Canadian music legend Jim Cuddy reflects on the miles and music that leads Blue Rodeo back to St. John’s this September
Jim Cuddy has seen it all in a hall of fame worthy career atop the pantheon of Canadian songwriting royalty. What’s now foreign to the frontman of the legendary Blue Rodeo is stillness, an involuntary byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Once it started happening (in 2020), staying still, that’s my first year of staying still in 35 years,” Cuddy shared in a sitdown with The Herald ahead of Blue Rodeo’s return to St. John’s on the Many A Mile Tour.
“We have a little rural place that’s north of the city, so I was there sitting in this one seat and just playing and writing songs and thinking what I would do with them and how I was going to do this, but not worrying about the final result, just writing songs. And yes, I think that had a very beneficial effect on all of us, because whatever little injuries go along with touring all the time, they cleared up and whatever little complaints you have about, ‘oh, I don’t like this hotel’ or, ‘can’t we stay in Montreal instead of Ottawa?’ All that bulls**t, it doesn’t matter anymore because the essence of what you do is gone, the essence of playing live.”
Blue Rodeo would release their whopping 16th studio album in 2021, Many A Mile, though Cuddy is open to the idea that, pre-pandemic, the reality that the band had released their final record loomed large.
Charge up the lifeblood
“We could never go out and just do the songs that we’d already committed to in the past. I think we’d just feel like a jukebox and so it’s always necessary to charge up the lifeblood a little bit and get everybody playing together,” Cuddy shared.
“These guys are fantastic players, and just to hear them create is inspiring. But I don’t know. It’s definitely a waveform that two years ago, before this pandemic started, I was pretty sure we were never going to make another record. And then halfway through the pandemic, I was less sure. And of course I was proven wrong. I’m sure we’ll do it again.”
2022 marks milestone anniversaries for seminal Blue Rodeo albums, including 1987’s debut record Outskirts, which marked the shift for the group from applauded bar band to full on national treasure.
“I think that when we made Outskirts, first of all, we were very pleased to be making a record, but that wasn’t the end all, be all. We weren’t going to be super disappointed because we’d already been disappointed. We’d been a band for seven years at that point, and we were a really successful bar band at that point, and we really enjoyed ourselves playing in The Horseshoe, playing the Big Bop. So making the record was a step, and then it kind of failed at the beginning, but being taken out by the record company and being told you’ve sold 5,000 copies, which made us go wow, 5,000 copies! That’s more than you sell off the stage. But then ‘if you don’t sell more we’re going to drop you,’” Cuddy recalled.
Dealing with hits
“And then Try comes out and it becomes a hit and that changes our lives. But we’re not aware of how it’s changing our lives. But I look back and I realize that all that we had done in the bars and how we formed ourselves as a band, that was the training period and that was over.”
Returning to St. John’s at Mary Brown’s Centre on Sept. 10th (a rescheduled date from earlier this year), and Cuddy laughs when we jokingly thank the consummate gentleman and national treasure for continuing to include ‘The Rock’ in the band’s touring itinerary.
“It’s one of those things you can feel embarrassed being thanked for. Because we’ve always loved coming to Newfoundland,” Cuddy shares with a smile.
“We used to come and play Memorial University to play the pub there, and you had to go for two nights and Gary Clark would bring us out and it was a thrill. We got treated just like every other band. We were super abused a couple of times at the beginning and then people liked us and then we got invited to parties and we got our education about St. John’s and Newfoundland in those times,” he said.
“I think just generally for us, we started to tour Canada because that’s what we were offered. We toured the States a lot because that’s what we were offered, but it didn’t open our hearts the way touring in Canada has. There’s few exceptions to this – we really loved everywhere we’ve been and everywhere I’ve been on ‘The Rock’ and have really enjoyed it. I have friends now that have places there from Ontario, which is crazy, right. And it’s a way of life. It’s a type of person and it’s a natural beauty there. So we should be thanking you for being there and for also having such enthusiasm for music.”
For all things Blue Rodeo visit bluerodeo.com. For tickets to see the band with special guest Jenn Grant on Sept. 10th at Mary Brown’s Centre visit mbcentre.ca