At first glance, recording and releasing three records over the course of 13 years may not seem a feat worth boasting about. But when you’re Jim Cuddy, and also a founding member of multi-platinum and much loved Canadian roots-rock band Blue Rodeo, the frequency of his solo releases is easily understandable.
Not surprisingly, Cuddy’s solo career has been a hit. Boasting one of the most soulful voices in Canadian music, each of Cuddy’s first two solo efforts, 1998’s All In Time and 2006’s The Light That Guides You Home, have each been certified gold in Canada. Cuddy is currently touring behind his excellent third record, Skyscraper Soul, a record that seems certain to join its predecessors in achieving gold record status before too long.
The seed that would help blossom into Cuddy’s third solo outing was actually planted by his wife, Rena Polley. Polley, an acclaimed actress and screenwriter, wrote and starred in Four Sisters, a dark comedy that examines the inter-personal relationships between four siblings as they prepare for their mother’s passing. After seeing the film, Cuddy remarked to his wife that his song Water’s Running High would be a good fit to play over the film’s closing credits.
When his wife agreed to feature his song in the film, Cuddy says that he had to quickly get his band together to cut the track. It was this somewhat spontaneous, unexpected work that ended up inspiring him to soldier on and make a complete record.
“We ended up finishing the song approximately two hours after I got everyone together to record the track. I ended up loving the sound and feel of the song so much, I felt as though it was the right type of energy to make a complete record,” Cuddy says.
“It really ended up working out well as I had been thinking that I would like to write more songs that were less countrified and had more of a cityscape feel. My last record was considerably more country and at this time, my mind was a little more captivated by life in the city. So ultimately, the sound of the record is a little more reflective of the city. The sonic template for what Skyscraper Soul became what it was thanks to my wife.”
Over the course of his three solo records, Cuddy’s solo backing band of Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan, guitarist Colin Cripps, pianist Steve O’Connor, drummer Joel Anderson and violinist Anne Lindsay have become some of his most trusted colleagues and advisors outside of Blue Rodeo. He speaks of his backing band in glowing terms, admitting that being able to be a part of a great band outside of the already great Blue Rodeo sits well with him.
“Colin has been a friend and a working companion since long before my first solo record,” Cuddy says. “I see Bazil as a guiding force as well. I look to him often as I feel as though he understands what I am trying to do and where I am coming from. But frankly, the whole band is extremely valuable in contributing and I feel that this record was very much the result of playing with these guys for so long. There is a little bit of a sixth sense that comes along with playing with a band for such a long period of time. It is really pretty amazing.” WWW
One of the tracks featured on Skyscraper Soul, Everyone Watched The Wedding, is Cuddy’s take on the royal wedding between Prince William and the former Kate Middleton this past April. While the track pays tribute to the newlyweds, Cuddy firmly believes that the event helped serve as an escape from people’s day-to-day lives and routines.
“They estimated that viewership of the wedding was well beyond 25 million people – everyone was just so taken with the event. I had coincidentally watched The King’s Speech not long before the big event and was really struck by the sacrifices that King George VI had made. But after I started reading about William, I realized that he too is very self-sacrificing – he essentially has to give up his life for his nation in some respects. I truly believe that he ‘gets’ it.
“In the United Kingdom though, there is far more disparity between the rich and the poor. There are few big economic generators outside of London and so I believe that the wedding ended up being a way for people to get ‘out’ of their lives for the weekend. I wrote the track from the perspective of a normal person who maybe found hope in their lives for even a short period of time,” Cuddy says.
Cuddy will be busy promoting Skyscraper Soul well into the New Year, but what will the future of Blue Rodeo hold over the course of the next year to two years?
“2012 will mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Outskirts (the band’s debut record) and there are currently plans to remix and remaster our first five records,” Cuddy shares. “I believe it will probably be June or July that we will sit down and focus upon making a new record.”
How does Cuddy feel knowing the group is on the cusp of a landmark quarter century since the release of their debut?
“It really makes my head spin,” he laughs. “I have always marked off all the important anniversaries within the band but this one next year is definitely making the elder men of Blue Rodeo a lot more sentimental.”
Article published in November 17, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript