From rock roots to the cusp of country stardom, Corb Lund brings his intimate solo tour to the island this May. We catch up with the proud Albertan in our Q&A.
By Dillon Collins
You’re touring Newfoundland and Labrador extensively this May throughout the Arts and Culture Centres coast to coast. Will this be your first visit to the island?
I played St. John’s one time before. It’s been a few years. I’m really excited about it because I’m playing six shows. It’s funny because it’s such a big country and I’ve been to St. John’s once and the Maritimes a couple of times, but only to the big cities – quick in and outs. I have three weeks there overall and doing all of the nooks and crannies. I’m from a small town myself, so I’m really quite excited to get a feel of the place.
I think in a weird way there are a lot of similarities between Newfoundland and Alberta, when you look at the culture of hardworking people and provincial pride.
Absolutely. I was going to start my show by going out there by saying that I miss back home but I had to come out East for the work.
You haven’t exactly taken the conventional path to country music. You spent a great deal of time with an Alberta based rock/punk/metal fusion band The Smalls.
My family are all cowboys and I grew up in that kind of a setting. When I was 14 or 15 I was seduced by rock ‘n’ roll. People always asked me how I was introduced to western music after playing rock, but given my background it would have been pretty normal for me to get into western given my family life. Around 14 or 15 I discovered Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and did that for 10 years.
Do you find a substantial difference between rock audiences and country audiences?
Sort of. It’s funny because there’s kind of a similarity in some ways. A lot of aging indie rock people get into Johnny Cash and stuff. There’s a lot less distance then you’d think, it’s just different moods mostly. When I started playing this stuff a lot of people followed me over from The Smalls. On the other hand I have fans who are straight up country fans and aren’t interested in heavy rock. For me from a songwriting and performance standpoint it’s not as different as people think. It’s almost like playing hockey and football. It’s just a different kind of sport.
With your most recent record Things That Can’t Be Undone I understand you were really inspired by country music of the 60s and 70s. I’d imagine growing up in a predominately country music fan family in Alberta had to have bled into your style here?
It always does. Not everything I write is a cowboy song but often what I write, the settings are pretty rural and pretty western and ranchy. Not always. I play in a lot of settings in the states where it’s all kind of traditional western themes. My take on it is I just try to be myself and my story is that I grew up in a rural western setting, but I live in the 21st century. A lot of my songs are about that. There’s some depth in the past but feeling in the presence.
These last several albums have really helped established you as a name on the roots-country music scene here in Canada, even helping you cross over into the U.S., which any musician knows is a tough thing to do.
We’ve developed a pretty good audience, especially in the mountain states and western states like Montana and Colorado and all the way down Texas and Oklahoma. There’s a really healthy underground country scene down there. It’s kind of like rock. There’s the radio rock which has a kind of narrow scope and then there’s indie rock which is kind of all over the place. Country is kind of like that too. There’s the radio stuff which is kind of predictable and all pretty sameish and then there’s a whole bubbling scene which is really interesting and I feel quite at home there.
You’re known for your backing band The Hurtin’ Albertans. For this Newfoundland Arts and Culture Centre tour you’ll be playing solo. I’d imagine we can expect a more stripped down set from you?
I’m really looking forward to it. I love my band and it’s really fun playing big shows with the band and festivals, but I really love playing solo, especially in that listening environment like a theatre. I love it. I can play some different songs that I don’t always play and talk about the songs and bulls**t a little bit with people and chit chat, stop in the middle of songs and explain stuff. I’m looking forward to it in terms of only being to the province once. I’m looking forward to this type of show in particular because I can chat a little more with people and get a feel for the place.
Corb Lund tours the province for a solo run of Arts and Culture Centre tour dates in Gander, Corner Brook, Stephenville, Grand Falls-Windsor, Labrador West and st. John’s from May 12-20 with very special guests Gary & Whit.
Tickets and more information are available on artsandculturecentre.com and at the respective box office.