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The Calm in Stephen's Storm

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So Stephen Fearing, experienced Canadiana (?) roots folkish-style musician that he is, gets in the first question like a good observer of the human condition should:

“When you mentioned the bigger picture, what do you mean?” he asks.

Well, I say, in the sense that I’m interested in the social environment that music is created in, and the reasons for it; and music is created in a big social picture, maybe you’ve noticed this?

Stephen laughs, and so do I, for as anyone who has listened to his latest work Between Hurricanes will notice, the social contexts of the musical life are not so much held up to the light, as described from the inside. Apparently, this is what Stephen Fearing does, and he’s been doing it for 20-some years now.

“It’s all a parcel, really, and not just my work as a solo artist, but also Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and Fearing & White. If you had the money, time, interest or the patience to put the records all together and slot them in time wise, I think it would be an interesting listen.

“Musically, you would hear the change that happened between the 2 solo records of mine that came either side of that first Blackie record, and I think that you would hear (perhaps less obviously) the changes in the band as each member went on to do other solo work as we made more band records. The real joy of juggling these projects is the learning that goes on when you step onstage, having been a solo artist for a long time, and you stand next to Colin Linden (one of the best guitar players on the planet: if you think of slide players, he’s one of the top 5, Stephen says), and Tom Wilson is a real powerhouse to be beside, I’m onstage with these very strong players and you can’t help but pick up on some of the things that they’re doing.

“If you put (‘Between Hurricanes) together with all the other records, there is a path that I’ve been following: not any great design, much more reacting to things as they come at you.”

Whew. Yup, Stephen’s got things to say. I realized, after our conversation ended, that I had really only asked one question specific to this new release, which, as all the promotional material keeps trumpeting, follows significant personal and business life changes that Fearing suspects would end up in his music whether he likes it or not.

“I’m not consciously sitting down and thinking ‘I’m going to write a song about the death of my marriage.. . . . (T)his is the real magical part of songwriting for me which I absolutely love): you sit there with your rhyming dictionary or your computer thesaurus, or whatever tools you want to use (and I use them all, whatever it takes to get the song out), and you think that you have every single aspect of the song in your hands; you’re actually creating this thing from consciousness. It’s in front of you and you’re looking at it, you’re the cabinetmaker.

“And then later, sometimes it’s years later, you realize what the song’s really about.. . . . Maybe you’re writing a song that’s all about your friend, who’s going through a breakup, and then say, a year later, after you release the album and you’ve just won a Juno for it, your own marriage goes to complete f***ing hell, and then suddenly you look at all the material on the record, and there’s a element of the subconscious, working away, waiting for you to catch up. And I find that remarkable.. . . There’s a song (for example) (on that album) called ‘Ball & Chain’: Hello!?!)

Last but not least, in response to a less than favourable review he once received (“Stephen Fearing is probably the kind of person who irons his socks.”), he admits to never having ironed his socks, but that it would probably feel pretty good.

I, for one, am glad he doesn’t. Come check out his socks at the Ironwood Stage & Grill on Sunday, March 10th (229 - 9th Ave. SE, Reservations: (403)269-5581)

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