Renown Canadian folksinger James Keelaghan launches a tour in Kelowna Thursday designed to shape an album of reflection.
After 25 years of writing and performing, the Juno-award winning artist wants to put together a greatest hits compilation for his 25th anniversary working as a Canadian folksinger and songwriter, but he needs the input of the grassroots fans that build his name to get the job done.
As such, he’s spent the last few months unearthing old radio interviews, writing a few new songs and digging into stacks of hits to find the perfect material to showcase in this tour and his project.
“Kudos to my late mother. She saved everything that came in,” he said. “When she passed away a few years ago, there was just this massive box of stuff to go through.”
Keelaghan said he got a bit of a jolt when he realized his late mother had even traipsed down to the store to buy copies of the interviews he did with Playboy Magazine, noting there is a little horror in knowing she had to go to this extent, though he is very grateful for such unparalleled support.
Telling stories in song is a passion he says is easy to forget the value of, though when he does, he’s generally given a good reminder.
A song he wrote for his 1993 Juno-winning album My Skies has been returning treasured anecdotes and connections in droves over the last six months.
Kiri’s Piano tells the story of a family forced into a Japanese internment camp, but not before the mother spares her piano from government seizure by rolling it into the ocean. Keelaghan said was recently contacted by someone who had heard the story while in a camp and didn’t realize it was real; he was able to connect the fan to the family depicted in the song.
In as separate interesting connection, he was gifted a guitar that was sunk in a similar manner to the piano, but nevertheless survived.
“The funny thing about story songs is that they start to accumulate their own story,” Keelaghan noted.
Now the artistic director for Summer Folk in Owen Sound, just outside Toronoto, he says he’s come to appreciate how savvy today’s young musicians are and that hard work, and says his only advice is that hitting the pavement to perform for and speak with fans does tend to pay off.
He used to play small communities like Nelson on a yearly basis, for example, and said he realized it has been 12 years since he stopped into the old Kootenay stomping ground. From Port Hardy to Revelstoke to Nelson, he will use this 16-day Western Canadian tour to reconnect with some of the songs and fans that built his name.
Just what makes the final cut come album time next spring will have to remain a story for another day.
James Keelaghan Trio plays the Mary Irwin Theatre in the Rotary Centre for the Arts this Thursday, Oct. 25. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for a student, available by calling 250-717-5304.