Willie P. Bennett has spent decades on the road



Folk singer Willie P. Bennett performs Saturday at Library & Archives Canada with guest James Hill.


He’s revered by fans of the folk music scene, and in the last three decades he’s performed in nearly every corner of Canada, not to mention many nooks and crannies in the U.S. and Europe.


Yet when you say the name Willie P. Bennett to many music lovers, you may be met with blank stares.

It’s not that the singer-songwriter hasn’t been busy. When he’s not touring alongside fellow folk legend Fred Eaglesmith, winning Junos for his albums, or lending his harmonica skills to more than 100 recordings, he finds a little time to tour on his own.

This month he embarks on a multi-city tour through Ontario and British Columbia, with a stop in Ottawa this weekend.

“Hardly ever am I not touring. I think I had a total of about 35 days off last year,” says the 55-year-old musician.

“It can get tiring, but the road changes every day and every night on stage is a pleasantly frustrating surprise.”

Critics and fellow singers are never shy to praise Bennett for his musicianship and philosophical lyrics, but when asked how he feels about the adulation, Bennett is modest.

“Having peers respect you is always an excellent thing, but it makes me nervous sometimes because the more you get caught up in what other people think of you, the less time you spend reflecting on what you’re doing.”

Bennett’s music had such an impact on performers Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson, that they formed their own band — Blackie and the Rodeo Kings — as a tribute to him. The band’s name even comes from a Bennett tune.

“Willie is why we got all of this started in the first place,” Wilson explains.

“I mean, we say he’s our hero and it’s absolutely true.”

Bennett says he’s pleased to think that his music continues to inspire, and even after years of experience on the road, he still recalls what it was like to pen his first song and take the stage for the first time.

“It’s kind of like a first experience with sex because it’s not something you can remember clearly, but you still carry all the emotions and feelings from it. And you’re happy that you get better at it as you go along.”

if you go ...

  • Willie P. Bennett performs Saturday, 8 p.m. at Library & Archives Canada with guest James Hill. Tickets are $24 at the door or $20 advance through www.ottawafolk.org.