Bassist for the Cowboy Junkies, Alan Anton, can’t wait to open for John Mellencamp at the South Okanagan Event Centre on June 14.
And not just for the reasons you think.
“I like to take my mountain bike with me everywhere on the road so I am pretty excited about the Mellencamp thing because we will be in B.C. for a bit and Alberta and I can hit some trails I have never tried before,” said Anton. “I have been to the Okanagan for bike and wine tours before and it was great.”
Anton said there might just be time for him to do just that when they head to Penticton to kick off the John Mellencamp No Better Than This tour that will take them on 16 dates right across the country. Mountain biking is just one of the ways he keeps grounded on grueling tour schedules. And, of course, his bandmates in the Cowboy Junkies. The folk-rock band is a Canadian treasure that came together about 27 years ago.
“There is no secret. It’s the desire to keep making music until we feel we don’t want to do that. We have all been music fans since we were kids and we still are. Music has never gone away from our lives,” said Anton.
As a music aficionado, Anton said he has recently taken to collecting vinyl records.
“I’m starting to like the idea of vinyl again. I like the sound of it, the whole tactile thing and the physical thing of putting on a record is kind of neat,” he said.
The Cowboy Junkies, also consisting of vocalist Margo Timmins, guitarist Michael Timmins and drummer Peter Timmins, are a family, even if they don’t all come from the same bloodlines. Anton met Michael in kindergarten and forged a friendship that led to them to form the Cowboy Junkies.
Together the Cowboy Junkies went on to be nominated in 1990 and 1991 for Group of the Year at the Juno Awards and have hit platinum and gold status with their albums. Keeping that family focus is part of why they have stayed together for so long, Anton said. He added it is not on their musical talent alone.
“I keep telling people we are not very good musicians even though we have been playing awhile. Really we aren’t. We don’t know theory, or anything we just play by feel and we have very limited technical ability. We are just sort of good at what we do,” said Anton. “That has always been our thing, not to become real musicians because we were always afraid it would take away from the sound we get when we sit and play together, which we have always loved.”
Perhaps it is part of the reason why for these 27 years Anton has stuck with his trusty ‘73 Fender Jazz bass with no adjustments.
“I haven’t done a thing to it, ever. I’ve always loved the sound that came out of it and that is it,” said he said.
In March, the Cowboy Junkies released The Wilderness to complete their four album collection called The Nomad Series (Renmin Park, Demons, Sing In My Meadow round out the collection). A book was also released delving into the character, nature and inspiration behind each of them and will include the band’s friend Enrique Martinez Celaya, a Cuban-American artist, whose Nomad paintings helped inspire the series.
Still one of Anton’s favourites to play is Common Disaster off their 1996 Canadian gold album Lay It Down, which is a little more rock than their traditional sound. One of the band’s largest hits was the cover of the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane.
The Cowboy Junkies are use to performing in more intimate venues. Anton said “it’s not really their thing to play arenas,” and that the experience will be “interesting.”
Since the band doesn’t like playing the same set list twice, it is probable the crowd will hear some of their older songs. Other than that, Anton said he is not sure what they will be doing different.
“Wear brighter clothes or something, I don’t know,” Anton joked.