Blue Rodeo singer does Q&A in anticipation of festival performance

Justin Brake
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Justin Brake: It's a lot easier these days to interview new and emerging musicians because there's a lot they haven't been asked. I know how much press you guys do, and that you never turn down an interview, so I decided to do some random questions with Jim Cuddy to hopefully avoid any redundancy and to preview Blue Rodeo's upcoming show at the George Street Festival.

Jim Cuddy: No problem. Tell me a bit about the George Street Festival - I've never been to it. What's it like?

Jim Cuddy

Justin Brake: It's a lot easier these days to interview new and emerging musicians because there's a lot they haven't been asked. I know how much press you guys do, and that you never turn down an interview, so I decided to do some random questions with Jim Cuddy to hopefully avoid any redundancy and to preview Blue Rodeo's upcoming show at the George Street Festival.

Jim Cuddy: No problem. Tell me a bit about the George Street Festival - I've never been to it. What's it like?

JB: You've been to George Street, right?

JC: I've certainly been to George Street.

JB: Well, they close off the whole street. You've got to pay to get on the street and you can go in and out of bars with your drinks. They've got security around the whole street. You can buy a drink in one bar, go outside and watch some of the show, and bring your drink into another bar after.

JC: Is there music in the bars as well as on the stage?

JB: I think some of the bars have local musicians. During the bigger shows I think most people are out on the street. I caught Kim Mitchell and Sloan two years ago and I missed it last year - I think Loverboy was the headliner last year.

JC: Really? That's kinda funny.

JB: Two decades of touring across Canada and around the world - what's your biggest pet peeve or annoyance while on the road?

JC: (Laughs.) I suppose the biggest pet peeve or annoyance is when people are supposed to supply food for us and the food is basically inedible or something college kids would think, 'Oh wow, Chinese food!' or 'Chop suey - isn't that great!' We have to be so specific with that because day after day you're just reliant on whatever people bring you and so, you know, one day of vitamin-depleted food can cause fights in the band because everybody's just getting anemic and pissed off. That's the worst thing.

JB: OK, how about your favourite part of being on the road?

JC: I think my favourite part about being on the road is actually playing music, but let's just discount that. I think it's then, you know, staring at pretty girls while we're playing. I really think that's one of the greatest pleasures of what I do.

JB: That's a good, honest answer. How about your most memorable tour in support of an album?

JC: Maybe the "Five Days in July" tour was the most memorable because we were really hunkered down. We had all this furniture on the stage and there was incense going. We really had a very heavy vibe from that record and it was really pleasant. I forgot her last name, but the cellist that played on the record came with us and I'm pretty sure that Sarah McLachlan joined us at some point, maybe in Vancouver. That was a really beautiful tour.

JB: This will be the band's third show in Newfoundland in I think a year and a half. There was Mile One Centre and then the Salmon Festival last year. What memory or experience stands out most about all your trips to Newfoundland?

JC: The thing that stands out most about Newfoundland is that when you walk down the street and somebody greets you as if they're your friend, and they're like, 'Oh, how ya doin' buddy?' and they ask you something and you realize you may have met them on a tour three years earlier. But it's such a friendly place that that's the continuation of a friendship. It doesn't matter that there's a huge gap. So it's really just meeting people on the street.

JB: Is there a specific memory or experience that stands out?

JC: I would say that the first time - I guess we were at Memorial University - we got Screeched in. Somehow I avoided it, but the other guys got Screeched in. And there was a pretty nasty-looking fish that everybody had to kiss.

JB: That was before the cod moratorium, I presume?

JC: That was well before the moratorium.

JB: Everybody knows a thing or two about George Street. Tell me about an experience you had on George Street.

JC: Oh, you know, I'm the wrong guy to ask. I've never ever really gone down and gone crazy on George Street. I can't take the ferry there and back, so I fly there and back apart from the band, so I am always slightly queasy and we never stay very long. So I cannot lose a night to George Street because then I might lose my cookies on the way back.

JB: As a music fan, your dream concert - three bands. Who are they and where is the concert taking place?

JC: I think my dream concert actually just took place in Halifax. I think that set Paul McCartney did was about as "dream" as I can imagine. But I guess in terms of a show, it would be Paul McCartney, Wilco, and Jackson Browne doing only old stuff. (Laughs.)

JB: Where would the show be?

JC: Umm, that's such a tough question. The show would be ... I'd like to say outdoors, but ... it would be at my farm. On the land at my farm, north of Toronto.

JB: What is your favourite all-time song by a Newfoundland and Labrador artist or band?

JC: Let's go with the Great Big Sea boys. Let's go with, (long pause), "Ordinary Day."

Blue Rodeo will headline the 2009 George Street Festival today. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 and available at North Atlantic Petroleum retail locations in St. John's and C.B.S.

JB: OK, so you're standing there watching those three acts at your farm. What are you holding in your hand: a cold beer, a non-tobacco cigarette or your wife's hand?

JC: Oh, well, it would probably be my wife's hand, but my wife is very high-energy, so she'd be in and out. So, what I would really have is an excellent bottle of bordeaux wine. I'd have a great bottle of wine and I'd be drinking it right from the bottle.

JB: Our first interview was in 2003. I was writing for the Ottawa Citizen at the time and we were talking about the upcoming Juno Awards. They were in Ottawa that year. I asked you what your favourite song was and you said Avril Lavigne's "Complicated." Next year, we're hosting the Junos here in St. John's. Do you have a favourite Canadian song so far in '09 that, in your opinion, deserves a Juno nomination?

JC: My god, that's a tough question. We've been making a record and I'm so disconnected from everything. I don't even know who's had records out - I'm gonna have to pass on that one. Right now, I cannot recall a lot of songs.

JB: A few more questions, Jim. You kind of already answered this one, but where's the band at in terms of working on the next record?

JC: We do it at our own studio, which is in downtown Toronto, but we also do a portion of it, maybe a third of it, at Greg's farm. Greg has a nice little recording studio at his farm and we just sit all around the farmhouse. We've done a nice bit of recording at his place, but now it's a bit more formal in the studio.

JB: So that'll be studio album, I believe, Number 12. Would you say the band's closer to the midway point of its career or the final stretch?

JC: (Laughs.) I don't think we're into the final stretch. I think this record ... there's something about this record that has really hooked us. It's gonna be a double record, it's gonna be long, there's lots of sprawling pieces, there's everything. We're at a point where we should be reaching a sort of diminishment of our creativity, but we seem to be expanding. It just feels very natural, very good, very plentiful, and we're very excited about having a real substantial record come out. Not a 45-minute record, but a double record with a lot of different things to talk about. I can't see it being the half-way point. I mean, it's been 20-something odd years and I'd be extremely old if there was another half. I don't think we'll stop, but that's a long time to think about.

JB: Your favourite colour, and you can't say blue.

JC: Well ... theeen ... I will saaaaay ... yellow.

JB: What will you most likely be doing after the show in St. John's?

JC: I'll be having a few pints with some people down there. Depends who's around. We usually have lots of friends down there. I know the pints will be nice and cold.

JB: Last question, Jim. You mentioned that in your first trip here you hadn't been Screeched in. Is there anybody in the band that hasn't been Screeched in, to date?

JC: No.

JB: Everybody's been Screeched in?

JC: Everybody's been Screeched in, and all our crew.

JB: You're not just protecting them, are you?

JC: I'm not just protecting them. Why would I do that? (Laughs.) No, everybody's been made official, land-loving Newfoundlanders.

JB: Well, it's the George Street Festival and you guys are in for a pretty crazy time, so we'll have to find some other reason to give you shots of Screech.

JC: (Laughs.) I'll take a shot of Screech. No problem with that.

For more information, visit www.georgestreetfestival.com.

Organizations: Great Big Sea, North Atlantic Petroleum, Ottawa Citizen

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, St. John's Vancouver Toronto Halifax Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • wavy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Those were some of the most annoying questions I've ever read in any interview, let alone an interview with one of Canada's most prolific and beloved musicians. What's your favourite song? What's your favourite COLOUR?? Stay far away from Lou Reed, Mr. Brake....he'd eat you alive.

  • alex
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    NFLD is Town . Town is George St. We all drink Screech. We Screech everybody in. What a twit.

  • Andy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    You forgot to ask Cuddy what his sign is. Sheesh.

    And what a twit Cuddy sounds like with his staring at pretty girls. There's a career incentive for you. Are the not-pretty girls supposed to make sure they don't get in his line of sight and interfere with Cuddy's professional purpose?

    This interview convincec me that neither participant is worth any more of my time or attention.

  • wavy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Those were some of the most annoying questions I've ever read in any interview, let alone an interview with one of Canada's most prolific and beloved musicians. What's your favourite song? What's your favourite COLOUR?? Stay far away from Lou Reed, Mr. Brake....he'd eat you alive.

  • alex
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    NFLD is Town . Town is George St. We all drink Screech. We Screech everybody in. What a twit.

  • Andy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    You forgot to ask Cuddy what his sign is. Sheesh.

    And what a twit Cuddy sounds like with his staring at pretty girls. There's a career incentive for you. Are the not-pretty girls supposed to make sure they don't get in his line of sight and interfere with Cuddy's professional purpose?

    This interview convincec me that neither participant is worth any more of my time or attention.