Jim Cuddy's third solo album 'Skyscraper Soul' (Warner Music Canada) was released yesterday and the album is a slight departure from the alt country sounds that his fans may be used to. The new album, which Jim describes as more 'cityscape' sounding (think more horns and strings) is beautiful and reflective and has this incredible flow of stories that you can follow with each song on the album.
In the winter of 2011, following extensive Blue Rodeo touring, Jim Cuddy began to write music to accompany his wife's Rena's comedic short film, 'Four Sisters'. It turned out that writing music for the film put him in a creative roll that he continued. Before long, he had the kind of material he felt could make up his new album.
Some reviewers are saying the album has a more urban sound - but the word 'urban' and Jim Cuddy - well, I think the word has a disconnect when speaking about Jim. Urban is the wrong word - more pop sounding would be better but Jim Cuddy's music is one that stands on its own without needing a label. Although with that said, I think the next Blue Rodeo album should include a few hip hop/rap covers done with a twist in that Blue Rodeo style - that would be outstanding. But I digress.
I had a chance to speak to Jim while he was in Ottawa yesterday and he was as friendly, genuine and down-to-earth as you would expect him to be...we spoke about Canada, the royal wedding, riding bikes, spending time with his wife and parenthood. We started off the interview with a selection of fan questions that I chose from Twitter and Facebook...
(from Ian on Twitter) What was it like having your son play in the band on this album?
It was truly an absolutely amazing experience – he played on this album because he was good enough to play. He had a very significant role and feature on the album and he did such a great job. He is a trained musician and music has been part of his whole life and it was such a thrill to be able to work with him. I loved every moment of it. He is a very cool person.
(from Loukia on Facebook) What song is the most special to you on the new album?
I’d have to say ‘Skyscraper Soul’ is one that stands out for me. It’s a song that I wrote that is in praise of cities…a lot of it has to do with Toronto where I’ve constructed most of my life and a city that is a huge part of who I am as a person.
Another one that comes to mind is ‘With You’ – a song that is a reflection of a lot of the people around me and the relationships that they are in…
What is your most favourite thing about Canada?
Wow that is such a big question with so many possible answers! But I’d have to say when I travel around the country the one constant for me is how the differences in all the regions all meld together into something that is so diverse and yet so unified. Every part of Canada all goes together: whether it’s the friendliness of the East, the cool factor of Toronto, people walking and running along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa or the scenic beauty of the Vancouver and the West Coast. Whether I’m travelling in the North, South, East or West within Canada I never get tired of the people or the landscape.
What music do you like listening to on your own time?
I'd have to say that I listen to a lot of music that my friends make…right now I'm listening to Skydiggers, Sadies, Bright Eyes, Weepies (a pop treat for me), Elliot Smith…there are too many to mention them all.
(from Valerie on Twitter) What is the inspiration for the song ‘Pull Me Through’ from your album The Light That Guides You Home?
The song came about while I was in the hospital – my aunt has just passed away and I was speaking with my uncle about that huge loss. He isn’t an emotional person to begin with but he was expressing what it was like losing your best friend…and no longer having that person that you’ve relied upon your entire life with you anymore. It’s a song that expresses all those emotions that my uncle was going through at that moment. So it’s another song that means a lot to me.
(from Amanda on Facebook) Any hobbies that you do during your free time?
Well I’m a very physically active person…I play a lot of hockey and I’m very into road biking right now with my wife…we’ve travelled quite extensively doing that and I also really enjoy running.
(from Richard on Twitter) If you could go back in time and speak to yourself and Greg back in Grade 11 what would you say to them?
(Laughs) I think when you want to go back in time like that it’s to rectify a wrong and I don’t think we did anything wrong…the only thing that I can think of is maybe not drink so much…that’s all I can really think of. But truly I believe that everything with our career played out exactly as it should have…I’m glad that back in NYC we didn’t have more success than we did and we weren’t playing the music that we should have been…it was about making mistakes and learning from them because that’s what you are supposed to do on the journey. And it was in making those mistakes that lead us down the path that we’ve had as band and I wouldn’t have changed any of it. For me everything happened the way it was supposed to happen.
The album cover….it’s one that’s very out of character for you but it totally shows fans a different side of you. What finally convinced you to put on the suit and play a character…since rumour has it you were very reluctant to do so?
Moments before that picture was taken I had said to my friend and photographer Sally Davies, that I was not comfortable with taking these pictures in the setting I was in and that I really and truly felt stupid in wearing that suit. But I was told that the ‘guy in the suit’ was the guy represented in all the songs I had written on the album. The character I was playing was a man who was "elegantly defeated". The person I was portraying by wearing the suit and in that shot was putting a ‘face’ to those songs. I finally realized that it was about playing that character and I agreed that yes this was ‘the guy’ in those songs. So I did the shoot and was at ease with it in the end because I got the ‘image’ that they were trying to capture...the album is about how a city can beat you down and that's what the 'character' I'm playing on the album cover looks like.
Plus the ladies seems to really like it….
(Laughs) Ha! Yes well there is that too I guess.
Love the song ‘Everyone Watched The Wedding’…I expect it to be a song played at many weddings this Fall…the song was inspired by the Royal wedding of Kate & Will. What was it about the wedding that you found so inspiring?
I'm not much of a royalist but I initially got caught up in it simply because I had read so much about it and the numbers that they were projecting that would watch this wedding was so huge. I find Will to be a real inspiring character. He could be like Harry, who is into living the life of having fun with friends partying, drinking and the women – the glamour and really into the celebrity of it – that how he’s portrayed. But I found that Will and Kate really understood that their wedding was something so special and that is was a gift to many. Something about the whole wedding really got to me. As a couple, Will and Kate, understood that in a way, their wedding and all the publicity around it, was an elevation of spirits for so many people around the globe that were going through some really tough times. They both had stepped into these roles of royalty with such ease and really understood the duty that comes with it. They accepted the responsibility of the ‘royal wedding’ and were ready to accept the mantle of public service that came along with it. And they seemed to embrace it so well…the duty, the pageantry – they accepted their roles. They also seem like really genuine and good people to the core who were ready to live in service of the nation and that seemed to resonate with so many around the world and that’s a reason why we were all so caught up in that ‘little royal wedding’.
You and your wife have a free day together…how do you spend it?
We’re just as OK with just spending the day wandering around and having coffee and dinner together as we are travelling around and exploring new places. We are very happy travel companions and now that our kids are grown up we feel less ‘oh we have to hurry back because we feel guilty for having left the kids’ to really enjoying the travel and being in that moment. We’ve taken road biking trips all over and we’re really enjoyed that activity together and we just really love it.
How has parenthood changed now that your children are teenagers and in their 20s?
It has changed a lot – when your kids are younger, as a parent you are truly the most important thing to them. Their needs are so high and you need to build so much structure around them to meet those needs. Plus you live in this constant fear of what could happen to them and so you are very hands on and stay close to them.
It’s a path that we all go through as parents with young children and then you get to the age my kids are – soon to all be in their 20s and not living at home – and they no longer need that constant, daily structure.
You now are in a newfound role of just sitting back and enjoying the people they’ve become and appreciating that stage and seeing what life experiences and adventures they take on…and that becomes your new role as a parent.