Award-winning singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith fuses rock ‘n’ roll edge and stand-up comic wit into performances he likes to characterize as “Johnny Carson meets the Rolling Stones.”
And now, he’s bringing his well-honed show to theatres across North America — the kinds of stages both the Stones and Carson played once upon a time, along with musical luminaries like Tom Waits, who singled out an Eaglesmith song, “Your Sister Cried,” when asked to recall the last time a piece of music had moved him to tears. (“It just tore me up,” Waits said of the song’s lyrics.)
Eaglesmith, it should be noted, is equally adept at provoking laughter and tears, which speaks to his skill at conveying the complexities of human experience. Though he’s a rocker as much as a singer-songwriter, don’t let his playing chops fool you. He’s about crafting songs — songs that get to the heart of any matter, and can resonate with both fellow songwriters and the barstool-perching legionnaires at the far-flung posts he’s also taken to playing.
Eaglesmith has always been an independent explorer, seeking new ways to challenge himself and engage fans, musically and otherwise. Trundling his band from stage to stage in a vegetable-oil-powered converted school bus, he recently broke new ground with his “Legions of Legions” tour of Canadian legion halls. Expanding into theatres is another new direction for this club and festival favorite.
From his mid-show pie auctions to fund Operation Smile surgeries for children to his Annual Fred Eaglesmith Charity Picnic, which has grown into a three-day, family-friendly event benefiting a different cause each year, he’s certainly proven that he knows how to entertain. In fact, an entire theatrical production, “Dear Johnny Deere,” was crafted from Eaglesmith’s songs; the musical debuted in 2012 to critical acclaim which included a four out of four star review in the Toronto Star which called the production a “winner.”
Eaglesmith’s genre-spanning songs have been recorded by artists including Miranda Lambert, Cowboy Junkies, Todd Snider, Alan Jackson and Toby Keith (in 2003, several others contributed to The Songs of Fred Eaglesmith: A Tribute). Tambourine and his other recent releases, 6 Volt and Cha Cha Cha, are filled with songs that also stick with listeners long after the last note, sometimes grooving and haunting simultaneously. Inspired by the era when cars had five-button AM radios and stations played Blonde on Blonde tracks next to “96 Tears,” Tambourine’s tremoloed guitar licks and sha-la-la harmonies evoke rock’s golden age while remaining true to Eaglesmith’s timeless muse — the same muse that drives him to paint, and to use those paintings to fund his albums.
Yeah, some people might just try to relax between their 200 gigs a year, or at least let somebody else do the bus driving and repair work. Not Fred Eaglesmith, whose creativity and dedication refuse to go on vacation. But one thing’s sure; he’ll never die of boredom. And neither will his fans.
The Tidemark Theatre and Vancouver Island MusicFest proudly present Fred Eaglesmith at the Tidemark Theatre on Feb. 25. Tickets are $32 plus applicable taxes & fees and can be purchased at the Tidemark Box Office from Tuesday – Saturday between 12 and 4 p.m. Tickets are also available online from www.islandmusicfest.com and www.tidemarktheatre.com.