There isn’t much Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Rodney DeCroo didn’t try his hand at prior to picking up a guitar and carving out what has become a rich, artistic adventure.
During his 20s, he tried everything from waiting tables, construction and landscaping to mining and bartending. He even attended theatre school for a time and acted. He was a writer, too – working for a time for a publication where he penned political pieces.
Although even in the middle of all of that, there was something inside that assured him one day music just might be his calling.
“I was always drawn to music, although I didn’t come from a musical family,” he explains from his home during a recent chat. “I did know it was something I wanted to do eventually.”
DeCroo performs Oct. 12th at the International Beer Haus in Red Deer as part of the Doves & Hawks Tour along with Sarah Wheeler and Mark Davis.
Folks will hear acoustic versions of many tunes from over the years with a special focus on his latest disc, Old Tenement Man.
The project marked the first time DeCroo essentially turned things over to a producer, and he couldn’t be happier with the results.
That producer, Lorrie Matheson, brought just the right amount of his own vision to the project, but was of course careful to not squelch the raw originality that DeCroo has become so recognized for over the years.
“I was really, really thrilled with the result.”
After returning from a five-year sabbatical from music in 2015 with the intimate collection Campfires On The Moon, DeCroo’s musical evolution certainly continues with Old Tenement Man which has also been described as being infused with the legacies of Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen. The impact of Johnny Cash has certainly been injected into the textured mix as well, he said.
“I like to think I have found my own voice,” he added with a laugh. But those artists have made their mark and they continue to inspire him. “I think the big thing is that I wanted to do something that didn’t so much fall into the category of the alt-country/roots genres,” he explained.
Not that he doesn’t love those genres which he has explored so prolifically over the past years. But he wanted to try some new things and reach out to a broader audience, too. “I wanted to try and appeal to a wider audience while still being honest and authentic.”
No concerns about that.
As his bio so aptly puts it, “The fully fleshed out arrangements on songs like When It’s Everything and Like Jacob When He Felt The Angel’s Touch leap out of the speakers unlike anything DeCroo has achieved before on record, while Old Tenement Man’s most harrowing moments, such as Ten Thousand Feet Tall and The Barrel Has A Dark Eye, thrill with the precise control both DeCroo and Matheson deploy to build the drama.”
The album also continues DeCroo’s intense output since 2010, which saw him produce an acclaimed poetry collection—and accompanying spoken word album—drawn from his childhood in western Pennsylvania.
He also mounted a one-man theatre show that toured western Canada, all of which was an outgrowth of extensive therapy to cope with addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the best things about DeCroos is his self-deprecating, sharp sense of humour. He’s a delight to chat with – always quick with the stories which are really amazing. For instance, how he came into the world of being a musician in the first place.
Interestingly, he didn’t even pick up a guitar until he was 33, shortly after his marriage ended. Staying at a friend’s place, he noticed a guitar sitting there. Songs flowed naturally – although he admits not perfectly or seamless at first – and as did an ability to connect with audiences.
His breakthrough disc, War Torn Man, was released in 2006.
As mentioned, DeCroo hails from working man’s country – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Born into a devout, hard-working family, the DeCroos came to Canada when Rodney’s father opted not to re-up for a second tour of Vietnam.
Although he’s lived a fascinating life, it wasn’t all smooth sailing getting to where is now of course. “I was the guy who would bring my guitar to every party and make people listen to me,” he laughed.
Ultimately, he knew he wanted that life – one of recording, touring and telling stories via music. ”I would say, this is what I’m going to do now!”
He was right.
“I knew one day that it would turn out.”