Zealand is a beautiful country, respectful and refined. The Yukon Territories are rugged and demanding. Any place in good weather has the odds in its favour. I enjoy a rural life. If I were to choose one place, it would be Saltspring Island off Canada’s West Coast.
- What scares you? Poor health scares me, making me feel vulnerable and incapacitated. Stephen Harper scares me, as he shames all Canadians and threatens sea-level communities by denying climate change; he is a roadblock to improvement. Big oil scares me, and big pharma, and big agro-industries, as they all are complicit in reducing our self-reliance.
We posed a few questions to our February performer David Essig and he was more than happy to supply answers.
- What was the last CD (album) you purchased? Bakersfield by Vince Gill and Paul Franklin.
- What was the first song you learned to play? “Pretty Polly.”
- What is currently on your nightstand? And no, you can’t take the time to move different things onto it. A lamp and Jack Hodgins’ book, “A Passion for Narrative.”
- If your house was on fire and you had already rescued your family, any pets and your wallet, what would be the one thing you would go back in to get? My 1957 Gibson J-200 guitar.
- What was one of the best concerts you’ve ever been to? Ry Cooder and David Lyndley, with Joquin Cooder, afternoon concert at the Edmonton Folk Festival – maybe 10 years ago.
- What’s one of the best things about living on an island? What’s the worst? Best: the sense of communal tranquility. Worst: 2 1/2 hours round-trip to buy a dozen eggs.
- Looking back, if there was one thing you could change or do differently, what would that be and what would you change? I would have met Milena earlier in my life.
- You’ve played with a number of other talented musicians over the years. Have you ever been star-struck by anyone in particular? Jessie Winchester, Richard Thompson, Sonny Landreth, the Campbell Brothers, David Woodhead.
- What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever said to you? A young woman came up after a concert in the Kootenays and told me, “my parents were listening to your album, High Ground, the night I was conceived.”
- Describe your perfect day. Music in the morning, cooking in the afternoon, dinner and wine in the evening with Milena.