“I prefer alternate venues,” admits singer-songwriter Rodney DeCroo, “especially for solo shows.
“My songs are lyric-driven. I want to play shows for listening audiences so they can connect with the song. That means I’ve been playing in art galleries, the odd theatre, bookstores, house concerts, and such.
“Pubs and cabarets are okay for band-oriented shows, but it’s not the best way to connect with an audience. There’s are always people in a bar that aren’t there for the show, and they often ruin the show for the people who want to hear. Especially if the songs are quiet, or lyric-focused.”
So says Vancouver’s roots-folk maverick troubadour, who appears live in concert at Lotus Books the evening of Thursday June 13.
Born in a Pennsylvanian coal-mining town, DeCroo is the son of a troubled ex-US Marine who deserted the military to avoid a second tour of duty in Vietnam and fled with his family to British Columbia. After a troubled, tumultuous childhood, the young Rodney found solace and focus in music, and for many years has been recording critically-acclaimed underground folk albums for the Vancouver-based Modern Electric label: Rodney DeCroo and the Killers (2005), War Torn Man (2006), Truckers Memorial (2006), Mockingbird Bible (2008), Queen Mary Trash (2010), and the spoken-word Allegheny (2012). DeCroo’s deeply personal world-weary lyrics are delivered with a sincere back-country drawl; the sentiments of pre-rehab Steve Earle with Dylanesque vocals. And there’s a Cranbrook connection, as well; DeCroo’s father managed the long-lost Tudor House Hotel for a spell.
“After I toured my album Queen Mary Trash, I parted ways with my band and stopped playing shows for over six months,” DeCroo said. “I’d been quite involved with the local scene before that, but I wanted time away from it. I spent a year and a half writing my book and making my record Allegheny, BC. I’d do the occasional solo show, but those were in intimate rental venues, like Little Mountain Gallery. I unplugged from the scene. Over the last two years things have changed a lot, so I’m a little out of the loop, but that’s fine by me. People come to my shows, and that’s what matters to me.”
Joining DeCroo on his current tour is Modern Electric labelmate Herald Nix, who has built a rabid Vancouver fanbase for his smoky, mysterious brand of roots-rock for nearly 30 years running,
Years before the terms “Americana” and “Alt-Country” were coined and fashionable, Nix displayed his stunning country-blues masterpieces to tightly-packed and mesmerized crowds. An eccentric yet compelling character (he rarely gives interviews), Nix is a truly unique talent, and his upcoming performance is indeed a community privilege.
“I’ve shared stages many times with Herald,” says DeCroo, “but this is the first time I’ve toured with him. I admire him greatly. There’s an unwavering commitment to his own vision.”
DeCroo also has a parallel career as a writer of prose, and has melded his two muses into a multimedia performance-art piece entitled Allegheny BC. “It’s about growing up in Pittsburgh,” he explains, “it consists of songs, poems and monologues. My double-bass player Mark Haney accompanies me and creates amazing soundscapes. We toured a rough version of the show and it went great. I’ll be doing ten nights at the Cultch in September, and at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. We’re doing intense rehearsals with a theatre director to hone the show and develop lighting design, video, etc.”
It would seem that DeCroo’s schedule is sewn up for the remainder of 2013. “I’m supposed to do some touring in Europe later in the year. My new album Campfires on the Moon is nearly finished, and I’m very excited about it. I’ve also been rehearsing with a rock band and plan to make a record with those guys…I think I’ll call it Strong is the Hold.”
With well over a hundred strong songs in his personal repertoire, DeCroo certainly has the experience and the talent to pass along to other singer-songwriters. “It all depends on what you want out of songwriting,” he explains. “I want to write good songs, and record and play them…on my terms. If that’s what’s important to an underground / indie songwriter, then my advice? Do exactly that; don’t make compromises with your work you can’t live with in order to get ahead. You’ll regret it later, and you’ll find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be. I’d like to be remembered as someone who wrote good, authentic songs that meant something, and made good, authentic records, and played some memorable shows; someone who stayed true to his own vision.”
Rodney DeCroo (left) and Herald Nix will be performing at Lotus Books in Cranbrook Thursday June 13; showtime 8 p.m. For more information call 250-426-3415.