Few artists capture the essense of life’s experiences through the lens of music quite like Fred Eaglesmith.
Local fans will be able to catch up with the exceptional artist on Sept. 14th at the Elks Lodge, in a show presented by the Central Music Festival Society.
His wife Tif Ginn will be joining him for the performance which starts at 8 p.m.
Advance tickets are available at www.centralmusicfest.com.
“I was raised in church, so there was music there,” he explained during a recent chat.
“My father was a terrific singer, and there was music in our family, but it was all religious music. We had very few non-religious records – The Sound of Music and Wilf Carter and some other random stuff.”
But something was stirring inside of him, and crystallized one night when he saw Elvis on TV.
”I’d been working hard, working outside in the cold in the barn. I went inside to warm up and I saw Elvis on television and he was in Hawaii. Here I was in the dead of winter in southern Ontario; it was minus 4,000 degrees. There’s Elvis on television surrounded by beautiful girls, he was tanned, he was rich, he had a cadillac. I thought, I’m going to do that!
“I also thought he wrote his own songs, so that night I went upstairs and I started writing songs. I was so determined that I stopped doing all of my school work,” he added with a laugh. “I knew what I was going to do. My passion was achieved like a lightning bolt.”
An older brother loves to tell the story about how a young Fred would be working on the farm at the very back of the hay field singing hymns. “I couldn’t have been more than 10, and they could hear me at the house. You are fortunate to just have that in you when you are born.”
Initially, when he was figuring out his own style, he delved into good old fashioned rock and roll.
“At first I could sing and play that until my voice changed. And then, when my voice changed, it wasn’t good. I couldn’t reach the notes. I couldn’t sing in tune,” he recalled. “All of a sudden all of that crooning stuff just wasn’t relevant.
“Then in 1974 I saw John Prine on television. I was writing my own songs about my parents’ farm a little bit and I was dabbling in my roots. And when I saw John Prine I went, I’m that sarcastic, I’m that sardonic! I thought I could’t write like this, but it set me on the path that sort of began my roots music.”
After being in a few bands, his first self-titled record was released in 1980.
After all these years touring the United States, Canada and Europe, Eaglesmith is carrying boldly on with musical wife Ginn.
The thing about Eaglesmith is that he has never operated within anyone’s boundaries. And those creative sensibilities shine through on his latest project Standard, which was released last year.
“I wanted to sort of recap what I had done in a less sort of aggressive way,” he said. He wanted something fresh as well. “You get tired of yourself,” he laughed. “You get tired of hearing your loud voice, and you know, as we get older we get a little less aggressive.
“And like many of my records, two years later, people come up and say, ‘Hey, I really like that record you put out’. People always like my record five years later,” he laughed. “I think that I’m that kind of artist that at first, it’s sort of jarring – people are like, with many of my records, ‘What’s this that he’s doing?’ And then they listen to it more and go, ‘You know, I do like this’.”
It works fine for Eaglesmith, as this response lends longevity to his tunes which seem to grow more compelling as time passes. There is indeed a certain timelessness from project to project.
As to his shows, with such an enormous catalogue, Eaglesmith said he doesn’t bring a set list.
“I just get onstage and see how the audience is feeling. I might have a few stock things, but generally I just go by the crowd. I learned that very young. People follow us around and will say, ‘I just saw eight shows and not one was the same’.”
Meanwhile, Ginn is also described as an amazing singer and a transcendent songwriter who has spent most of her life touring and playing music. “We’ve been performing together for over 10 years,” he said, adding that his wife is a tremendously talented musician who plays about eight instruments. “So it’s a pretty rocking show. It’s not a little folk show – she plays the drums, the bass – it goes on and on.”
Again, for tickets or for more information, check out www.centralmusicfest.com.