Tag Archives: Stephen Fearing

CROW Sessions Spotlights Stephen Fearing

By Bill Monahan

On Tuesday April 24th, Crow Bar and Variety in Collingwood presents the third in its special series of dinner shows, this time featuring singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing.  The early dinner-show format, with the admonition, “Shut the F@#k Up and Listen”, is designed to give audiences extra insight into the artists featured with a mix of stories and songs.  Part of the show on Tuesday will be an interview on stage conducted by writer and broadcaster Jeff Woods “asking some of the hard questions”.

Stephen Fearing, a veteran singer-songwriter, winner of  two Juno Awards, a Canadian Folk Music Award and a West Coast Music Award, has been building an international reputation since the release of his first self-titled, self-produced cassette in 1986.  He is probably best known as one of the founding members of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, but during his decades with them he has continued to develop a solo career that includes collaborating with the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Andy White, almost two decades as a solo artist on the prestigious True North label, conducting songwriting workshops, and producing records by other artists that include Suzie Vinnick’s Juno-nominated “Happy Here”, for which he co-wrote most of the songs.

“When I started in this business it was a very different landscape and certainly there was a lot more emphasis put on just being one-dimensional,” he says, “You know, ‘don’t confuse the audience’, just be the thing that the record company is trying to sell you as and stick to that.  I think a lot of musicians have an interest to try different things, not just other styles but collaborating, performing with other players gives you a chance to try a different hat and that kind of thing.  The way the business is working now, you’ve really got to be able to spread yourself around, do different things, multiple income streams.  But just from a selfish point of view of keeping yourself interested, the more ways you find to can skin a cat, as it were, the better.”

Like a lot of veteran artists, Stephen Fearing has lived through the seismic change in the music industry that occurred with the advent of the Internet, and he’s learned to adapt.  He’s live through the change from the days when a musician was seen as “somebody who rolls out of bed at noon and picks up a guitar and then is just kind of magically transported to the show and then to a party afterward,” to the way things are now, “when so much that needs to be done is the artists’ job.”

Tom Wilson Shares a Stirring Story of Family Secrets Mixed With Songs

by Bill Monahan
Feature Photo by Donna Harper

On Tuesday, Feb. 20th, CROW Bar and Variety in Collingwood is presenting the first of “The Crow Sessions” dinner shows, where they bring an artist who combines story with song and encourage the audience to, as Steven Vipond puts it, “Shut up and listen.”  These shows are special enough for the audience to set aside their chatter and do just that.

And the kickoff in the series is very special by any measure.  Tom Wilson of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, will talk about his memoir, “Beautiful Scars” and sing songs related to the story.

“I’m kind of out for the next year-and-a-half or so concentrating on doing  what I call literary recitals, consisting of either what I’ll be doing in Collingwood which is piano accompaniment and myself, all the way up to a 21-piece orchestra which I did last month in Hamilton and will be doing in Ottawa and Calgary, etc.  This is me being able to combine the story of my book along with the music that I’ve been writing for the last year around the book.”

And what a compelling story that book contains.  Since its release last year by Doubleday, “Beautiful Scars” (the book, not to be confused with the song or the album of the same name that Tom has recorded) has impressed critics.

Scott Merritt Emerges From The Cottage

by Bill Monahan (photo courtesy of Randy Sutherland)

If you are someone who recognizes the name Scott Merritt as a songwriter of promise from the 1980’s who toured with Jane Siberry and recorded with Daniel Lanois, then it’s as if you’ve been let in on a special secret.

Despite releasing only three albums in the past twenty-five years, Scott Merritt is still considered one of Canada’s best and most underappreciated singer-songwriters.

After some commercial airplay of his early songs, he was signed to Duke Street in Canada and IRS Records internationally.  Unfortunately both labels folded not long afterward.   A legal mess with IRS prevented him from recording for several years but he wasn’t entirely frustrated with the situation.  He hadn’t been particularly comfortable being marketed as a commodity.

“Yeah, my hands were tied, but I wasn’t in much of a mood to raise a stink to be honest,” he explained to Innerviews, “I had become SCOTT MERRITT in capital letters and it didn’t feel real anymore. There was a toxic feeling to it at an artistic level. So, I.R.S. had me in a position, but I wasn’t in any position to record anyway. I didn’t want to go back into that factory. I had really got to a place where it wasn’t fun and I had to promise to myself — something most of us do, but never keep — when it’s not fun to do, do something else for a while. So, at the time, the idea of a career wasn’t very attractive. I lost my taste for it.”

Since those early days, when promising record deals bloomed and withered with the vagaries of the business, Scott Merritt has spent most of his time working as a producer in his Guelph studio that he calls The Cottage.  Artists like Suzie Vinnick, Stephen Fearing, and others have made their pilgrimage to The Cottage for his producing services.

While he has released relatively few records in his career what they have in common is that every one has been greeted by effusive critical praise for an artist whose music and lyrics both come from a unique and moving place.

When he was young and riding high, Scott Merritt had a reputation and something of a guitar and effects wizard which stood alongside his reputation for evocative and poetic lyrics.  He never thought of himself as a commercial artist.  It took him by surprise when his second independent album “Serious Interference” in 1981 ended up on some commercial radio playlists and labels came calling.  The tours and awards were short-lived and strangely unsatisfying.

The Thursday Outlook – Oct. 19 to 23, 2017

The Band That Kills Hate, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, is coming back to spread their vibe and their amazing music in our area, with a show on Sunday evening at Meaford Hall.  Along with killing hate and putting on a show that rocks the house, this is a band that represents the best in Canadian song writing.  Originally founded as a tribute to the late Willie P. Bennett, the band was conceived as a fun side project for the three artists (Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing) who all have their own careers, and two decades later they still bring that fun of an all-star jam to every show.  Throughout their career they have consistently made a point of shining the spotlight on Canadian songwriters and others from the wide world of music.  Touring with them recently is Tom Wilson’s son, Thompson Wilson, who dispels any hint of nepotism with engaging original songs performed solo on acoustic guitar.  Blackie and The Rodeo Kings is a band that every Canadian music fan should see and there’s no better venue for that than Meaford Hall.

Owen Sound based songwriter, Larry Jensen, whose original songs have spawned a tribute album by the leading lights of the local music scene, will be performing a special concert tonight at The Bleeding Carrot, starting at 7 pm.  This is an ideal small venue to be able to really enjoy the songs and stories he weaves.

Jacelyn Holmes, whose press touts her as a blend of Marilyn Monroe and Stevie Nicks, is at The Huron Club in Collingwood for the weekend.  Following her showcase performance at the 2017 Juno Awards she’s released a smoky blues single, “Fool”, and is working on an upcoming album.