For one who wrote a song about his “addiction to indecision,” Steven Page has turned a topsy-turvy decade in music into one astonishingly prolific, if measured artistic comeback.
From fronting one of Canada’s biggest bands, Barenaked Ladies, to writing three scores for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, his new solo career has this man on a mission to leave no page unturned in life, even if it means wiping the slate clean and starting over.
On tour with Odds singer/songwriter Craig Northey this month, Page will showcase his new disciplined approach to art and life with a little of his old collaborative spirit.
“We have a lot of similarities in what we like about songs,” he said of his longtime friend. “I’m a little more theatrical; he’s more rock and blues. The two of us together can really make some great combinations.”
It’s been just three years since a headline-making personal mess sidelined BNL from a Disney contract and saw Page walk away from the group he helped found. In that time he’s penned two solo albums, adding to his first in 2005, and just released a two-track EP, A Different Sort of Solitude, suggesting the artist’s career probably isn’t worse for the wear.
If you subscribe to the notion it takes 10,000 hours to perfect one’s craft, it would be tempting to think the 20-year music veteran sailed through the remake, ready to take on new challenges; but ultimately, work is still work and it’s taken a good dose of it for Page survive the debacle.
Even acknowledging he’s made songwriting his life’s work, when Page pours out a new album, he still has to get up, put on a pot of coffee and start writing—muse or no muse.
“…If (the songs) aren’t good, you throw them away; but sometimes (the songs you write when you can’t think of what to write about) are the great songs because they have this level of unconsciousness to them,” he said.
The musician and his Barenaked buddies technically had enough money to walk away from the notion of working for a living years ago, which doesn’t help when there’s temptation to procrastinate. Page seems to have a clear understanding there’s more to one’s vocation than money, however, and one must admit, he now has plenty of material to draw on for inspiration.
The first song on his latest full-length album, Page One, opens with an honest passage alternatively lauded as unabashedly self-deprecating and slammed for its self-indulgence, depending on the reviewer.
“As captain of this merry band of sailors, I’m a black mark. I’m a failure. So before you watch me drown, I’m relinquishing command for something I don’t understand. This man’s about to turn his whole life upside down,” he sings in lyrics that frankly depict his departure from BNL.
Though he still projects a grown-up Hardy Boy image, his fall from grace was one unfortunate drug-tinged missive he’s lucky to have salvaged a solid career from so quickly. Veteran rock and rollers may draw their mystique from their personal problems, but as his drug arrest was timed with the release of his band’s first children’s album and a Disney tour, it will forever be an embarrassing faux pas.
Picked up for drug possession in the United States, where he was visiting the girlfriend who would become his current wife, the episode cast a pall over his group’s Juno-nominated album Snack Time and saw Page subsequently leave the group.
The departure seems to have proven fruitful on his end, though. He’s gone on to write three Shakespeare scores, talks of aspirations to write for Broadway and seems to be enjoying the new solo ventures.
Once an English major at York University, the foray into theatre helped develop his music career on a number of levels.
“Unlike writing for a band, writing a score means you have to already know what’s happening on stage,” he said. “You have to create it to their times…So it takes a lot of organizational skills that I didn’t have before and it’s widened my pallet as far as sound and instruments and styles.”
As for his tour stop at the Rotary Centre for the Arts this month, Page says he never limits dipping into his Barenaked Ladies material and, as he was the lead singer for the group, his solo shows does have a similar taste.
“I think what they remember from the Barenaked Ladies lives on in the shows that I do,” said Page.
Only “Million Dollars” never makes the lineup. That song, he says, is a duet between him and the band’s co-founder Ed Robertson. It doesn’t get played without him.
Steven Page comes to the Mary Irwin Theatre on March 17. Tickets are $30 available through Select Your Tickets. Show begins at 7:30 p.m. with local Celtic group The Malarkeys on stage at 6:30 p.m.