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It’s always been funny to me that I’m technically closer to home while on tour in the UK. Rocky Newfoundland and Beautiful British Columbia are wildly far away from one another. And considering I never did get my drivers license, I’m not sure how I ended up getting to drive back and forth across Canada so often.
The drivers license is one of those things that just eluded me. Somewhere between questionable eyesight and just never getting around to it, I have ended up, for all intents, on foot. So when my bandmates and I set out on tour it’s lads at the helm, I Phone navigation in the passenger seat and I retire to the backseat, never giving up my Blackberry (never!), and never really sure where we are or how we got there.
But I love a Canadian tour. There’s loyalty in a Canadian tour. Every roadside stop is a reward for having come so far.
I’ll admit, at times it’s hard. There is weather and darkness and we are away from our families. Accidents happen and money is scarce and if one of us sneezes we’re all down for the count. But we can play, and we can sing, and come snow or rain or great rocky distances, that is what we’re always going to do. A Canadian musician is a juggernaut. As long as you’re there, we’re coming for you.
Thank you for being there for us. We’ll see you in March and until then, we’re taking requests – let me know on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll bring you our best.
(If you want to see where we’ll be the whole list – and growing – is here.
They measure snow with a ruler, you know. Or a metre stick. Nothing fancy.
In December, in St. John’s, our first snowfall gave us thirty centimetres and I thought I’d never get through another winter. I stood still on a sidewalk, wondering how to navigate the ice, and said aloud “I can’t do this.”
My reflections on 2015 are just so. The year that was and will never be again. Shaky ankles on an icy sidewalk, a frightening promise of broken bones. During the slick St. John’s winters we all lose our cool, or at least cover it in thick layers of wool. Our typical downtown loping strides turn into tiny hops. Cautiously penguin-stepping down the middle of the road and into the new year.
I am afraid. What if I fall, and what if I fail.
But those first thirty centimetres are long gone and 2015 ended gently. What snow and ice has come since is still terrifying on these hills but somehow one grows accustomed. We do that every time. We say good riddance and tuck our chins into our chests and wait for the light to grow.
Somebody said it’s a minute a day. It’s probably not that precise, but still.
In the final minutes of 2015 I was riled into a spirited force, some delightful place between disorderly and hopeful. The old year is so tired and dull. The new year is full of promise and sunlight. I do that every time. Gather up a years worth of living and ball it up like painters tape. Measure it by it’s crumpled mass, it’s edges yellowed and dusty and softened. Try and throw it away, but it sticks.
Winter is a repetition. But it never promises to be anything different. Not like the voices of spring and summer that sing and beckon. Winter sits on us and refuses to change and we have to live around it. We listen to it intently while it whispers adoringly in lamplight and we hide away, small bundles, while it moans.
And we stick a ruler in it and measure the hell out of it. Five, ten, thirty centimetres. And one minute a day. One precious, sunny minute more, every day.
Stay safe and warm.
You can help homeless and at-risk youth in St. John’s stay safe and warm this winter by donating to Choices for Youth, here.
The power went out in St. John’s after Ron Hynes died. And even the Man of a Thousand Songs couldn’t have written it like that.
In Newfoundland, we are saying goodnight to a legend. And when we wake up in the morning, for songwriters like me, it will be a different sort of craft.
Newfoundland songwriters have always paid tribute to Ron Hynes. We have played his songs at kitchen parties and stood in awe of a particular turn of phrase or melody structure. We did impressions of him and laughed and laughed. But what’s more, we drank with him. We shared stages with him and we got to be lifted by his vote of confidence and berated by his sharp tongue and sometimes in the same breath.
In St. John’s, there was little separation between Ron and those of us who looked up to him so. Ron was around. A fellow who was called “a living legend” for the last several decades of his life. So celebrated here at home that when he was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the folk festival in 2006, he looked at me and said “Hello, I used to be Ron Hynes”, just before walking on stage to receive it.
From now on, we are telling you a story of us. Because every Newfoundland songwriter is after the legacy of Ron Hynes. And we have always known that. We have always been proud of that. Now, it is something a little weightier than before. Now, as a Newfoundland songwriter, it is a responsibility.
We’re losing legends in music. We’re getting used to saying goodbye and things have changed so drastically I don’t think we’re in the business of creating legends anymore. To be alive now, in whatever skip generation allowed me to both admire Ron Hynes and to know Ron Hynes, well . . . I’m honoured for it.
There are poignant and beautiful things that make themselves very apparent in times like this. Now, I haven’t looked it up, and maybe it’s our outdated electricity grid or maybe some poor sap ran into a hydro pole somewhere, that doesn’t matter. What matters, what’s apt, is that the power went out in St. John’s after Ron Hynes died.
And that’s what a lot of us will remember about that night. How, at around 7:30pm the news started to roll. How at around 7:45 I went on automatic pilot and headed to the Ship Pub. How, at around 8:05, the lights went out.
How candles were lit and the door remained open. How more and more people came into the pub and ordered a whiskey and peered into the other faces in the crowd for recognition. And some were devastated and some were compelled to respectfully celebrate.
At around 11:30, the lights came on again. When I left the pub at 1:00am, they were still parking their cars, and packing the bars, and dancing the St. John’s waltz.