The following transcript was contributed by the courtesy of Dayna Hawerchuck

by Yolande McLean
July 11, 1999
on EasyRock 97.3 FM

station plays TOO MANY HANDS

Yolande explains that the interview was conducted a few months back and it is about Jim's life, both with and without Blue Rodeo.

Yolande - His first solo CD appropriately entitled All In Time was released last year to a very positive response and it also brought him a Juno award for best male vocal performance

Jim - I was kind of on cloud 9 cause it's all kind of a bizarre night, right. The Junos are a high intensity night and then the next day you thing "Wow that's, that's over already! Why don't they spread that out over a couple days." But, yeah, it sunk in. I mean, it's a great thing to.. you know.. wear the crown for a year and be able to talk about it so… yeah… it's a pleasure.

Y - Does it feel like a title you have to defend?

J - (laughs) I don't think I can defend it because I go back to being in a group and you have to be a solo artist to do it. So, I think I just have to concede.

Y - Right. One of the moving things when you accepted was saying thank you to your writing partner Greg Keelor after so many years I thought it was very nice that you sort of tipped your hat to him.

J - Yeah, well.. I think …uh.. thank you. I think that Greg and I, you know, we have this perspective on what we've done that we don't really ever forget how we started and its very humbling for us. Its…. We really were just a couple of high school students with nothing else to do.. strumming guitars in our basement and if it's become something that has a bigger dimension, it's just because that's available to us not because we were born to be superstars, and so I think its just… you know.. Greg and I have learned all that we've learned about the music business together. It would be hard for me to accept an award of that stature without acknowledging my partner.

Yolande makes note of how Jim forgets to thank his wife and feels really bad about it. BREAK

Y - Now he's enjoyed enormous success both as part of Blue Rodeo, which he founded with Greg Keelor 15 years ago, and on his own when he released his debut CD, All In Time, and the transition from band member to solo artist has been a wonderful challenge.

J - It wasn't, you know, with the writing, since both Greg and I write separately and then bring our songs to each other. I… it was… the writing process was fun, once I got into it and I got a good ..oh.. you know, I was barreling along. I was able to write a lot of songs. I was able to write the ones for my own, for Tremolo, just through the course of time. Um it was good you know, I haven't written much since.. (laughs) so I'm paying for it. The difference was taking it to a whole group of new individuals, not taking it to Blue Rodeo, not having any anticipation other than just sheer speculation, what it was going to be like. I thought, I'll bring Colin in, I know how Colin plays but what would he do with my stuff. I have no idea. How will they even respond. Um.. But that is always, you know, and Greg and I have discussed this that the planning stages are fun but the most stressful. The actual playing of music is such a joy that you never think about it again. When you start playing a song and everybody plays along its, its very simple. It's not… That is what we do, it is what we've practiced at doing, is playing music. So when you actually start playing… you know the worst moment is when I'm tuning up, I'm looking at all these people I've never played with and then they're staring at me thinking, OK, and why have we been gathered here. I think, I don't know, this is a mistake, you can go now. So, other than that, getting beyond that moment then it was, its very, its very easy.



Y - If you have ever seen Blue Rodeo perform live you can't help but be struck by how easily the 2 front men, Jim and Greg, share the spotlight back and forth. So, it must be very comforting to have that kind of support on stage.

J - It has its own benefits, ya know. If you act in tandem all the time you get really used to that. You get really used to saying something to inspire the other person to say something. Ahh.. you know that was the nicest thing about this Blue Rodeo tour, we got to sit down in the acoustic set and fool around with the audience a little bit. Let them say things and we could say things back . You know, Greg is a very funny guy. You know, maybe chief characteristic of our friendship is our sharing humor and so that's a great opportunity to be able to be yourself on stage. Umm.. the difference is its nice to sing all the songs myself. I'm used to singing, then sitting back and listening to everything else going on. It's nice to just sing. I really enjoy the actual physical act of singing. I find it extremely absorbing. I think about what's happening and uh… so I'm not doing 3 hour sets like Blue Rodeo. I don't have that many songs. I'm doing a much shorter set, a much more compact set. It's exhilarating to play music that I don't know where it's going ..I don't know all the ins and outs, all the nooks and crannies of these songs yet. This is a .. I don't even know all the nooks and crannies of everyone's playing. I don't know how they're going to hold up night after night or myself and so to look around and see that kinda slightly nervous excitement on the stage is great! It's a very different experience than Blue Rodeo. You know what I love about Blue Rodeo is I love the deep trenches we've dug over the years that we can get in. And when we're there we really know it, we know we're very much in sync and we can rise and fall. It's a much more dense complicated experience.



Y - When it comes to singing these old songs is there a part where you think if I have to sing Try one more time.. and of course, its a beautiful song, a demanding song for you vocally, maybe its not but it sounds like it would be. Do you visit the same place every time you sing it or do you bring a fresh experience to it from the time that you wrote it.

J - You know the place that I would visit with Try would not be a specific emotional place cause the song is kinda vague. Uh, ya know, It doesn't relate to any particular moment in my life but what it does relate to is a lot of performance moments. I mean it was, it was, it was a song that was, ya know, where we first played it, bands like us didn't really do that , we didn't really stop and do ballads, then do falsetto and it was… I don't even think I realized at the time, how, you know, vulnerable I was making myself in the Horseshoe or the Cameron. Ya know with all these kinda former punks out there going …"ah, what's he doing?" Ahh…well, it was just ..uh.. it was just the launch for singing that we were gonna be singing, Not just performing some style of music but that we were gonna figure out how to sing and write songs that singing was gonna be a big part. So, that's more… that is a dramatic performance moment is more what , what keeps me going and also yet, I have to concentrate a lot to sing it. I can't take a night off or I will hugely embarrass myself you know. I mean, a big moment comes, the band stops, you're by yourself, you do it or you don't.

TRY (live off Just Like a Vacation)

Y - Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor have been musical partners for years, the last 15 of them in Blue Rodeo. They've developed a kin of Lennon/McCartney dynamic. Greg is the slightly acerbic John and my guest today, Jim Cuddy, is the more emotionally accessible Paul.

J - I did a signing, an autograph signing in HMV and somebody came up and they were getting (laughing), they were getting an autograph. It's for my friend, she's the Jim fan, I'm actually a Greg fan. You know, it cracked me up cause more often than not, the Jim fan's will come to me and say who they are and then Greg and I will share that information. It's not often they tell you I'm getting this for my friend I'm really not interested in you, I like Greg (cracks up). Ya know, It's always been one of the pleasures of being part of a partnership is there's so much deflection, you know, you don't ever have to feel personably responsible for anything. Ya know, we can always feel like the Marx brothers. "I don't have anything to do with this, it's not my responsibility, I didn't make Blue Rodeo". And ah, so, ahh, You know, on a humorous level, I love when people heckle. I like when people shout stuff up. It can be totally annoying too, but more often than not, it's actually a way of .. of feeling out what the audience is thinking and so its that part of it is really fun. On the other hand, I'm sure that there will be some people that, you know, either simply like to see us together or have chosen long ago, one person or another , and that's.. that's fine with me.



Y - It must have been strange for Greg to hear his musical partner of 20 years singing with another band.

J - Greg, I think, is happy for me and he likes the record and has been extremely generous with his compliments, and supportive. I think also, its what he usually participates in, so he hears Colin singing where he would normally sing and that is what we do, that is what gives us the strongest bond in our musical life, is how we sing together. So, I can totally appreciate how that might be slightly difficult, and I would feel the same if he was doing songs where I could hear my voice on them and .. uh. You know, I think it would be .. I would be very glad that he was having a blast doing it but I would be a little sad that I wasn't the one singing.

Y - This was recorded in spurts before and after Tremolo right? So, was your time away, did that somehow make Tremolo a different album do you think?

J - I think for all of us, not just.. I mean we all had time off because Greg was doing his solo project. I think everybody used that time to get absorbed by something else. Umm.. go out and play with other people, or make a solo record or whatever. And so when we came back ..uh.. it had the feeling of a fresh start and ya know, its always necessary in Blue Rodeo to reinvigorate ourselves, to figure out, to somehow wipe clean the slate and start again and get some enthusiasm for working hard.




Y - What a beautiful song. Is it a beautiful song to sing?

J - Oh, its a lovely song to sing and its just… oh… you know, it's our first attempt at being kind of a jazz, balladeer, crooner style and .. uh.. it's a lovely song. I like the sentiment and that one. There is more of .. for me.. a recognizable landscape in that I think that's part of the songwriting process. You realize how often you have to revisit the songs. You realize that you have to reflect some of yourself in them otherwise you'll .. it'll be more difficult to find reason to sing them.

Y - When you're driving down the street in Toronto and listening to the radio and a Blue Rodeo tune comes on… I don't know.. Til I Am Myself. What do you do? Turn it down, turn it off, change.

J - Ya know, I've obviously gone through times where it's thrilling to hear songs in the bank or in an elevator or something. Um… but I've sorta come to a point where I don't hear it any more than I hear other music. So, if I'm listening to the radio and it comes on , I'll listen, you know, I like to hear how it affects me, but I can't pick it out. If I was in a bank and wasn't listening to the music, I wouldn't hear it.

Y - So there's a distance obviously

J - Well, it's become part of the radio landscape for me. I don't..

Y - Those songs must be like grown-up children to you now whereas your new ones must be like fresh little infants, little babies.

J - It's especially of my own stuff because my own stuff, you see, I think what I'm experiencing now and the people around me that are closest to me, you know, I'll do something that I've done with Blue Rodeo but for me its' brand new and I'm nervous and afterwards I want reaction and people react like they would react to Blue Rodeo. It was really good and now we gotta go, ya know. And then I think what's the matter, wasn't it good? And they think, well, yeah, but you've done it a hundred times. No, this is the first time I've done it myself, so I'm going .. I'm starting to go through some of the list of experiences that Blue Rodeo has had but since they are entirely on my own its a thrill. It feels different, I feel more, you know, there's a tingling sensation in my skin that this is happening and so now the very act of being there is an experience for me. You know, just stepping out on a stage and uh.. it's nice to have that again.

Y - Blue Rodeo is as busy as ever these days. Besides their involvement with the Stardust Picnic festival, they've released a brand new CD, Just Like a Vacation, a live double album.

J - Well, what we did when we decided we would do a live record, we taped a whole tour. So it was a lot of songs in each night and we thought in that way we would try and get all the songs that we had played, on tape, one way or another. We rehearsed, and learned all the old stuff and uh.. and then just kinda went through it. I mean, we couldn't actually go through it once… we thought we could, but once we had.. we ended up with hundreds of hours of tape, so we had a couple of friends who went through it and whittled it down to the 5 best versions of songs and then we took it from there. I think it occurred to us very early that this was a good time for us to make a document of the song that have been an important part of our set for a long time. We didn't try to fill it up with new songs particularly we sorta tried to get really good versions of Diamond Mine, Trust Yourself, the ones that have been with us for a long time.

Y - yeah the old standards. When you go about assembling a live album like this, you said you whittled it down to the 5 best versions of a song and I'm thinking they must be different every night. They must have a different sound, a different feel to them. So, how do you decide ..Yes.. this is the definitive version of Diamond Mine.

J - (laughs) That is a very good one to choose because Diamond Mine was getting up there about 11 minutes, 12 minutes, a version. You can imagine, even what we got was an hour of Diamond Mine. What somebody had to deal with was 70 versions.

Y - Is that too much Diamond Mine for any one soul to handle?

J - I think 5 is too many but it's unbelievable. I think what we learned was that one of the things that you had to do was to be a little more critical of your performance because what you want to hear again and again on a record is not the same as being there on a night. Um.. when we're in a particular music hall and we have developed a relationship with the audience that night.. you can, maybe that version of Diamond Mine has some mistakes in it, maybe it had some flat singing. It doesn't really matter all that much because you've got a lot of kinda very.. of the moment energy and you can get through it.

Y - I'm having a hard time thinking there's mistakes and flat notes in any Blue Rodeo performance

J - Oh, well then I'll put a tape together for you Yolande, and you'll see there's some horrendous stuff. It's unbelievable!! (laughs)

Y - and if you've ever seen a Blue Rodeo concert you'll know they're absolutely at their best when they perform live.

TIL I AM MYSELF AGAIN (off Just Like a Vacation)

The End.