Murray McLauchlan Brings Stripped Down Songs To Capitol Theatre On Sunday

Photo by Kevin Kelly
Photo by Kevin Kelly

Over the course of the last 40 years, Murray McLauchlan has come to be regarded as one of the country’s finest singer-songwriters. Not only has the musician been recognized with an impressive 11 Juno Awards, his songs “Whispering Rain,” “Down By The Henry Moore,” and “Sweeping The Spotlight Away” have earned a place alongside some of the greatest songs that have emerged from Canada.

His show at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Sunday May 1 promises to be an intimate affair, during which McLauchlan will share the stories behind some of his material.

“This upcoming run of shows are very much rooted in a cabaret style of evening, sharing with the audience the process and background behind certain songs, and what the colours were that led to the songs being presented as they were,” he shares.

He cites his song “Whispering Rain” as a prime example, noting the track featured the back-up vocalists that had sung with musical icon Elvis Presley.

“It is those kinds of experiences and moments that I am looking to share with people.”

To say much has changed in the music business, let alone the world, over the last four decades is a gross understatement. While it would have been common to hear McLauchlan’s songs on the radio 30 years ago, the format is now being dominated by flavours of the month not intent on curating a career with longevity as simply being the “it” person of the moment.

“In the music business today, some artists are taking the basic human need to communicate, and reducing it until it has become standardized and basically lost its humanity. It is such a rich medium, though. I can’t think of how many times I have been rendered speechless because I’ve been touched by a piece of music, but when it has happened, it has rarely been something that was hugely popular on the charts, but what those songs have had in common is that they have communicated something to me in an intelligent, emotional way.

“The pop music industry has always been very ageist, however. It’s proven to be a bit of a paradox to me because you could be Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles, be universally loved and considered a musical icon until the day you die, but all you see in the press is how pretty so-and-so looks. By virtue of its nature, the pop music business doesn’t encourage development or longevity.”

While some might be inclined to say McLauchlan’s views are reflective to an artist that is out of step with the modern world, the singer would probably proudly note the statement is not altogether incorrect. What sets him apart from his peers, from both his original era as well as today, is the fact he has had a long, fruitful career based on his ability to communicate via song.

“Time has played a big part in reshaping my songs. They have become more nuanced, but also more interesting as well. One of the most interesting aspects of that, however, has been seeing how some songs can take on a whole new meaning. Historically and socially, people attach themselves to specific songs because of the circumstances in their lives at that moment in time. As time progresses though, those same songs can be seen in a completely different light.”

I share with McLauchlan that in speaking with Alice Cooper prior to his performance in Moncton last fall, the shock rocker shared that he continues touring and writing songs because he feels he has yet to write his best material, regardless of previous success.

Asked if he considers himself to be in that same boat, McLauchlan replies in the affirmative.

“I think Alice [Cooper] is absolutely right. You keep writing songs because you keep thinking that, as an artist, you have yet to really hit it out of the park. It’s like you know the route to get there, you just haven’t arrived there yet. It’s a constant motivator to always be putting your best foot forward,” he says.

Later this year, McLauchlan will have the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is as he prepares to enter the recording studio to make the follow-up to his 2011 album Human Writes. Not surprisingly, he has zero interest in pursuing an album that boasts big production.

Instead, he shares that he will be stripping down the instrumentation to the bare minimum as he tackles some of his favourite songs ever, while also writing new material.

“As the world gets noisier, I get quieter. That’s my motto,” McLauchlan says, laughing.

What: Murray McLauchlan
When: Sunday May 1, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $33 plus service charge. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca.