Kevin Hearn Finds Balance Between Solo Work, BNL

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With the release of his seventh solo effort, Days In Frames, last February, Toronto’s Kevin Hearn thinks he’s got a decent grasp on this whole business of having and maintaining a solo career.

Written in various parts of the globe, including his home in Toronto, Paris, Tofino, B.C. and on Baffin Island’s Cape Dorset, the album boasts a stunning disposition, featuring piano-driven songs framed by hauntingly melodic melodies as he sings of love, life and loss, combined with darkly humourous observations.

“You can only hope you keep growing with every record,” he says. “I have so many projects in my mind, kind of like a queue of things I want to try out. I’m fortunate enough to be able to get to bring many of those ideas to life.”

Although he may arguably be best-known as a multi-instrumentalist with the platinum-selling Barenaked Ladies, Hearn’s history in the Toronto music scene dates back to the late 80’s when he was member of the Look People, which served as the house band on the CBC television program Friday Night With Ralph Benmurgui. Hearn would later go on to collaborate with acclaimed Canadian band the Rheostatics along with others.

Among the most high profile of his collaborations, however, was his affiliation with the late Lou Reed.

“The Barenaked Ladies and Lou shared a record label at one point in time. We ended up being introduced to one another over the phone by an executive at the company.”

A few months following that introduction, Hearn was engaged in a fight for his life against leukemia, going through what he understatedly calls “an awful time.”

“I was really struggling but completely out of the blue, Lou Reed emails me to tell me he heard I wasn’t doing so well and that he hoped I get better and get back to music soon. That one act on his part just floored me, because, all things considered, he didn’t really know me all that well and didn’t need to take the time to wish me well, and yet he did.”

Hearn says that he and Reed corresponded through email for a period of time. Upon the completion of his first solo record, 2001’s H Wing, Hearn sent a copy to Reed and his band. Not long after, Reed, along with members of his band, began attending Hearn’s solo performances in New York City and New Jersey.

“One day, Lou suggested that the next time I was in town, that maybe we could get together and try making music. And so I went to New York City, sat in the kitchen of Lou Reed’s guitarist and basically auditioned for them.”

Hearn would go on to serve as both keyboardist and musical director for Reed’s band from 2007 right up until Reed’s passing in 2013. Despite Reed’s eventual passing, Hearn says his spirit lives on in a number of different ways on Days In Frames:

The members of Reed’s band perform on one of the album’s tracks, “Floating,” a track that Hearn wrote about spending time with Reed at the hospital where he was undergoing treatment. Not only does the song boast poignant lyrics written by Reed himself, the late musician’s guitar work can be heard on the song’s outro.

As he fondly looks to the future, Hearn shares that he has an album of instrumental music slated for release later this year, an album born during a second battle with cancer.

Fortunately, Hearn boasts a clean bill of health, and will certainly be kept exceptionally busy in the coming months.

With almost three-dozen shows with Barenaked Ladies scheduled for this summer, on top of his many solo shows, Hearn says there is nothing else he would rather be doing.

“It’s a bit of a balancing act, but I always manage to find time to do it. It’s not just important to me; it’s essential to who I am as an artist. The great thing about the work I do outside of the Barenaked Ladies is that I am not under any sort of time constraints. I can let things unfold as they are meant to be. I have to remind myself to be patient sometimes, but it’s all worthwhile in the end.”

What: Kevin Hearn, special guest to Ron Sexsmith
When: Thursday Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $35 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca