Lead Story 2013/11/22 - Fred Eaglesmith’s Legion Dream comes to Lambeth, ON
- Written by Bob Klanac
Fred Eaglesmith gets the allure of the Canadian Legion. Far from being a place where weekender bands grind it out because they couldn’t get a gig at the Big Room downtown, Eaglesmith sees the Legions scattered across our country as the finest performance spaces in the land.
The man often dubbed Canada’s finest songwriter by the likes of Springsteen is currently living his dream this winter, bringing his Traveling Steam Band to a string of Legions in Ontario, , among them.
“We're playing way out in the middle of nowhere in come cases but people are coming to them and they're having a good time,” he says proudly. “All the people at the Legions are so nice all the time. They're real people.”
“We’re not dealing with this sort of hipster thing,” he mutters. “There’s no hipsters in the back in like Brodhagen, Ontario,” he roars, laughing.
Yet while Eaglesmith loves the authenticity of the Legion gigs, part of what’s driven him to seek out such truly ideal performance experiences has been his growing disenchantment with other venues.
“I’m really getting tired of the music business,” he sighs. “There’s a lot of people in the music business that shouldn't be in the music business. And our theatres are really turning into businesses; they’re not very arts oriented anymore.”
“I played a $40M theatre in Nepean, Ontario last year and they took 15% of my merchandise,” he says in disbelief. “And on top of that they counted every piece, two hours in and two hours out.”
He explains how two major theatres in Southern Ontario just put cell towers on their roofs, including one in his hometown of Port Dover. “There's all this business going on that doesn’t have anything to do with putting a show on.”
So Fred Eaglesmith makes his way across the country, playing in the spaces he wants to, all the while taking every opportunity to fundraise for inarguably good causes including the pie auctions that take place during his current string of shows.
“I just found out today that we’ve raised about $21,500 this year so far,” he says with no little disbelief. All of the funds go to Operation Smile, helping children born with cleft lips and palates.
What's given Eaglesmith the freedom he currently has to tour and record at his leisure was the result of some cagey early career moves.
“I had to get pretty big, go to the States sign a record deal,” he explains. “And I had some good covers of my songs.
“I had to get big so I could get small.”
Eaglesmith says that despite having had a good career including touring the world several times over, his vow to play Legions never left him.
“Even when we were kids, when I passed by the Legion, I said that was what I wanted to do,” he says, serious as a church. “I’m going to play little towns, where no one ever has a show.”
Eaglesmith’s new disc Tambourine, is a rock and roll record, described as such by Fred himself. Why a rock and roll record and why now?
“I’m thinking rock and roll,” he says, collapsing into laughter, “Because everything else sucks!”
“It also feels like rock and roll in a Legion,” he explains. “When we have a show, we come in, set up the lights, our own backdrops, put on the suits, set up the chairs, we do everything ourselves and that it feels like rock and roll to me.”
For more information on the Lambeth show, click on the LINKS in the first paragraph.
Bob Klanac is a London based music journalist who's penned hundreds of features and reviews, sat on a Juno Awards jury, and is currently a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury.