Veteran Canadian roots-rock troubadour Fred Eaglesmith has found a good way to stay warm this winter: keep moving. Following a gig playing on a Caribbean cruise this month, it's back on the road for Eaglesmith following over 270 shows last year.
On a current 65-date tour, Eaglesmith and his band's sets will lean heavily on material from the songwriter's most recent album, Tambourine. Released in November via eOne and notching rave reviews, it is his 20th album, but Eaglesmith tells Exclaim! that he hasn't spent much time reflecting on the milestone.
"I did a bit of looking back on the previous one [2012's 6 Volts], and on this one I'm moving forward again. I am still really on fire, creatively. I have more albums to make, more work to do."
Tambourine was recorded in Eaglesmith's own studio in Vittoria, ON, with his longtime creative comrade Scott Merritt credited with co-production, recording, editing and mixing. The musically eclectic Eaglesmith was after a classic '60s rock'n'roll — and R&B — sound for this album, he explains.
"Scott and I called each other on the phone one day, talking about 1966. That was a great tangled-up mess for rock'n'roll. We both got that reference separately. Rock'n'roll from then sounds legitimate to me. Scott was really instrumental in helping me get that sound and feel."
The prolific Eaglesmith is already looking ahead to more records. "I have three or four albums in my head that are three-quarters written. I'd like to make a really old country record, I have a blues record, I just write these songs. Once I stop being Fred Eaglesmith, I can write any song I want. I'm also writing a book of poems and short stories about the road and my life."
Eaglesmith enjoys great peer respect as a writer. His tunes have been covered by such major American country stars as Alan Jackson and Toby Keith, as well as roots/folk stars like Cowboy Junkies, Dar Williams, and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.
"When I get the major artists, I'm pretty lucky," he says. "All those artists found the songs themselves. They weren't pitched to them. It drives my Nashville friends crazy, 'cause they're pitching songs every day. Young bands are finding my songs all the time, and I think that's a supreme compliment."
His songs have also been used in TV series like True Blood and Grimm, and they form the basis of a very successful musical theatre production, Dear Johnny Deere.
Always known for being outspoken, Eaglesmith shares the well-publicized disgust of kindred spirit Neil Young over Canada's current environmentally destructive actions.
"The new Canada has sold its soul, it's a bloated pig. It has the oilsands, there's the cell towers. Look what Dalton McGuinty has done to Ontario with these windmills. People are dying out my way from them. Neil is a Canadian. He should say this. Is anyone going to stop and talk about beauty or the landscape, or are we now just this big, rich, gross country?"
You can see all the dates of Eaglesmith's sprawling North American tour here, though the Canadian ones are also below. You can also read Exclaim!'s full interview with him here.
03/29 Toronto, ON - Hugh's Room
04/12 Elora, ON - Elora Legion
04/25 Listowel, ON - Theatre 311
05/03 Ailsa Craig, ON - Ye Olde Towne Hall
06/06-07 Wakefield, QC - Blacksheep Inn