Thirty-five years in, Jim Cuddy is still fascinated by music and the human experience.
“I thought when I was 30 years old that this was a young person’s game,” says the decorated Canadian singer-songwriter. “But...I’m still as fascinated by music as I ever was. I enjoy the mechanics of writing a song. I enjoy looking at the mechanics of somebody else’s songs. It’s exercising an enjoyable, acquired skill.”
It’s this sense of curiosity and wonder that’s bringing him to his debut performance at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on October 3 - one of many stops on his cross-country tour to promote his fourth solo album, Constellation.
“We’re compelled [to perform]. We speak very naturally the language of music and it is super inspiring to play songs with other people,” he says about his experience with The Jim Cuddy Band, which is celebrating a milestone 20th anniversary this year. A founding member of iconic Canadian favourite Blue Rodeo who was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and won several JUNO Awards, Cuddy launched his solo career in 1998.
Fortunately for his loyal fans, he’s finding plenty of inspiration to create the music that takes him across the country to perform. He’s continually fascinated with the details behind human behaviour and his interactions with the world.
“Part of it is turning your instincts into a skill. I’ve always watched the world and been fascinated by the smallest details in a character or situation and I’ve learned how to translate that into song.”
The songs on the band’s new album [which dropped January 26, 2018] are very much about experiences Cuddy was immersed in at the time he crafted them.
“I was certainly attuned to everything that was going on in the year I was writing and recording [the album],” he said. Those who have yet to take listen will find a strong roots flavour, with a sense of 60s and 70s nostalgia tinged with country-rock and folk.
“It’s definitely roots music. It’s contemporary subject matter. I’m not looking back and I’m not looking forward. I’m talking about what’s happening to me right now.”
As he gears up for his fall tour dates, he relishes the opportunity to be back in Niagara.
“St. Catharines has always been a nice place to play...now they have the theatre and the new arena [Meridian Centre]. It’s a little bit of, ‘If you build it, they will come,’” he said, adding he’s looking forward to seeing the fans who come out to enjoy the show.
“Audiences in Niagara are great - they’re musical, they’re appreciative,” he said, adding that each evening is unique.
“You make a connection with the audience. The night is executed in a different way [for each concert], depending on the audience and depending on the place. There’s a nice euphoria at the end where you just have performed for two hours.”
While he’s always struck by the beauty of the region’s wine country and well-versed in playing outdoor summer concerts at local wineries, heading indoors for his debut performance at the arts centre will be a welcome shift, with the ability to exert more influence over audio-visual elements and take advantage of the controlled atmosphere of the theatre.
“Just the breadth of what we can do in a theatre with our own sound is really magnificent. I really enjoy playing in theatres. I wanted to continue that, and get a full year of touring out of it. By the time fall rolls around, I’ll be happy to be indoors.”
It’s fitting that CAA is sponsoring Cuddy’s October concert - he fondly recalls how the company has helped him and his fellow bandmates out of tricky situations more than once during their travels.
“Greg [Keelor, his Blue Rodeo bandmate], has used his [membership] enough for all of us! He could not move around if it wasn’t for CAA!”
Tickets for the October 3 and 4 performances at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and CAA Members save $10. Get yours here.