Jim Cuddy is one of the most credible people I know in the music industry.
Cuddy has always struck me as a person and musician who has tons of integrity.
Many people in Canada also agree that Jim Cuddy is one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation. 
He has a proven track record with the Canadian institution Blue Rodeo and on his own.
His excellent new album Skyscraper Soul a salute to his hometown of Toronto contains some of his best solo work.
And by the way, Canada has produced some of the best songwriters of all time.
Robbie Robertson, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Keelor and Cuddy. The list is amazing.
I have known Cuddy since Blue Rodeo first touched down at Northern College in Timmins on the Diamond Mine tour.
I had bought the band’s first album Outskirts and it was clear Cuddy and his songwriting partner Greg Keelor and the magical chops of the band were special 
Jim and his killer band are set to perform at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday May 31 .
A few days back I had the chance to talk to Jim about his life and career.
Emms- Growing up artists and their songs were thought of as important. It seemed a big part of our world. Neil Young, The Beatles, Jackson Browne and others. How did those early influences shape your career?
Cuddy-It gave me a philosophy that I maintain today. I still find it odd that young artists don’t believe in the fact that an ethic should come from music and artists. I grew up thinking music was a counter-culture philosophy. It gave me guidance on how I should live my life.
Emms-Your very prolific. You write songs for solo albums, you write songs for Blue Rodeo, you tour with your band, you tour with BR. Is there a pressure that comes with all that songwriting?
Cuddy-John, writing songs makes me feel like a good person. It makes me feel this is what I should be doing. Obviously there are breaks needed, but I feel good to get back to it, almost a relief. Sure, the tank is a bit empty when you have just done a record and you tour but I’m happy writing new material with Blue Rodeo.
Emms-Oh, so you guys will record a new album this year?
Cuddy-Actually yes, it’s our 25th annniversery year and we are busy with a package that reflects that.
It’s an 8 cd Box Set, unreleased demos from Casino, very Beatlesque stuff John, also new mixes for our debut album Outskirts, and then I have to write some stuff for a new BR album for the fall which should out in 2013.
Emms-Whew that sounds like lots of work.
Cuddy-Well John, it’s not as arduous as would think, I’m only writing half as much for Blue Rodeo, maybe 8 songs or so, six which might get used, while Greg will come up with the rest. That’s why I like writing solo albums, it gives me a complete use for my songs to complete a whole record.
Emms-With all of this writing and recording are you a perfectionist when it comes to what you want.
Cuddy-No, I don’t labour over mixes, I have standards, but I have plenty of input from members of The Jim Cuddy Band. Bassist Bazil Donavan, my guitarist/ producer Colin Cripps.
My solo band has been with me 15 years.
Even in Blue Rodeo drummer Glen Milchem and all the guys have a lot of input. The thing is John, it’s very obvious with seasoned musicians when something is working or not.
Emms-Paul MCcartney, Elton John and others talk about the craft of songwriting. Your a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee (congrats Jim) maybe you could explain it for younger songwriters just starting out.
Cuddy-The craft of songwriting is part instinct, and part learned. You also must have an instinct of what your voice can do for the song. You have to listen to other artists music and how they create it. I also  believe the melody of any song should be strong.
Emms-Your new cd Skyscraper Soul for me seems to be your most North American release. The title track and a few others written about Toronto could be about any city Jim?
Cuddy-That’s perceptive of you John and thank you. I think I got backed into a corner defending Toronto. But Toronto, Montreal, New York all have been influences for me. But when I write these songs I’m not not necessarily placing myself in them, but I am part of that life.
 I have walked in London England thought about the greyness, the city thriving. The difficulty and dignity it takes to live on top of each other is important to me as a songwriter. Then again as you know Greg and myself have written a ton songs about our country..
Emms-Yourself and Blue Rodeo always maintain and even grow your fanbase. People not only enjoy your past efforts but look forward to the new albums. It’s a fantastic connection you have.
Cuddy-Well, you know this yourself, sometimes you don’t understand how it’s maintained. But we do a few things. We engage ourselves and our fans. And above all we get out and play. That’s our Canadian road ethic. Don’t wait for the fans to come to you, get out and play for them.
Also I think Blue Rodeo’s music has been there for our fans at critical times in their lives. Their first job, their marriage, their first house, their first baby. We help people connect to many times in their life. Shows they could not go to because their kids were too young. Now those children go to the shows with their parents.
Emms-Jim, your clearly excited about writing new songs and playing for people. It astounds me.
Cuddy-Thanks John. You know I love it. I mean I really do. You know, I so understand my life and my career. I know how to preserve my energy. As musicians we try to keep our standards high. We look at ourselves as working musicians.I like the fact, I never feel I’m bored.
Emms-As always a pleasure Jim, can’t wait to see the show
Cuddy-Thanks John, see you next Thursday
JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist. Writes for The Timmins Daily Press/Post Media
Visit John and his blues/roots band at  https://www.facebook.com/theshaftmen


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May 2012

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