Banjo-toting Ben Rigby at Plan B Lounge July 13

Did you hear the joke about the Newfoundlander who was an American that arrived in the province via The Netherlands? Well, it’s not actually a joke but rather the somewhat unplanned chain of events that led banjo player Ben Rigby to Canada’s eastern-most province.

The banjo-toting Ben Rigby will be performing at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge on Wednesday July 13 and is all too happy to share with The Times & Transcript how exactly he ended up becoming an adopted Newfoundland resident.

“I had spent my last two years of high-school living in an apartment in Schiedam,” Rigby begins. “I met a Dutch-Newfoundlander there and was intrigued by this wacky place she kept talking about. I moved to St. John’s to go to university having no more knowledge of the island than a Great Big Sea record and some funny place names. That was almost seven years ago now. I think if you try to go with the flow, fate takes over and life is so much more interesting when you don’t try too hard.”

Despite having grown up on an admitted steady diet of U2, Phish and They Might Be Giants, Rigby admits that he happened upon the banjo almost by accident.

“I come from an electric bass and upright bass background and put a lot of time into jazz and a bit of classical music,” Rigby says. “I spent years messing around with other instruments like the guitar and some wooden flutes, even the cajon and charango, that I had acquired. I bought a beginner banjo to try out bluegrass and took a couple lessons from Fergus O’Byrne who is a hugely respected Irish musician in Newfoundland.”

Before long, Rigby found himself playing with Newfoundland band Dead Language, an experience that he credits as sparking his love for music and the stage.

“It is because of my experience with that band that I fell in love with everything: the stage, the performing and the music, and I decided that if I wanted to be a musician then I’d really have to start practising finally after all those years of noodling around,” he says. “I would also be lying if I said that Nova Scotia’s Old Man Luedecke had nothing to do with it as well though. I was given his first EP, Mole In The Ground, and even though our styles are different, the lights really started going off.”

Rigby is currently touring in support of his solo debut EP, Flown Away. Recorded by Chris Driedzic in Newfoundland, neither Driedzic nor Rigby were chasing perfection with the seven songs contained on the EP.

“Chris was my landlord, next door neighbour and all around musical mentor at the time and had offered to help get my songs put to tape. So over the course of about a year, I ended up with these seven tunes. They are a pretty wide range of what I do, from traditional fiddle tunes to original compositions.”

Article published in July 8, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript