Juno award-winning Blackie & the Rodeo Kings member Stephen Fearing aptly named his first solo album in seven years, Between Hurricanes.
“I moved to Halifax, I got divorced, re-married. I have been getting a life,” said Fearing. “For sure it is a pretty broad metaphor and actually when I was writing the record I was also painting the exterior of my house and there were a lot of hurricanes coming up the coast and it seemed kind of appropriate.”
The album, a follow up to 2006’s acclaimed Yellowjacket, is a document and result of many significant changes for the musician.
Not only was he in the middle of changing his domestic situation, his home label, True North Records, for over a decade changed hands. His close friend and manager, who Fearing said he had been through thick and thin with for over 16 years, decided it was time to cut back his workload.
It was time to move on in almost all capacities for Fearing.
It wasn’t, however time to slow down. He moved to Halifax, N.S. and completed work on Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Polaris Prize-nominated Kings and Queens which featured duets with 14 iconic singers including Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and finished his album with Belfast’s Andy White. He got remarried, became a father and toured relentlessly.
During this time 11 tracks were shaped by Fearing for Between Hurricanes. The album opens with Cold Dawn and Fearing says it is a thesis statement for the record. The idea of writing first person came to him as he listened to the news on the radio that came in on the hour of the Cougar Helicopter crash in Newfoundland as he embarked on a road trip to Ottawa.
“This whole story I was following over the course of the day as it was developing. It was quite a poignant story for me. The story really leapt out because I just had moved to the east coast and I hear of this helicopter crash and they don’t know if anyone survived,” said Fearing. “It was the first time I really tried to follow a story and climb inside it. I figured the most interesting way to write it was from the prospect of someone who was in the helicopter and you don’t really know if they are going to be singing posthumously at the end. I’m making it sound quite dramatic, but it was.”
Fearing said by the time he pulled up to his hotel in Ottawa he heard on the radio that rescuers found a life raft with no one in it. Fearing said he then heard one person survived and that is when he wrapped up the song. Not all the tunes on his latest album are as dark. Keep Your Mouth Shut came out of a conversation with Tom Wilson of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and is a tongue-in-cheek look at getting out of sticky situation. Fearing also gives a nod to Gordon Lightfoot with his cover of Early Morning Rain.
“I love Lightfoot. When I was a kid living in Ireland, my mom had Lightfoot’s greatest hits. He has an amazing body of work and we had the live version of the album which was great,” said Fearing. “When I started playing guitar I played a lot of Lightfoot stuff. His songs have nice changes in it so it just seemed like a perfect song to put on this record.”
Also influential on his style is Neil Young, who Fearing has covered in previous albums.
“You can’t really be a Canadian songwriter without Neil Young,” said Fearing.
While the solo work has kept him busy, Fearing also found time to cut new tunes with Andy White that will be released soon on an album called Tea and Confidences. Fearing also has been working on a new Blackie & The Rodeo Kings album which they hope to make a push into the U.S. with.
Fearing said he is excited to slow it down a bit and play at the Dream Café after hearing only good things from friends and fellow artists who have played there. He said it is also a chance to catch up with old friends.
“I actually lived in Penticton for a winter or so, it felt longer. Couple of winters I spent in Penticton one winter,” he joked. “I know Debra (Rice, co-owner of Dream Café) from a long time ago. She and I are old pals from another life. I use to play with a guy who lives in Kelowna named Keith Hunter in a band and Debra was one of the people I got to know through that whole band experience.”
The musician seemed almost caught off guard when asked how it feels to now be influencing a whole new breed of folk/roots artists. Those who have known him for a long time know he has done just that and continues to grow in new ways.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Stephen since his early days (1984) when he began performing in Vancouver. His career has blossomed both as a solo artist and with many other fabulous musicians. Stephen’s voice and lyrics get stronger all the time, his rich, deep voice soothes my soul,” said Rice.
Fearing plays at the Dream Café on Saturday, Nov. 30. Tickets are $25. Call to reserve a table at 250-490-9012.