By Keith Sharp
“Okay Jim, with a bunch of songs like “Lonely When You Leave”, “You Be The Leaver”, “Where You Gonna Run”, “One Thing Right”, Why are you so bloody miserable?”
On the phone from Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studios, Jim Cuddy has a good laugh at the question. Superficially, the majority of the 10 songs featured on his new solo release, “Constellation” appear to be of a depressing nature, but as the author of said 10 songs, Cuddy offers a different perspective on his material.
“Somebody else told me they thought it was a really sad record,” Cuddy confessed but “One Thing Right” is about devotion and the difficulties of reaching that point while “Lonely When You Leave” is about being in a state of joy knowing that it might end – it’s a bit sad and it seems to be the overriding principle. But I look at it the other way. I think when I was writing, there were certain songs like “Constellation” that are about loss, about as you get older trying to understand that loss is going to be a part of your life. But a lot of things I was writing about are the constant things in my life, about people that I love and have loved for a long time. But you have to accept the overall impression you leave with people.”
Fresh from spending the majority of 2017 on the road with Blue Rodeo promoting their 1000 Arms album, Cuddy is right back out there, releasing his fourth solo album and organizing a 31-date national tour (starting Feb.8th in Saint John NB) with a band that will feature both sons, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley with long-time friend, Barney Bentall filling the opening spot.
For someone who is constantly writing new material, Cuddy can’t understand other performers who have decided that a lack of airplay or a set list already full of golden oldies makes creating new songs a thankless task.
“Most songwriters I know do so because it is their way of translating their life,” Cuddy explains. “If this is the way you transpose the world, why would you want to stop? I never consider writing songs as work. It’s always been a joy and something very natural to me.”
As for the constant touring, Cuddy pointed out that about every four or five years (`Skyscraper Soul’ last came out in 2011), he feels moved to head out in support of his latest solo release. “We have varied opinions in Blue Rodeo about touring. I like to work a lot because I don’t want my skills to diminish. I don’t want my voice to get weak, I don’t want to lose my callouses, metaphorically and literally. Other members want more rest and some might want more freedom but I just want to stay active.”
Constellation continues in the same roots rock vein of Blue Rodeo records but Cuddy is able to stretch out, bringing in the likes of Oh Suzanna’s Suzie Ungerleider to duet on “Cold Cold Wind” which concludes with a sizzling guitar duel between band member Colin Cripps and The Sheepdogs latest recruit Jimmy Bowskill.
“Yes I pre-thought the ending to that song,” boasted Cuddy. “I wanted to have a little gun slinging action at the end of the song and with Bowskill in the studio I wanted him to play some slide and he was up for it.”
The title track is moving tribute to a friend of Cuddy’s who passed away recently and is such a strong track that if radio ever played new material by established artists then “Constellation” would rival “Try” as probably Cuddy’s greatest song writing achievement.
“Facing mortality like that was new for me. You are right here, right now and in a few minutes you won’t be here, for me it was a stunning experience,” allowed Cuddy. “My sons, who are coming on the tour, knew my friend all of their lives and they have to think about the fact that any loss of life is going to be extremely tragic. I tell them they are in a halcyon time of feeling invulnerable and they should enjoy it while that feeling lasts.”
Cuddy admits that touring with his own band is a vastly different experience than hitting the road with Blue Rodeo, the venues are smaller and there are less repeat performances but he will be joined on stage by two fellow Blue Rodeo members; guitarist Colin Cripps and bassist Bazil Donovan along with keyboardist Steve O’Connor, ace fiddle player Anne Lindsay, drummer Joel Anderson and Cuddy’s two sons; Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley.
“It’s going to be like a musical revue, ”Cuddy allowed. “My good friend Barney Bentall will open with his own short set, then we’ll play tracks off the new album, some catalogue stuff, tracks by Devon and Sam and get Barney back for some more of his songs, should be a lot of fun.”
For further tour information contact www.jimcuddy.com.