Written by Andy Knopp
Montreal’s Ian Kelly is ready to hit the Canadian highway on his upcoming 2015 tour. With over 25 solo dates set across Canada, the singer-songwriter is looking forward to stripping back his songs to feature just him, his guitar and the piano. His new single, I’m On Your Side, from his 2013 LP All These Lines, has been spinning on over 30 stations in Quebec. Ian will kick off the tour in Ontario and then make his way out east before wrapping up the tour in BC. Writer Andy Knopp caught up to Kelly for an interview:
AK: It’s been a pretty bitter winter in Montreal. Are you looking forward to summer?
IK: Yeah, I moved out of the city 5 years ago but I’m still in the Montreal area. It’s nice today actually. The snow is melting and it’s a beautiful day out here.
AK: It’s been a decade since your first release and since then the music industry has been on a steady decline financially speaking. Now you’re four records in, has releasing albums changed for you in that time?
IK: Of course. I think I used to have higher expectations when I did something. I think I’m a little more realistic now. Everyone is saying the industry is not going well and that’s true. But music is going very well. I don’t think I’ve heard so much music. Never so much music now. People can make an album on an iPad and share it with the world and that’s amazing. So from a music consumer perspective I think these are great times. From an artists perspective that wants to share their music with the world.. of course if there were less singer/songwriters in the world I’d be making more money. It’s challenging, but it’s always been challenging. It used to be hard to produce an album and now that’s the easy part. These days the hard part is selling it. As I evolve in this industry I guess the way I see it changes but i’m still optimistic. I still enjoy it and I still wanna make music. I just don’t necessarily want to be famous. I mean you need a certain level of fame to have people at your shows and make a living but it’d be cool if I could ben behind the scenes a bit more, producing and making music for TV and film. That’s something I also like.
AK: For your whole career you’ve had a Do-it-yourself approach to your music. Do you think you’d ever consider letting go of the reigns, so to speak?
IK: Well maybe. If I can produce for others maybe I won’t feel like I have to do it for myself because I will have fulfilled that need I have somewhere else, and that might be a good thing. It might be hard for someone to come and work with me because I’ve always done producing. I don’t know how I’d react to having a boss for once. I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it but maybe it’d be something that would be good for me to just put on the singer/songwriter hat for once and not worry about the nitty gritty of making an album. The engineering, the producing, the arrangements and all that stuff. Good point. Maybe I’ll try that.
AK: Your music has been extremely well received, particularly in Quebec. Do you feel like you would ever move elsewhere to take things to another level on the International stage?
IK: Some of albums came out in Europe and I’ve been touring more in Europe that in the rest of Canada, outside of Quebec. It made more financial sense to take my band out to Germany and France, than to go play in BC. For the same amount of money I’m spending it makes way more sense to go to Europe. It’s something I enjoy but I guess I’m in a place in my life that I feel I wanna stay home a bit more which is kind of odd when now I’ll doing a long, extensive tour across Canada, but I think it’s because after this I can say ‘now I can stay home. I’ve been away enough.’ I think that’s one of the reasons I’m doing it. Plus I’m also Canadian and it’s kind of weird that I can have a Gold Record and not really sell any copies out of Quebec so I thought I should get out there and share the music.
AK: How do you balance being on the road as a musician and family life?
IK: Well we are expecting our third child now and I just built this amazing studio right next to my house. It’s fun to be there but I also like going on the road. Nobody is making me go play these solo shows I’m doing right now. I think it’s good to miss the people you love and your environment. Then you appreciate it so much more when you come back. But yeah, I guess there’s a certain balance I’m trying to attain and it’s not always easy. My family is used to the fact I’m on the road a lot. I guess as I’m getting older, a little bit every day, maybe I want to stay home a bit more. I’m getting involved in the community a bit more and it feels good to spend all day in sports pants and work from home. It’s good.
AK: What do you do to relax after a long stint on the road?
IK: I don’t really know how to relax. I have a bunch of kids and a house and there’s always something to be fixed. I also have all these projects in the studio. I enjoy working and I wanna work all the time. When I’m not working I feel guilty or something, I’m like ‘I should be working right now’. In the music industry we’re not making huge amounts of money so I’m always thinking I should be making money right now. I can’t be watching Netflix on a Monday afternoon. But I enjoy it. Like the old saying goes “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?”
AK: Have you got any plans for a follow up to 2013’s ‘All these Lines‘?
IK: Well I’m not really thinking about it for the moment. Maybe that sounds a bit odd but I don’t wanna pressure myself into making something else. I don’t fell the world needs more music at the moment. There are so many albums coming out. It’s good to just take your time till you really feel it and you have something to share and say to the world. I also have a few projects I’m working on. I’m doing more and more producing for other artists and I’m enjoying that quite a bit. Just spending time in the studio doing other stuff and not really thinking about an album at the moment. I’m also starting to write in French which I never really did. I’ve got a couple of songs in French but I don’t know what I want to do with them yet.
AK: In recent years what has influenced your song writing?
IK: Obviously being a father is something major in any mans life. It can put things in perspective way more. I’ve always written songs about the way human beings treat the environment. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the economy is the most important thing. I believe we need air and water more than we need gold and cars. That’s always a great source of inspiration for me. The problems I have with our society and government. But at a certain point, when I’m building a set list for a show I think I get waaayyy too many songs about us polluting the environment and not enough songs about the fact that life if good and its great to have people you love around you. I mean I’m a happy guy but if you listen to my songs you might not notice that. So i’m making a conscious choice sometimes to write about something lighter. A song like ‘I just can’t dance on all these legs‘ which is a song about that…well I really can’t dance. You need a certain musical balance. I don’t want people leaving the show feeling depressed because i’ve only sung about problems and issues. Sometimes it’s nice to just laugh out loud and have fun.
Ian Kelly is playing a solo show at the Railway Club May 1st as part of his cross Canada solo tour. It’s a great chance to see one of Canada’s true songwriting talents in a stripped back, intimate setting. Tickets available from Railway Club. Ian Kelly is also playing the Streaming Cafe in Kelowna, May 2. For a complete list of tour dates (with 6 dates in BC) visit Kelly’s website.
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written by Andy Knopp