Interview with Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo

Early in 1999 Jim took a brief break from Blue Rodeo and released his first solo album. The album titled "All in Time" received rave reviews from both Blue Rodeo fans and critics alike. The album also went on to win a Juno award. During a stop over that year in Fredericton, NB I did a brief interview with Jim Cuddy.

GB - I love you solo album what made you decide to do one?

JC - I think it's just time, fifteen years in the group. I've really always written in a musical partnership and the opportunity was there to do it, a little time in the schedule. I think it's just part of the evolution of doing music. Being in a group is great and interesting. It's like being in a family and stepping aside from it and doing something different. It gives you a whole other prospective on being in the family. It's a lot of work doing it on your own. I couldn't believe it.

GB - How were things different writing for this album as compared to writing for the band?

JC - I'm so used to writing as if I was writing for a choir and used to operating in a group of people. There is a certain dynamic that I understand and that I'm comfortable with. All of a sudden when I'm on my own I try to re-create that and by getting a little band together and having friends come. But every so often it all falls away and I'm there by myself. It's a bit more lonely. It can be satisfying and soul searching in that regard.

GB - One big difference I noticed on this album as compared to Blue Rodeo there is a fiddle player on it. How else does differ?

JC - Well I think there is the distinct difference. The fiddle creates an instrumental character that's different and the instruments that go with the fiddle. We couldn't use the organ and keyboards with the fiddle because the fiddle kind of does that, it takes that space. On the other hand this record is much more centered around my voice. Everything is much more supportive of my voice tone and the whole story, and obviously in Blue Rodeo there is lots of elements that tell the story.

GB - How is the solo material going over live?

JC - It's going great, we're a bar band now with this record so we do some covers, we do some Blue Rodeo tunes, we do my record, we just jumble it up.

GB - What's it like to be up on stage and how have Greg Keelor or any of the other band members up there with you?

JC - Sometimes it's a blessing, sometimes it's a curse (laughs). I miss Greg! I'm used to being on stage with Greg and used to that dynamic and irony and that amount of contrast and balance. It's very enjoyable to be with new musicians, and watch this develop as a band and watch everybody get more comfortable playing and the music get more confident and people step out more. I have some really talented people with me and some people who musicianship I really admire. Colin Cripps, Ann Lindsey who is our fiddle player, Joel Anderson, Bazel, there all great musicians. That's the pleasure part of the day. Two hours on stage with them is great part of the day.

GB - Do you enjoy making videos?

JC - Not particularly, I appreciate the craft. I like watching them. It's a very tedious procedure, especially from a band prospective because you usually just mouth the words to the songs and try to put yourself in an interesting place. It's too much of a crap shoot. You have one opportunity. You don't have the opportunity like a record to take a piece you don't like and fix them up and move them around. I find it a bit frustrating, the amount of money it costs for the results. But I also like them. A lot of interesting bands to me are not on Much Music anymore. Now with Much More Music I've seen them again. I've realized I missed that in hindsight of their music. I've missed seeing what they were going though. Even if it was some ridiculous abstract video. Somehow it gets their frame of mind and I've missed checking up on bands who's music I like.

GB - Do you think the success of the Barenaked Ladies in the US may open the doors for other Canadian bands south of the border?

JC - Honestly no, It's an individual experience. The BareNaked Ladies have a form of music they do really well and people like. There will always be bands that will start from Canada and just get hugely famous like Alanis. There will be bands that will work at it and gradually build an audience. Then there will be other bands that will come and have pockets of success. I think a band like us, we have a certain amount in some cities. I think our music is not geared enough to really young people for it to just go ‘boom'. BareNaked Ladies appeal to my daughter. I just don't think we have ever been in that category. We're a bit too broad to characterize.

GB - If you had to how would you characterize your music?

JC - I've always though we were a country rock band. Country rock bands are historically rock bands, who grew up on rock music and then discovered country. Usually discover a lot of other things at the same time, psychedelics, jazz, whatever, and then just kind of mixed some version or hybrid of it. I think that's what we have done. When we started doing this kind of music Greg and I had no prior knowledge of country music, none what's so ever. I don't think either of us could play a Country song all the way through. But we had admiration for Kristofferson and some of the rock musicians who had gone through Nashville, ‘Skyline' for Bob Dylan and the Byrds and that kind of stuff. We started getting into that, and it has always been a second or third of fourth hand version of country music. Then we started to meet guys that introduced us to George Jones and all that and as much as I admire that, I have never tried to emulate it. I'm was not born in the States, I'm not American. I don't have that background in Country music. It's always been this bastardization of it that's appealed to me.

GB - What do you think of so called "New Country"?

JC - I got admit I'm going to sound like an old fuddy-duddy but I've heard about sixteen versions of new country. When we first started, ourselves and KD Lang and Steve Earl, that was considered new country. Now what I guess it kind of means is country for pop radio. I like a lot of stuff on pop radio, it doesn't mean anything to me. I certainly like a lot of the versions of alternative country that are around. There's not to say that there's not something to come out of straight country I wouldn't like. I like Paul Brandt's voice and he could do a song id really like. It's not that I write it off altogether. There is certainly not anywhere I wouldn't look for inspiration on songs to listen to.

GB - How do you keep things fresh after all these years?

JC - All kinds of different ways. Sometimes it's just finding a new place to record. I think as the band gets further on, what we have to do is find ways to inspire ourselves as individuals and then bring that back to the band, that seems always the way. Were not the Monkees all living together. We have to go out and fill our creative minds and come back and bring that to the band. I think doing the solo records was a big part of it this time. Just for us to go out and do our own version of what we bring to the band. I think when we come back we have more overt respect for each other. I think we always have respect of each other like a family that gets married. Sometimes I think we listen to each other a little more when we come back. It always seems to give us a good kick.

Click here to go to the offical Blue Rodeo Web Site
Return to the Interviews Homepage