By Keith Sharp
As a Jewish Canadian pop star currently residing just outside Syracuse, New York, former Barenaked Ladies’ frontman, Steven Page thought he was relatively immune to the racist barbs emitting from Donald Trump’s United States of America. But that was until he watched the White Supremist Rally in Charlottesville North Carolina on his television set.
“I’m watching these morons chant “Jews will not replace us” and I realized, hey this is getting personal, they are talking about me,” observed Page on the phone from his upper New York base from where he has just launched his latest solo release `Discipline: Heal Thyself Part 11 on his own Fresh Baked Goods imprint (distributed by Warner Music Canada).” I have always felt like being on the side of the underdog but I had never felt like actually being an underdog before”.
Page was affected strongly enough to write his response to the whole Charlottesville conflict titled “White Noise” which graphically describes what it’s like to be an immigrant in Trump’s America. “I’ve had to learn to bite my tongue or they’ll send me back where I came from” is a key lyrical phrase in that song.
Aware that most American songwriters are reluctant to upset the Trump apple cart by taking sides either for or against the reigning president, Page feels that it’s appropriate that Canadian songwriters make their own feelings known.
“Traditionally, Canadian artists have been excellent at being keen observers of the American condition,” Page noted. “You think of Neil Young’s “Southern Man” lyric, or Bruce Cockburn or The Band examining American music and synthesizing it into something new or even The Tragically Hip, it’s an amazing ability Canadian artists have had and continue to execute.
Originally `Heal Thyself’ was going to be one 20-song double album, “Which is a good way to waste 20 songs,” cracked Page. “These days an album can come and go inside one week and it’s a lot to ask an audience to digest that much material all at once so the initial idea was to divide the record into two halves.”
“But by the time I had come to get the second record together, there were a bunch of songs I didn’t want to put out anymore, I had written a bunch of new songs which felt more appropriate for the current environment,” Page noted. `Instinct Heal Thyself Part 1 was about what it’s like to be an artist and to be okay with that but now with the world being thrust into chaos I wanted the new album to reflect what my responsibilities as an artist really are.”
Co written and produced with The Odds’ Craig Northey at Page’s Fresh Baked Goods Toronto studio and Northey’s Vancouver-based Doghouse Of Thunder Studios, a relationship that is hugely important to Page as he rebounded from his twenty-year working relationship with Barenaked Ladies’ co-conspirator Ed Robertson.
“What I realized early on in the process of becoming a solo artist is that being one doesn’t necessarily mean being alone,” philosophized Page. “It just means you get to collaborate with people you want to spend time with – it’s like a free gift.”
Page had forged a reputation as Barenaked Ladies’ main vocalist and principal hit writer with songs like “Be My Yoko Ono”, “Brian Wilson ” “My Old Apartment”, “It’s All Been Done Before” as well as co credits with Robertson on major hits like “If I Had A $1,000,000 Dollars” but after he left the band in February 2009 under acrimonious circumstances, Page needed a couple of years to find himself as a solo artist, involving himself in “The Vanity Project’ and ‘A Singer Must Die’ before focusing on a proper solo release with his Los Angeles-inspired `Page One’
“That album was all over the map stylistically but it was my opportunity to do what I wanted,” noted Page. “Let’s do a rock song, let’s do a song that sounds like The Pet Shop Boys. It was a great boost to be able to do that kind of record.”
Page was able to achieve more focus with his `A Different Sort Of Solitude’ release which set the table for his two Heal Thyself releases. By his own admission, Page does not listen to any of the more recent Barenaked Ladies’ albums “I feel I would be stalking them if I did” but he was thrilled to join forces with Messers Robertson, Tyler Stewart, Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn when the band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 2018 Juno Awards in Vancouver.
Legendary Rush bassist Geddy Lee executed their induction and the five of them performed “If I Had A $1,000,000” and “One Week” together one more time. “It all went so fast,” mused Page of their reunion. “We met a couple of times prior to the show to rehearse and that part went pretty quickly. Then we were on stage and it was pure joy, I felt lighter than air. There was no bickering backstage, no sniping with each other, everyone seemed to be happy to be there together.”
Which led to the inevitable questions about a possible band reunion. “I know I am busy with bookings right through until next Summer and I am sure they are too ,” allowed Page. “But if some special charity event came up like a Live 8 thing or something, then I’d be up for it.”
But in the meantime, Page, Northey and Kevin Fox are departing on a Fall tour of The U.S and Europe before they launch a major national tour in early 2019 (including four Maritime dates with Symphony New Brunswick). “We are going to mix some of the old classics with the new stuff,” allowed Page. “I am looking forward to seeing my audience fall in love with Craig and Kevin and to get out there against amongst old friends – and some new ones!”
For more information on Steven’s touring activities please link to https://www.steven.page.com
Steven Page 2019 Canadian tour dates:
*denotes album download not available
January 31* Saint John, NB Imperial Theatre (w/Symphony New Brunswick)
February 2* Moncton, NB Capitol Theatre (w/Symphony New Brunswick)
February 3* Fredericton, NB Fredericton Playhouse (w/Symphony New Brunswick)
February 4* Halifax, NS Rebecca Cohn Auditorium (w/Symphony New Brunswick)
May 1 Ottawa, ON Azrieli Studio at NAC
May 2 Peterborough, ON Market Hall
May 3 Hamilton, ON The Studio
May 4 Toronto, ON Danforth Music Hall
May 8 Belleville, ON Empire Theatre
May 9 Burnstown, ON Neat Café
May 10 Montreal, QC L’Astral
May 11* Tamworth, ON Abbott Hall (SOLD OUT)
May 15* Paris, ON Dominion Telegraph (SOLD OUT)
May 16* Paris, ON Dominion Telegraph (SOLD OUT)
May 17 London, ON Aeolian Hall
May 18* Highgate, ON Mary Webb Centre
May 21 Winnipeg, MB Pyramid Cabaret
May 23 Saskatoon, SK Broadway Theatre
May 24 Calgary, AB Studio Bell
May 25 Calgary, AB Studio Bell
May 28 Lake Country, BC Creekside Theatre
May 30 Victoria, BC Capitol Ballroom
May 31 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom