Dave Gunning gets into the spirit

Dave Gunning just might be the one of the most popular folk singers to emerge from Atlantic Canada since the turn of the century, and the celebrated Nova Scotian continues to build his reputation.

Since breaking onto the Atlantic Canadian music scene in 1997, Gunning has released more than a handful of records, earning praise from critics and fans for his warm, inviting songs that find their way into your heart and mind. Since 2003, Gunning has been the winner of six East Coast Music Awards including having taken two awards home this past April for his recording A Tribute To John Allan Cameron.

Heading into the Canadian Folk Music Awards this past Sunday night with four nominations (a tie for the most nominations received with Bruce Cockburn), Gunning took home two awards in the categories of New/Emerging Artist of the Year as well as Traditional Singer of the Year.

Gunning’s prolific output continues with the release of Christmas Too, his second holiday album featuring original and classic holiday favorites as interpreted by the singer-songwriter.

Dave Gunning will be performing at the Moncton Press Club, located at 160 Assomption Blvd., on Sunday evening. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Recording a follow-up holiday effort was somewhat of a no-brainer for Gunning, a father of three children. The desire to make a fresh holiday record stemmed largely from the fact that Gunning was consistently performing shows leading up to the holidays.

“There were some Christmas songs that didn’t make it onto the first record that I still wanted to have released so I sat down and assembled a list of songs that I wanted to record while also writing a couple of new holiday songs,” the soft-spoken Gunning begins.

“Overall, I am extremely happy with the way that the record turned out; it was made in a fairly quick fashion, from start to finish, it took probably two weeks. And despite the fact that we didn’t labour over the making of the record for a long time, I truly feel as though the record turned out just as good if not better than my other records,” he laughs. “There is a certain freshness to going into the studio, rolling up your sleeves and not over thinking things.”

While music fans might not be surprised at the awards and name recognition coming Gunning’s way, Gunning himself never had major aspirations of having a career in music when he was growing up. But thanks to a little help from some friends, he found himself on the path to his career rather unwillingly.

“In high school, I was best friends with J.D. Fortune, who went on to front INXS. Just as I was learning to play guitar, he signed us up to perform at a concert that was serving as a fundraiser for our school. That was the first time I was ever on stage and I probably wouldn’t have ended up there had it not been for J.D. signing us up.”

From there, Gunning started performing regular shows in the Pictou County area, playing mostly traditional Atlantic Canadian songs. With a hard work ethic instilled in him, Gunning began playing more and more, culminating in an astounding 252 shows in 1998 alone.

“The way that my career has developed has been very organic. I am fortunate that I love to entertain and have had hundreds of little breaks all along the way.”

With his career becoming more and more cemented with each passing day, Gunning is playing about 150 shows per year throughout Canada and the United States. One tour experience that Gunning insists he will not be forgetting soon was a recent rip to Afghanistan, where he performed shows for Canadian troops stationed in Kandahar and Kabul.

“Peter Mackay has been asking me to go perform for the troops over the past few years,” Gunning says. “The first few times I was asked to go, I wasn’t able to do so but everything lined up this time around. I flew into Kandahar and played the Remembrance Day service for two to three thousand troops outside of Canada House. It was a fun experience that I am quite grateful to have taken part in.

“When it came time to head home though, it was a pretty intense experience. We were travelling outside the wire, wearing flack jackets and helmets driving in a motorcade through the streets. You’d look out the window and see snipers and tanks on the hillside protecting us. Travelling with us was a reporter who had apparently travelled all over the world and when we got back to the Hercules aircraft, he told me that even he was nervous making the trip we had just done as a number of soldiers had been killed on that same road the week prior. Hearing something like that, it really helps put a lot of things in perspective.”

Article published in December 9, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript