No fear for the road life

Stephen Fearing returns to Cranbrook, showcasing first solo album in seven years

Stephen Fearing will be at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook Wednesday

Stephen Fearing will be at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook Wednesday

A prominent Canadian singer-songwriter and an old friend of Cranbrook is making an appearance at the Studio Stage Door next week.

Stephan Fearing is currently in transit — driving a car across Canada on a tour in support of his first solo album in seven years. He touches down in Cranbrook Wednesday, March 27.

“I’ve played (the Studio Stage Door) a bunch, and I’ve played (the Key City Theatre too)” Fearing told the Townsman from somewhere near Osoyoos. In fact, it was only a year ago he took to the stage at the latter venue with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, another of his musical incarnations (also featuring Colin Linden and Tom Wilson).

“I’m always out — either on my own, or with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, or with Fearing and White,” Fearing said of the touring life. “I haven’t put out a solo record in a long time, because other priorities have taken over. But I make my living playing music. That means you have to take on a number of different aspects of that, just to make it work.

“With the Rodeo Kings, it’s a bigger beast, it takes a little more coordination and logistics and all that. As solo artist, it’s easier in some ways — a guitar, a car and a box of records in the back, so I do a lot of that too.”

The new album, “Between Hurricanes,” comes seven years after Fearings’s Juno-Award-winning “Yellowjacket.” The new songs reflect numerous changes that have occurred in his life in between times — getting divorced, remarried, becoming a father, ending a relationship with his record label and his manager.

“The title came up because I decided I was going to paint my house as well as write the songs for the album at the same time. Where I live, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, August to September is hurricane season, and the two events kind of came together.

“The idea of between hurricanes kind of fits — that calm where things settle for a short period of time.”

Fearing also discussed the processes through which those songs were written.

“Sometimes I start with a phrase, more often than not I’ll start with a musical phrase. With this album, I had a short window of time to write most of the songs, so it was just a matter of literally sitting down and taking the time to allow a song to come through.

“Melody is very important to me, perhaps more so than it used to be,” he added. “I think I was a little more ‘lyric-centric’ in the past, but the last couple of records I’ve been really concentrating on melody.

“Melody is hardwired. I find that after shows the things that people remember are the melodies more than lyrics.”

Fearing is used to performing and writing for large ensembles (Rodeo Kings) and small (Fearing and White). Different strategies can apply when performing solo — switching up guitar tunings from standard from time to time, like DADGAD, or — his favourite alternative tuning — Double Drop D, where both E strings in standard are tuned down to a D.

“The alternate tunings give you give a more varied palette to work from as a performer,” Fearing said. “I think that as a solo player you have three elements working with you: the guitar, the voice, and the song itself. So trying to add different picking patterns, different textures, varying the tempos, etc, so that it’s not just strum, strum, strum. You’re there to entertain people.”

As to the legendary grind of the touring life, Fearing still finds it enjoyable.

“There’s a point in your life when you realize that this is what you do, and it’s too late to quit, unless you want to go get a job at WalMart or something. But I’m lucky, because I really love what I do, and the chance to tour solo again — I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to get to drive across this country of ours.”

Stephen Fearing is appearing at the Studio Stage Door on Wednesday, March 27. The show is part of the Beannick Subscription Concert Series.