Beyond the Bears

Karla Hayward
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While he loves being the Teddy Bear Man, theres more to musician Terry Reilly than plush toys

Terry Reillys songs come from everywhere, sometimes at an alarmng rate. Its like I have to say to my heart, Look. Its three oclock in the morning do we have to write a song now? Submitted photo

Yes, you got it in one guess were talking about the Teddy Bear Man. XXNow, look beyond the bears to see that Terry Reillys an extremely prolific and talented musician. Its something that often gets hidden from view by those plush toys with their bead-bright eyes.

Ive been very happy to be the Teddy Bear Man, but I have other sides to me a grown-up, more serious side, he said.

Reilly is a serious musician indeed. He estimates hes written more than 1,500 songs that range from his reaction to the news to a mystical interpretation of sunlight on the ocean.

There are songs about the Holocaust, and one called Downtown Mary, about the sweet, well-known streetperson who recently died in St. Johns.

Its almost a deluge sometimes. Its like I have to say to my heart, Look. Its three oclock in the morning do we have to write a song now?

People the key

Hes no stranger to the bar circuit, but Reillys not anxious to hit George Street anytime soon. He does, however, fondly recall playing at places like Schroeders Piano Bar.

Country and western, covers, jazz standards whatever the audience wanted, he played.

I love to play for people. For me, thats my biggest joy. I play my music to serve people and make them happy, or make them reminisce, or make them feel something, anyway.

Feelings are something Reilly thinks about a lot. He has dealt with mental illness in recent years both attention deficit disorder (ADD) and depression.

I have ADD, so it was hard sometimes to remember the words to the songs. I would forget the real words, but because of my creative mind I could make them up on the spot, he said, putting a positive spin on his illness.

Im not embarrassed by either of (the illnesses), he continued. Theyre just part of who I am. In some ways, it expands my life increases my perspective on life. And I like that. its just part of life. Life happens and we just dont know what turns its going to give us.

Luckily for Reilly, when he does have the blues the antidote is close to hand.

My audience and people make me very happy. I could be having an awful day but if you put me in front of a group of children, I have a great time.

Reillys something of a musical missionary, both at home and abroad. He claims to have visited pretty much every tiny community in the province about 350 or so including some that no longer exist.

I always say theres no school thats too small, too remote, or too economically depressed not to get a Terry Reilly show.

Hes also travelled to Mexico and the former Yugoslavia to play for kids.

Why? Because theyre there. Children are children everywhere. And they all deserve to enjoy life.

Although children have always accepted Reilly wholeheartedly, hes often felt like a bit of square peg in a round hole when it comes to the music industry.

The music industry doesnt quite seem to know what to do with me. I dont fit into the regular part of the industry like Great Big Sea or someone. For people who are in the industry to make a living, like agents and so on, I must create a bit of a dilemma.

Regardless of the challenges it may pose for promoters, Reillys eager to expand his niche. He says hell be the Teddy Bear Man until his health stops him, but that hed like to begin gigging again, maybe play some jazz. Hed like to do events, too weddings, kids birthdays (the perfect outlet for his latest CD, Oh Me Nerves, on sale now).

Teddy Bear Man, music man, however you see him, Reillys happy just being who he is as long as hes making music.

Im very grateful that Ive been given this gift of creativity, and it blesses me every day.

Organizations: Great Big Sea

Geographic location: George Street, Mexico, Yugoslavia

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