Now nine albums into his solo career – never mind his work with acclaimed folk trio Blackie & The Rodeo Kings over the last 21 years – Stephen Fearing jokes he’s starting to get a grasp on this whole songwriting thing.
“I like to think I’m starting to get the hang of this music thing,” Fearing says in advance of his show at Riverview’s intimate Cocoa Room on Saturday evening. “Writing a new record is always both an exciting and a scary prospect.”
As excited and scared as he might have been at the outset of the making of his new album, it turns out modesty is one of Fearing’s best suits. With his latest studio effort, Every Soul’s A Sailor, the Juno Award-winning songwriter sought to not only bridge styles of music including folk, pop and roots with an overarching common focus, he also looked to unite the worlds of his solo and band work between which he has successfully ping-ponged over the last 20 years.
While the album is very much a Stephen Fearing solo effort, the singer-songwriter didn’t hesitate to enlist long-time rhythm section of drummer and bassist John Dymond to help him bring the album to life.
Kicking off with the understated “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” Fearing travels roads that are at once familiar but remain unspoiled on Every Soul’s A Sailor. For every pensive, contemplative moment like “The Things We Did” and “Better Than Good,” he also isn’t afraid to address the elephant in America’s room on the rollicking “Blowhard Nation.”
“This album is very much about the journey and looking back. In essence, it’s the same thing I’ve been writing about from the time I was 19, living in Minneapolis and I took a bus to the West Coast. I figured that if I couldn’t get inspired to write a song on a bus, I wasn’t going to have much luck in music,” Fearing muses.
Every Soul’s A Sailor might be Fearing’s ninth album, but it also represents a new start for the artist in one sense. In 2015, after years of calling Halifax home, Fearing and his family headed west, settling in Victoria, B.C. to be closer to family.
Sensing he could be distracted sitting amongst the unpacked boxes in his West Coast home, Fearing decamped to a cabin in Port Alberni, approximately two and a half hours northwest of Victoria, and began the process of writing the material that comprises his newest album.
“Over the last 20 years, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s how to compress time into shorter periods. When I arrive at a place like that with the expectations that I’m going to come out of it with a bunch of material, it can be a little nerve wracking. I go in prepared though, bringing books and music that inspires me. Before long, the creative process gets flowing.”
Fearing’s performance at the Cocoa Room on Saturday evening is one of seven shows he is playing throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia over the course of a 10-day period. The tour comes on the heels of a wildly successful Western Canadian trek with Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, of whom Fearing is a member alongside Tom Wilson and Colin Linden.
The trio has been busy promoting their latest album Kings & Kings, which serves as a sequel to 2011’s excellent Kings & Queens, on which the group was accompanied by some of music’s most beautiful voices, including Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Canada’s Serena Ryder, among others.
With Kings & Kings, it’s the guys turn to share the mic, and what an impressive lineup of guys the trio lined up: Jason Isbell, The Mavericks’ Raul Malo, country superstar Eric Church, and Rodney Crowell are just a hint of the immense talent found on the album.
Fearing’s solo tour of Atlantic Canada not only follows the Western Canadian jaunt of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, it also comes on the heels of a solo European trek that kicked off in late January. The man has been living out of a suitcase for the better part of two months now, but the revelation does little to dampen his enthusiasm about his shows here in the Maritimes.
“There’s no rest for the wicked,” Fearing says, laughing. “There are only so many windows where everyone associated with Blackie & The Rodeo Kings can take part, so we have to take advantage of that when we can. The fact that tour was book-ended by solo shows just further reinforces the ‘feast or famine’ mentality. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, though.”
What: Stephen Fearing
When: Saturday April 1, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Cocoa Room, 391 Coverdale Rd., Riverview
Tickets are $15 for seniors and students, $20 for adults. Advance tickets are available at Jean Coutu (438 Coverdale Rd., Riverview), Sobeys (1160 Findlay Blvd., Riverview), Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton) and online at riverviewartscentre.ca.