Canadian cowboy rocker Corb Lund’s music defies definition.
Filled with country twang, blues, honkeytonk and rockabilly influences, it’s his songwriting that strikes a chord with audiences and earned him frequent Juno nominations and awards.
While many of his songs lean toward political issues, he says he writes about subjects that interest him.
“I don’t really have an overt agenda, but I guess you could think of it that way,” he says. “There’s not a lot of love songs. I think it’s boring. I mean, I write a few, if they’re real, but a lot of people default to that. A lot of people, that’s all they ever write about. It just bores me.”
His latest record, Things That Can’t Be Undone, is his ninth with the Hurtin’ Albertans, the tight group of bandmates who have been together for more than a decade. It’s an album centred around loss, including the death of a young family member.
“I wasn’t really intending to make it a public song. It was (written) for some family and turned out well. The band liked it so we recorded it,” he says, adding there’s a limit to how far he’ll go in sharing his personal life.
Lund, 46, found music at an early age, listening to his grandfathers sing.
“My favourite record of all time is Marty Robbins, a record called Gun Fighter Ballads and Trail Songs, I found it in my dad’s collection when I was in Grade 6,” he explains. “It was my favourite one as a kid and it holds up over time because it’s still my favourite now. I love the songs on it like my grandfathers used to sing. They were ranchers, they weren’t musicians, they were just singing for fun back in the day when there was less options. … I found it fascinating that some of the songs that they would sing were on this record.”
He picked up a guitar at 15 and by 1989 was a founding member of hard rock band, The Smalls. “My family are all cowboys and rancher people so for me rock and roll music was really exotic, so I was into that when I was a teenager and did that for years.”
He began playing with the Hurtin’ Albertans at the same time and when The Smalls disbanded in 2001, Lund mosied over to country music.
“I just like all kinds of music. Doing that underground rock music for a lot of years gave me a different perspective on songwriting. That’s probably why my western songs are the way they are,” he says.
Staying away from the mainstream is where you’ll find more authentic music, no matter the genre, he says.
“All this stuff that’s really mainstream and on the mainstream radio stations is really corporate,” says Lund. “The way it’s written and introduced and everything, the whole process has a different goal. It’s not individuals – there’s occasional exceptions – but for the most part, it’s not individuals expressing themselves artistically, it’s a group of people putting together music that will appeal to the widest demographic and make the most money, that’s the goal. The music that me and my friends make, the goal is different, the goal is to express ourselves and that’s mostly underground country.”
According to Lund, it’s staying authentic to the music that has kept him in the business for the last 15 years. “My audiences are really loyal. They know that what I’m doing is pretty personal and real. I’m not sure I’d like to be a corporate act, I’ve never done that. But I know in some cases your fortunes are based largely on the media tap being turned on, turned off, whereas our people tend to be lifetime fans.”
Lund fans can see him and the Hurtin’ Albertans with Daniel Romano on Jan. 26 at the McPherson Playhouse. atomiqueproductions.com