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Staying creative

Staying creative

[photo of Jim Cuddy. Photo credit Heather Pollack]Jim Cuddy, Artsci'78. Photo credit: Heather Pollock.

This year marks the 30-year anniversary for the iconic Canadian band Blue Rodeo, and it’s a milestone Jim Cuddy, Artsci’83, does not take lightly. Cuddy, who sings and plays guitar in the band, credits Canadian audiences for keeping the band a force to be reckoned with.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to maintain an audience, and audiences in Canada are extremely loyal.”

Cuddy who chose a musical career over law school after picking up a B.A. in English at Queen’s, says it didn’t all happen immediately. He put off his law school acceptance several times before deciding on a career in music. Once he made that decision he went for it.

“Greg Keelor, (the band’s other singer) and I were not going to be professionals in the white collar world. We always had each other and we had music but we had to figure it out. I got a job that allowed me time off to play music. We didn’t start making money in the band for years, but we loved it enough to accommodate everything else.”

Cuddy describes the band’s style of music as a combination of country, rock, folk, jazz which he says Canadian audiences really enjoy. “We’re very representative of a lot of Canadian characteristics.”

While many bands burn themselves out, Blue Rodeo has learned what stresses them out and how to pace themselves. Cuddy says, “We listen to each other when we’re creating records.”

Travelling around, we’re kind of set free.

Last year, Cuddy and band mate Keelor were awarded the Order of Canada for their contribution to Canadian music and their support of various charitable causes. Cuddy says, “It’s a great honour and also very emotional to contribute in a way that’s recognized by your country.”

Since the band formed 30 years ago, Cuddy has seen the Canadian music scene evolve tremendously. “When we first got into it, you got a sense you were being gifted being played on the radio. These days, it’s unimaginable to bands there ever would have been a time when there would be restrictions.”

Cuddy has also seen his share of the Canadian hinterland and he says travelling throughout the country has inspired the band’s music.

“Travelling around, we’re kind of set free. We have friends in all these different places, get little glimpses of their lives and those become components of songs.”

While touring has provided material for their songs, it has also presented its challenges. Cuddy usually finds himself touring about half of the year, which as a husband and father can make it a balancing act. “I think you have to pace yourself. That’s why we started touring extensively in the winter. We realized that if you were going to take one of the four seasons the one you were least missed in, it would be the winter. Then, we eased up in the summer and had more time with our kids. With my wife, normally we try not to be away longer than two weeks.”

Recently Cuddy came under fire for speaking in support of fellow artist Neil Young’s statements about the oil sands. “Part of the statement I put out was to be sympathetic with the people of Fort McMurray. I’m not against the oil sands, but I’m against the way we are going about it now. I’d like Canada to get its conscience back.”

Last fall, Blue Rodeo released its 13th studio album – In Our Nature. While crowds go wild and croon favorites like “Hasn’t Hit me Yet” and “Lost Together” at concerts, Cuddy says he’s quite enamoured with two new tunes, “Wondering” (“such a nice vibe,” he says) and “Made Your Mind Up” (“powerful”) although he says you can tell which songs the band favours. “If we don’t like them we don’t play them. So, usually, the ones we play we still enjoy playing.”

Staying together for 30 years is certainly an accomplishment, but staying creative for that long can be even more of a challenge. Cuddy says that just comes naturally. “It’s the way we translate the world around us. We always get this great joy out of creating a song, bringing it to the band and turning it into something that will last.”

Just like Blue Rodeo has. 

[Correction: the original version of this article listed Mr. Cuddy as Artsci'78. He is a member of Artsci'83, and graduated with his BA in 1982.]