Ben Caplan Builds Career Overseas

Since last fall’s release of their excellent new record In The Time of the Great Remembering, Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers have been busy on the road.

A buzz act from this past April’s East Coast Music Awards, Caplan and crew have performed throughout the Maritimes and Quebec since the start of the year. This touring is in addition to showcasing at Canadian Music Week in Toronto as well as the prestigious and influential South By Southwest Festival in Texas. And in between all of this. Caplan also found the time to spend two months touring Europe.

Caplan, whose smokey, baritone vocals and folk-influenced sound belie an otherwise brilliant personality, has actually undertaken four tours of Europe and will be going over for a fifth tour at the start of September, spending the bulk of the month performing in the United Kingdom, France and Germany among many other countries.

But before that, Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers will be performing as a part of Messtival Friday night. Caplan’s set time in Anagance is set for approximately 8 p.m.

Asked why he has frequented Europe so often as opposed to trying to build his name in the United States, Caplan says that the reasons are fairly simple:

“I have always been rather intimidated by the United States,” he says matter-of-factly. “It is a very cut-throat kind of market that really does not offer a whole lot of respect for the artist. It is the complete opposite of this in Europe. Artists are often treated with the same respect that a doctor or a specialist would be given. I was very lucky in that the first European tour I undertook, I had some rather influential people take a liking to me and things have been building there ever since. And when I look at the careers of artists I respect and admire, they had all found recognition in Europe.”

Though history has certainly proven otherwise in some cases, Canadians in general have sometimes been reluctant to embrace our own before they are given recognition outside of our borders. This fact isn’t lost on Caplan in the least.

“I think it is a well-worn Canadian trait to hold onto that colonial mindset still and until the time that the Americans or the Europeans have latched onto it, we are sometimes very shy about supporting our own.”

After a second round of European touring wraps up in November, Caplan will be returning to Halifax for a special performance with the Nova Scotia Symphony at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. He explains that not long ago, he had informally planted a seed of interest in doing such a performance with a friend connected to the symphony. Much to Caplan’s surprise, the performance materialized faster than he had ever anticipated.

“I was initially told that it could be a couple of years before I would have the opportunity to perform with the symphony so I was very lucky to be invited so quickly. Each year, the symphony seeks out collaborators for their pop music series and it is an incredibly big honour to have been invited.”

Caplan says that the “grunt work” of translating his songs into orchestral pieces that will accompany him has already begun. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, Caplan will given an opportunity to hear what his songs will sound like on stage before he even sets foot on the stage.

“The arranger has software that can replicate the sound of the orchestra playing my songs so I will have a sneak peek of what they will sound like,” he says. “The arranger that I am working with has been very open in terms of taking direction with respect to the song choices and more. I think it will be a great evening of music.”

Article published in August 10, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript