Midway through our phone call Jim Cuddy hints at why he’s given me 15 minutes wedged in between radio interviews.
“We realized long ago that we had the power to do whatever we wanted,” he says – without an evil laugh. “We could control our schedule and timing and didn’t have to listen to other people imposing on us.”
“We know we have to work hard,” he adds.
Longevity: Blue Rodeo slides into three-decades in the Canadian music scene this year, a heavy investment of sweat equity. The 2014 tour for In Our Nature (released Oct. 29) kicks off on the West Coast. Victoria boasts the third show of the tour, Jan. 4.
“In the last three or four tours we’ve been starting our tour out there so Victoria and Vancouver get the rough version of what is going to become the show,” Cuddy says. “We found that the West Coast people were a little quicker to learn the new record. On the East Coast it just took a little longer to germinate.”
Taking the stage, warmed up by the Devin Cuddy Band (absolutely related, they’re father and son), Blue Rodeo plans to perform two sets.
“We’re going to do the whole new record … and then a greatest hits set,” he says.
It reminds Cuddy of a performance of Neil Young doing Greendale.
“I hadn’t heard one single note (of the album), and I was just so blown away by hearing something new by such a genius that I almost didn’t stay for the second set, which was a greatest hits.”
My eye on the time counting down, fingers flicking over the keyboard, listening and composing the next question, I have to know: what songs are a must, Lost Together or Try?
“Those are the ones that you definitely hear about if you don’t sing them. Those would be in the set anyway. They’re good moments in the night and we like doing them. We’re well past the level where we have fatigue with songs.”
Again, they’ve found balance in experience and formed solid lines.
Putting on a show is “the ultimate team sport” says Cuddy, an avid hockey fan, and player.
“The greatest team sports are the ones where you have to marry individual strengths. They have to contour what they’re playing to the whole.”
While that’s always been the endeavour for Blue Rodeo, in recent years Greg Keelor’s hypersensitive hearing hampered the game and even pulled him off stage for a while.
Now there’s a keen sense of awareness on stage, and a near silence as they listen and again, balance, each other. Keelor, who has shared duties with Cuddy since the start, returned to performing on a regular basis.
“He’s totally back. What we did was took all our sound sources off stage now,” Cuddy says. “Our stage is incredibly quiet. We’ve learned over the last tour and two records how to communicate this way. We were saved by technology.”
The clock blinks beyond 15 minutes.
I slide out one last question: Who is Five Days in May about?
“Twofold,” he says, without hesitation.
Cuddy watched a producer write he and his wife’s name in the sand in New Zealand, an effort repeated on beaches everywhere.
“I thought that was very romantic,” he says. “(And) I had a love at first sight experience with my own wife who was a stranger to me at that point.”