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Devin Cuddy

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Growing Up On the Road with Blue Rodeo

Posted: 06/12/2013 10:41 am

I've often been asked about what it was like growing up around music, both by strangers and friends. I am still trying to figure it out myself, both its impact on me as a musician and its impact on me as a person. I think there are two points of influence, music at home and music as my father's job.

My father's band (Blue Rodeo) broke out before I was born, with their debut album "Outskirts," so I have never known it any other way. I think my siblings would agree with me when I say it normalized itself. We hung out at shows like it was our dad's office, nights mostly. It's taken me until now to realize the effect of that, so I'll start with music at home.

Music at home was an easy one. We would listen to all types of music. My dad had a great CD collection that spanned many genres and many eras. We were all forced to take piano lessons. At first, each one of us hated it more then the other, but as we found music we loved in that CD collection, the study of music became more interesting.

For me, it was Louis Armstrong's "Greatest Hits," mostly stuff with the All-Stars from the later '50s and '60s. There was something about it I still struggle to describe. The swing beat still gives me a feeling inside like no music does, and his trumpet playing was so clear and melodic.

I also fell for the imagery of early 1900s New Orleans -- the parades, the costumes, the music -- so perhaps that was a big part. I found myself starting to play the trumpet, reading books about voodoo and the early days of jazz and New Orleans. At this point I had no intention of being a musician or playing in bands (outside of school).

My love of jazz grew and I jumped around the many genres it contains, Dixieland, Big Band Swing, Be-bop. Then Monk. There was colour in his atonality that again I have trouble putting to words. His style and attitude were intoxicating. Then Oscar Peterson, fastest playing, unbelievable time feel, and Canadian (we'd been brought up as proud Canadians).

This carried me through most of high school and into jazz studies at York. Funny enough, it was at jazz school that I found my second love, country music. The difference was that the country influence was always there, through my dad. He sang George Jones songs when I was a kid, and when I came around to listening to those records, it was nostalgic as well as eye-opening. I sifted through my dad's Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons and found myself inspired again, this time to write songs.

I wrote many songs during university (very few of them any good) and after that I started playing gigs at The Cameron House in Toronto, a rocking downtown venue with a real piano.

The son of the original owners had taken it over and a new wave of musicians were coming through. I thought I'd jump in, after all, some great musicians had come through here, Big Sugar, Ron Sexsmith, Molly Johnson, Handsome Ned and many more. I took the best of the songs I had, got a band together with some local players, and we made our first record, "Volume One." The music came out as a hybrid of country and New Orleans Blues, a marriage I am still working on. As I listen I can hear what each note was influenced by.

It has only been in recent years (or even months) that I realized the effect of hanging around the band and the shows as a kid. I recall talking Monk with a former piano player in Rodeo as a kid and him telling me what records to check out. For a brief period Blue Rodeo had a horn section, and it was Richard Underhill who convinced me to go to jazz school.

The current piano player, Mike Baguski, and I talk frequently about music and our favourite rigs. The steel player, Bob Egan, told me all the best spots to go for my musical pilgrimage to Memphis and Nashville, a very inspirational trip. But the most important thing I've learned is from my dad. His professionalism and his endless work ethic are a true inspiration to me and I try to emulate that everyday.

I went to play my first festival of this summer season a few weeks ago, and had a bout of déja vue as we were waiting to soundcheck. I was sitting on some road cases, as I had done as a kid, and I thought, "this is all very familiar." Then they called my name to soundcheck. This broke my déja vue moment -- I was not just here to hang out anymore.

And so I go on my own path now, tracing the same trails across this great nation and I couldn't be more proud. We've toured east and west in support of our first record and are gearing up to do it again.

Devin Cuddy will play at The Piston for NXNE on Thursday June 13th at 11pm a solo show, and outdoors on Cameron St on June 15th at 9pm with a band.

Click here for full NXNE coverage

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  • Wednesday, June 12- Calexico @ Mod Club

    Americana indie rock outfit Calexico is one of the highlights of NXNE's opening night. Having been around for over a decade now, the Arizona rockers have developed a solid live show that will surely showcase their full discography, especially their latest release, 2012's "Algiers."

  • Wednesday, June 12- Mozart's Sister @ Rivoli

    Mozart's Sister frontwoman Caila Thompson-Hannant takes off from where Grimes left off. Also hailing from Montreal, and familiar from past work with Think About Life and Shapes and Sizes, Thompson-Hannant takes subjects like anxiety and turns them into confident electro-pop anthems ready for the dark dance floors.

  • Wednesday, June 12- GROUNDERS @ Horseshoe Tavern

    This Toronto band is still relatively new, but their debut EP "Wreck of a Smile," which came out in March, is already showing glimmers of prospect. The five-piece's jangly indie pop borrow the most infectious parts of Grizzly Bear and Beach House and make it their own melodic confection. The band has landed an opening slot touring with The Besnard Lakes, but will return to their hometown for a show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

  • Thursday, June 13- Braids, Blue Hawaii, Sean Nicholas Savage, Paula @ Comfort Zone

    Arbutus Records has become one of Montreal's biggest exports of talent in the past couple of years (Grimes being the label's most notable star), so their showcase at NXNE will be the place to go and scout out what the label has in store for us. With a new record on its way this summer, Braids will most likely preview new material here, and lead singer Raphaelle Standon-Preston will be pulling double duty that night with her other more electronic/DJ-based project, Blue Hawaii.

  • Thursday, June 13- Beliefs @ Handlebar

    Toronto shoegaze rockers Beliefs have been gradually making a name for themselves locally and internationally for a few years now. Having nabbed opening slots for the likes of A Place to Bury Strangers, Porcelain Raft, The Men and Beach Fossils, Beliefs have been winning over audiences with their hooky dream-pop glazed with distorted, reverb-laden guitars.

  • Thursday, June 13- Mikal Cronin @ Silver Dollar

    Best known for his work with the prolific Ty Segall (both collaborating with and playing for), Mikal Cronin has gained quite the recognition with his two solo albums as well. His latest release, "MCII," has been called "his most fully realized, beautifully arranged, and well-crafter work to date," by Pitchfork, garnering a Best New Music badge and he is easily catching up with Segall with a steadily growing catalog of ace material. Cronin will be headlining not one, but three nights at the Silver Dollar (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) last year so plenty of opportunities for showgoers to work him into your busy schedule.

  • Thursday, June 13- Dan Deacon, DIANA, Merchandise, Moon King, Nu Sensae @ Horseshoe Tavern

    There is a little something for everyone at the Horseshoe Tavern's Thursday night line up – experimental dance parties by Dan Deacon, synth art-pop by DIANA, an amalgamation of both by Moon King and straight-up punk by Merchandise and Nu Sensae. A show that will undoubtedly be an attack on senses and leave showgoers tired and satisfied.

  • Thursday, June 13- Kashka @ Wrongbar

    Forest City Lovers frontwoman Kat Burns has been hard at work ever since the band split up last year. Now incorporating electronics into her songwriting, her folk spirit is still very much intact, but she now morphs the two together into a brand Burns has named "folkpoptronica," which is even catchier and more successful than the word suggests.

  • Friday, June 14- The National @ Yonge-Dundas Square

    Marked as one of the marquee events of the festival, The National is set to perform at Yonge-Dundas Square for free this year, promoting their latest release, "Trouble Will Find Me." Lead singer Matt Berninger is known for his live antics, which often involve the singer hopping into the audience, so it will definitely be interesting to see how he will pull that off in this type of venue. If Wayne Coyne could crowd surf in a bubble last year, we have faith that Berninger will figure something out.

  • Friday, June 14- Absolutely Free @ Drake

    Fans of Toronto punk rockers DD/MM/YYYY didn't have much time to mourn the band when they broke up in 2011. Instead, four of the five members quickly rebounded with a new band called Absolutely Free, who packs just as much of a punch on record and onstage as their previous project.

  • Friday, June 14- AroarA @ Silver Dollar

    Andrew Whiteman is arguably one of Broken Social Scene's brightest, and possibly underrated, stars. Since the band's hiatus, Whiteman has yet to revive his band Apostle of Hustle, but he has teamed up with his wife Ariel Engle to create AroarA, a literary folk project that proves to be just as intriguing as any of Whiteman's previous works.

  • Friday, June 14- The Luyas, Sean Nicholas Savage, Brazos @ Sneaky Dee's

    Montreal's eclectic music makers are best represented by long-running art rockers, The Luyas. Still riding the success of their perfectly artful 2012 release, "Animator," the band will be joined by Arbutus Records' Sean Nicholas Savage and Dead Oceans labelmates, Brazos at Sneaky Dee's on Friday.

  • Saturday, June 15- Dusted @ The Garrison, St. James Gazebo

    When he's not busy working on various projects, including an upcoming new album with Holy Fuck, Brian Borcherdt has been riding the success of his other project, Dusted, and his 2012 release, "Total Dust." Decidedly different from the electronic structures of his work with Holy Fuck, Dusted is a quieter affair, with Borcherdt often performing with one or two other members, but that doesn't make his shows any less compelling. Borcherdt's simplistic setup leaves room for the spotlight to show off his impeccable songwriting skills and infectious riffs, something that should be seen and heard on record and live.

  • Saturday, June 15- Fucked Up, Iceage, White Lung, CATL, Soupcans, Single Mothers, The Archives @ Horseshoe Tavern

    If you've got some pent up aggression in you, then Saturday night's lineup at the Horseshoe Tavern is the place to be. A great taste of punk music, both locally and internationally, headliners Fucked Up (Toronto), Iceage (Denmark) and White Lung (Vancouver) are spectacular showmen (and women) who know how to get a room riled up and sweaty with heavy music that's celebratory, cathartic, angry and just pure entertainment.

  • Saturday, June 15- Majical Cloudz, Ryan Hemsworth, Eight and a Half, Chad Valley, _8IO Feat. Byron Wong/Dave Hamelin @ BLK BOX

    If guitars aren't your thing, BLK BOX's big names, Montreal 's Majical Cloudz and local DJ Ryan Hemsworth, will surely fill your electronic needs. Hot off the release of his Merge Records debut release, "Impersonator," Majical Cloudz delivers a compelling live show that's more dynamic than his recorded material and is something that can win over both fans and newcomers to Devon Welsh's music.

  • Saturday, June 15- Villagers @ Great Hall, Sidedoor at The Soho House

    Irish singer-songwriter, Conor O'Brien a.k.a. Villagers, released a new album earlier this year entitled {Awayland} and has since fully embraced the idea of a full band as opposed to being a solo artist. For those who have only seen this O'Brien solo, or just for those who have never seen Villagers live, the full-band treatment will be something worth seeing.

  • Sunday, June 16- Ludacris, Smif N' Wessun, Mikey Avalon, Joey Bada$$, Fat Tony, Deniro Farrar @ Yonge-Dundas Square

    For several years now, NXNE has ended their festival with a final free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square featuring some of hip hop's biggest names. In the past, we've seen Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Killer Mike and Action Bronson take the stage and this year promises to be equally as star-studded as Ludacris is joined by up-and-comers Joey Bada$$ and Mikey Avalon.

  • Sunday, June 16- MuchMusic Video Awards

    Though not a NXNE-affiliated event, the MuchMusic Video Awards always coincide with the music festival and draws equally as many music fans, if only more concentrated in one specific place. Located at the MuchMusic headquarters at Queen Street West and John Street , the annual event is guaranteed to shut down streets as fans swarm the outdoor stages for a number of performances. So far, this year's show will include performance by Ed Sheeran, Avril Lavigne, Classified, Serena Ryder and Demi Lovato as well as Korean entertainer Psy, who is also co-hosting.

 

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