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Stephen Fearing at The Butchart Gardens

Victoria singer/songwriter headlines 2022 annual summer series

- Words by By John Atkinson

Stephen Fearing has been making memorable music for more than three decades and he can’t wait to get back out there and perform this summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the music world hard and the Canadian roots/folk singer-songwriter felt it like everyone else. So getting the chance to headline on July 15 at The Butchart Gardens Summer Series is the perfect way to kick off the season—and a good reason to put down the tools on home renovation.

“Once July starts, I go back to being a musician and I can’t wait—I’ve had enough house repairs to last me a lifetime,” said Fearing, whose 2017 album Every Soul’s a Sailor earned him the Contemporary Singer of the Year award from the Canadian Folk Music Association.

“I’m looking forward to the Summer Series for the third time. It’s kind of unique in Canada. Most of the festivals you might get to play once every four or five years. It’s a rare thing to return, if not every summer, every second summer to a lovely event and play in the beautiful outdoors as the sun is setting, to a crowd of happy people. It’s magical.”

Fearing has more than 20 albums on a stellar CV which blends a solo career, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and multiple collaborations. But he knows he’ll be including tracks from his “brand new, two-year-old record” when he tours this summer.

“The album I made in 2019, The Unconquerable Past, was supposed to be my focus for 2020, but COVID stopped everything dead in its tracks. So now, two years later, I finally get to play those songs live.“

“The drummer and bassist from Blackie and the Rodeo Kings [Gary Craig and John Dymond] will also be in town for July 15, as we’re playing Harrison Hot Springs the next day. It’ll be great to reconnect with them both; they’re such stellar players. Both Gary and Johnny have played and toured with everybody from Ann Murray to Bruce Cockburn, k.d. lang and Tom Cochrane.”

Fearing is delighted to be kickstarting his summer at Butchart, and he’s looking forward to a packed schedule until December.

“I’ve worked as a solo artist and with trios under my own name and over 25 years with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. This summer, I’ll be going back and forth between all three. There’s a whole lot of different festivals and private gigs and theatre shows between now and December 11. Butchart is the first big Canadian show of the summer.”

Fearing says it wasn’t consciously his dream to be a musician when he was a kid, but music has been in his family for generations, so it was a natural fit.

“My grandfather was a vaudeville singer in England. I have a great, great, great aunt—Catherine Hayes—who was known as the Swan of Erin; she was a very celebrated soprano in the 1800s and toured as far afield as Australia.”

He adds: “I’ve had a couple of odd jobs; I was a shipper-receiver in Vancouver, a limousine driver and a bus driver at a resort in the Rockies, but I’ve been a working musician since I was in my early 20s and nothing has ever come close to replacing that in my heart.”

Born in Vancouver but growing up in Ireland, Fearing has moved around a bit since coming back to Canada in the 1980s; spending 16 years in Ontario and seven in Nova Scotia. But the lure of moving back west to be closer to family in 2015 was too strong to pass up.

“I’m also 60 years old now. I hope to be doing this, touring and playing, for many years, but I wanted to be able to live in a place where you can really enjoy your downtime. Victoria is such a fantastic place to live and as the song says, it’s a place ‘where the weather suits your clothes.’”

And what of his creative process? Has it changed over the years?

“Yes, it has. It’s never been an easy thing for me, writing. It’s changed in that I have a better understanding of the various stages one goes through when creating something. I tend to write most of my songs for an album in a burst of a few weeks.

“Typically, when I’m touring, I’ll be away for a couple of weeks and then home for a week or two and then back and forth. So I’ll generally set aside a couple of weeks to write an album. However, I’ve learned that the subconscious is always working away in the background, observing and making connections.

“You also see performers get weary, playing the same material over and over. So you inject fresh ideas and fresh energy into your show when you bring in new songs and those new tunes shine a light on the older material as well, which makes everything sparkle again.

“At some point over the next year of touring and playing, I’ll put time aside to write some new material and start the whole thing all over again. I need that ‘kick’ of touring and travel, the sights and sounds, and all the wonderful people you meet, to re-ignite that creative spark and build up a head of steam. First stop is The Butchart Gardens!”

To learn more about Stephen and his music, visit: