It’s been a wild year for Penticton musician Ari Neufeld.
A journey of death and new life, filled with terror and delight, to use his own words. It was during that time he packed up and went to play in Austin, Tex. Now back home in Penticton, with a new album Legacy in hand and the prospects of taking a big leap in his career, Neufeld is not sure what to make of it all.
“For so many years I would work on my craft hoping someone would come along and take control of it, like a record company, and turn it into a money machine. It started in my childhood and the dream carried over to adulthood. When I got divorced it pushed me to realize if I am going to make anything of this. I have to be responsible for it.”
So off Neufeld went to Austin, a city known for its live music scene with nearly 200 venues that feature everything from rock and blues to country and jazz every night of the week.
“Everything is bigger, badder and different. There is a different set of rules and etiquette for a sensitive Canadian. Change is something they aggressively embrace where I had this old school resolve. The city is just alive with twists and new ideas. Whatever your wildest dreams, if it hasn’t already been done, someone there is thinking of the way to do it. At some points I felt like I was hanging on for dear life,” he said.
Someone took notice though. David Osborne, who owns a wealth management firm focusing on the needs of professional athletes, saw Neufeld as a burgeoning investment. Seeing something special in the musician, Neufeld said Osborne has helped back him while he has been carving a name for himself slowly in the saturated Austin music scene.
“It’s like running with the bulls, but I thought if I can make my footing there things will start to develop everywhere else. It’s not just about making money, its about finding an audience then the money will come,” said Neufeld.
Targeting that market for Neufeld has been challenging. He can’t even define the genre he is in himself. A singer-songwriter, yes, but after that there are no holds barred. At one time calling it full-contact folk, Neufeld questions how to easily explain a guy who comes on stage with guitar in hand using his body to make percussion, without sounding strange.
“I probably would get asked three or four times a day how do I describe my music and I don’t know what to say. High energy folk music? Recording the album I had to figure out different ways to put a mic behind my knees or ankles to catch the sounds and different shoes on different types of wood. I had to figure out different dance moves so that I could perform the percussion properly with the timing,” said Neufeld.
The one-man band keeps time through an amplified stompbox, with beads, nuts and bells strapped to his body. While he kept his originality for recording the album, he also got help from Grammy Award-winning producer Randy Caballero and some of the hottest musicians around, including Bob Dylan’s bass player. Neufeld said he has been flirting with a big label who is interested in the album.
“Ironically it is called Legacy with a heavy-handed intention to honour my children and for my father who passed away. I put a lot of pressure on myself to finish it and I am my own worst critic and find it difficult to promote and celebrate it at times. I have to get up in the morning, look in the mirror and tell myself that this is my job and it is OK,” said Neufeld.
On the album are songs he wrote in the past few years but never recorded, and mixed in are new ones, including Daddy’s House.
“I recorded my son singing the last line tagged at the end of the song and it is pretty powerful. It brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it,” said Neufeld.
It is part of the reason why he is back in Penticton for the summer until his monthly gig he landed in Austin starts in September. It gives him a chance to be with his kids and perform at local venues. His CD release party is on June 20 at a house concert on Finnerty Road at 6:30 p.m. $20 gets you entrance, a chance to see Neufeld live and a copy of his new album. Neufeld will also be playing a number of wineries this summer and at the Osoyoos bandshell at 2:30 p.m. on June 28 as part of the Desert Live Music Festival.
“I think this generation is becoming less about listening to records and more about having a whole experience. It is a consumable experience like eating a meal. Essentially I want to cook people a meal that they are not going to forget and go tell their friends so next time I come through their area there will be a bigger meal.”