Front man Cuddy reflects on 20-year career
The band can be summed up in two words: “Blue” and “Rodeo.”
They don’t need much more introduction than that, though you could toss around “roots rock staple” and “as Canadian as a Don Cherry suit” around with fair accuracy and, at this point in their illustrious careers, probably even “lifelong roadies.” Front man Jim Cuddy — who’s helmed the band through nearly a dozen records since the ‘80s, including its latest Small Miracles in 2007 — admits he’s long lost count how many times the group has criss-crossed the country.
“Since ’87 we’ve been going across Canada,” he says. “In those days, full tours — we probably did two a year. But there were countless times back and forth in between, to do festival gigs, special gigs, corporate gigs, whatever. So hundreds of times we’ve crossed the country, hundreds.”
The result? A rare perspective of a double-decade musician and national traveller — Cuddy’s watched the boom in Alberta, the big-name corporate chains appear overnight and little towns swell into bustling cityscapes. And while the view outside the tour bus windows seemed to constantly shift its shape, Cuddy says Canada’s collection of unique identities has always stayed the same.
“Maybe I’m a lower form of evolved species but it never gets old for me,” he says. “The Starbucks of the world have made a certain uniformity to the surface, but it hasn’t really made a significant change. Saskatoon is still extremely different from Nelson, B.C., and we see certain customs, the way people act with each other, how free they are to get up and dance, how much they drink or what’s a Friday night like in wherever. If everything was the same, this experience wouldn’t hold our attention as long.”
And no, he adds, their careers aren’t their masters, but instead their muse. Cuddy says the writing, recording, publicity and tour — and repeat — keep the guys in top form to keep going.
“With all the skills we have — playing, singing and writing — if you take a long break, sometimes you weaken the skill,” he says. “There’s a certain balance between waiting for the muse and putting yourself in a place where the muse can find you.”
As for Toronto, Cuddy was asked for the first thing that came to his mind about his home city.
“Toronto’s my home so there are so many things,” he says. “I think of Massey Hall, I’ve loved Massey Hall ever since I was a kid. There are just too many landmarks in Toronto to think of. And I’m a diehard Leafs fan and so I think of the poor Leafs.”