Greg MacPherson finds new energy

When it comes to being a musician, signs of success can come in various forms. Sometimes success comes with monetary rewards while other times, it can come in the form of recognition. For Winnipeg rocker Greg MacPherson, success means he can walk into a new job in his hometown with the employer understanding that music is a huge part of what he does. Although one would suspect that MacPherson would have few qualms with making music his full-time occupation, the reality of his situation calls for him to work a full-time job while continuing to indulge his artistic and musical whims on the side. As the executive director of a non-profit organization charged with renewing neighbourhoods, the role is new to MacPherson but in speaking with him, it is obvious that he is enjoying his new position.

“I’m working with low income people, being an advocate for change in neighbourhoods, trying to bring in more amenities and help make neighbourhoods more livable,” an amiable MacPherson says from his hometown.

Asked if he ever has any hesitation with regards to changing jobs and how it might conflict with his career in music, MacPherson says that his name often precedes him.

“Fortunately, I have been playing music for so long in this city, folks know me. I have been very fortunate that every job that I have been able to get, my bosses have always been very supportive of me touring and playing music.”

MacPherson’s show tomorrow afternoon as a part of the SappyFest Music and Arts Festival is the second time that he has been in the Atlantic region in the past year.

Last fall, MacPherson wowed audiences with his record Mr. Invitation, a record that had been in contention for the Polaris Music Prize. Though MacPherson wouldn’t go on to win the big prize, he busied himself by making another full-length effort.

Dubbed Disintegration Blues, MacPherson’s newest record won’t actually hit stores until the fall. Those interested in hearing new music from him however will be able to purchase copies of the record at his show tomorrow.

MacPherson took the time to explain how he managed to turn around another full record’s worth of new material:

“I am fortunate enough to work with a small European music label that is based out of Copenhagen,” he says. “When I released Mr. Invitation, they weren’t in a position to put that record out but had said that they would be into releasing my next record so Disintegration Blues was completed with that in mind.”

Released in Europe this past January, MacPherson will be releasing the record via his newfound label Disintegration Records. After having released music through various music labels including the G-7 Welcoming Committee and Smallman Records, MacPherson’s label is a joint venture with Cam Loeppky, a Winnipeg-based recording engineer and producer.

“I had good experiences with the past labels that I have worked with but felt that Cam and I had the necessary experience to make a go of starting our own label, so we went for it.”

MacPherson notes that Disintegration will end up serving as a home for other Winnipeg acts as well. Already in the works for the label is a release by the Cannon Bros, a band currently serving as a part of MacPherson’s backing band.

MacPherson says that playing with the Cannon Bros has done him a world of good and forced him to get back in shape for his live shows.

“Cole and Alannah (the duo that make up the Cannon Bros band) are in their 20s and they really forced me to work hard to get back in shape to keep up with them on stage,” he laughs. “They are relatively young musicians that are so excited and so talented at what they do. Working with them has been a nice shot in the arm for me; they have the chops, the stamina and ultimately have a great feel for the songs.

“A long time ago, I had someone tell me to always play with people that were better musicians than me. I now understand the reason why. I find that my writing skills have gotten better around these guys. I haven’t been this excited about being a part of the music business in a long time. I always enjoy writing and playing but it’s a new experience to me to help mentor younger artists like Cole and Alannah on the industry side of things. It has been a nice exchange of energy between the three of us.”

Article published in July 29, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript