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Old 11-18-2016, 07:30 PM   #6
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,595
Default Re: plans of his own - INTERVIEW-part 1and 2

You said you learned new things about the guitar. As somebody who playing must have seemed like second nature by that point, losing feeling in your fingers must have had you having to approach the instrument differently. What were some of the things you did to keep in form?

What happened next, well, we lost our lead guitar player. He died. Terry Clements, one of my very best friends and it almost brings tears to my eyes. He worked with us for 40 years. I brought him into the band with (Laurice) “Red” Shea when he had to leave the road. Terry was a wonderful guitar player. He got into some health issues and he died at an early age of 63 years old. During that time we brought in a replacement and this guy brought in a tuning system, an idea for me to get better tones out of my instruments because my tuning has never been 100 per cent. Now I had a guy who comes along who had perfect pitch and he shows me what to do. We take the guitars to a technician to get work done that I’d never think of doing and suddenly these guitars are getting easier to tune. By doing this we were achieving about 30% more volume and the sound is a lot cleaner also. We’re getting into some of these places and the people just love it.

Certainly nobody would have blighted you had you decided to retire. I’ve seen you perform twice in recent years. For a guy who’s taken the toll you have your energy still comes out powerfully in the performance. What continues that drive in you to perform?

This is the truth: I exercise every day. I’ve been doing that since 1982. It’s impossible to keep up and yet I’ve been doing it. The older I get the more I do it. That is what is giving me my stamina, my strength, whatever it is. I feel that way when I am up there. I feel strong. I don’t get tired but I have to do that workout every day. I don’t do it in my basement or living room, either. I have to go to a gym. I’ve been going there ever since I gave up alcohol back in ’82. I tried working out about three years before I quit but trying to go in with a hangover wasn’t a great thing. When I gave up alcohol I got into a pretty serious regiment.

That’s a pretty good trade off, alcohol for exercise.

Absolutely! I could never do it with the amount of strength that I do without the exercise. It’s a routine.

You’ve been pretty modest when asked about how you feel your music has shaped this country. We know what your music has meant to Canada but what, do you feel, has Canada meant to you and your music?

Well I got a lot of good ideas about Canada when I was up canoeing in the North. A lot of wonderful landscapes come to mind up above the boreal forest. Landscapes often come into it as backup to a song when I am using my imagination. It’s kind of odd, like background music in a movie. I would get ideas while watching sporting events and practicing my guitar. When you’re under contract, which I was for 33 years, you’re thinking about song titles. For example, the song “Early Morning Rain” was “Early Morning Train” and then I thought there were too many songs about trains on that record.

Another musician that has meant a lot to Canada is Gord Downie. What were your reactions to his announcement this year and him and the Tragically Hip pursuing one final tour?

I know one thing for sure is that he had already had one operation about 11 months ago. I did a show with Gordon for the CBC and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. When they were doing their last tour I was afraid I wouldn’t get to see them at all as they were on the road and we were doing our trip. As fate would have it we were playing in a Casino down in Moncton and just as we got off stage we knew their show on CBC was just coming on. So we raced up to the hotel room and watched the whole show from Kingston. It was an experience, watching how that show was done.

Looking to your coming show here at the NAC, can you share a memory about times performing there?

Well, it was 1967 and the place had just opened and all I had was my trio. I had “Red” Shea and John Stockfish and we walked out and played in that place and I was amazed. It was the first night or first week but it was brand new. It was Canada’s 100th birthday. At that time I was not even a confident performer. I still got nervous and felt I was inadequate musically. I got that cured later on.

It’s got to be interesting coming back now for Canada’s 150th. The place has had a bit of a makeover.

Well, I’ll be able to see it from point A from point Z. They’ve told me about this and it only makes me curious.

Over your career you have amassed many awards and accolades but, looking back, what have you personally found the most rewarding aspect?

I don’t know, I think maybe it could be the certificates that I won at the Kiwanis Festivals when I was 13. That was the first time I played in Massey Hall, singing the solo there because I won my class in the second year.

It’s kind of like your Rosebud.

Yeah, I mean, it was a long time before I played there again but there I was 13 years old and singing a solo. My parents loved Bing Crosby and I’d ask my mother if he makes a living doing this. I wanted to make a career out of it even then. I wanted to be a professional!

Written by: Andre Gagne on November 17, 2016.
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