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Mark Seymour


Why This Australian Stadium Singer Loves Playing Small Clubs in Canada

Posted: 11/07/2013 11:02 am

Two days ago we left for Canada. The sky was cloudless, burning blue. I was down at my brother's beach-side gaff behind the sand dunes at a place called Kilcunda in South Gipplsand, next to a river running black with tea-tree oil. Waiting for the wind to change. The reef thundered behind the hill. Big Surf. The great southern ocean. Lou Reed has been dead six days and a man in a blue uniform had just opened fire at LAX.

We packed the car. Guitars, bags and boots, left the boards under the deck and fishtailed up onto the highway to Melbourne Airport, three hours away.

I've been singing professionally now for 32 years, each gig has lead to the next, planning months ahead but not much longer. I've never had larger ambition than the act of getting on stage. The singing is everything to me. It defines me, which is of course, no small thing. But the accumulation of rooms, regardless of their size has reached a critical mass I suppose. Certainly the songs themselves have reached many people. They are well known back home. But even now, there is little more to the planning than the love of the act itself and of course, the constant repetition. Which might help to explain how we manage to move from a fully blown stadium rock show at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with an audience of around 110,000, to an upcoming acoustic set at the Eidelweiss Tavern in Kitchener... this without blinking.

Our Canadian publicist asked me to mention that. "Why?" I asked. "It's a point of interest," he said. The contrast. Really? What's the big deal? Does it matter? Yep. There's the issue of scale. There must be tension in that. Hell yeah! There's tension alright. But that's the point! And I can see how the contrast in sheer scale might strike the punter as strange or maybe difficult. It is. But let me tell you, from where I'm standing, if it sounds good in the shower, it'll fly anywhere, which in the wisdom of my years is as good a mantra as any if you're trying to ignore a thirty second slap delay off the wall of the Great Southern Stand, you will soon come to rely on your head voice, no matter how weird of just plain bad the stage sound can be.

No singer can live on ego alone. Crowd size is a bonus. And the trail can be unforgiving. So enjoy your craft because sometimes it's its own dividend.. that and what I call the 'human bottom line': All rooms are the same. They are populated by souls who are there to listen. It's not about you. It's about us.

People always ask me what's next in the pipeline. And I always say the same thing; which is whatever I have in mind in that moment. If there's something coming up, something big, I tell them that.

"We're going to Canada next week."
"Oh really?"

Canada. To Australians, Canada is a cold exotic place with huge bears who eat anything and people who say '"sorry" a lot. I really wish Australians were half as polite. So what else? Of course, there's more to it than just the bears although I've never come across one and apparently it isn't advised, though I do like to wander.

There are moose, deer, elk, raccoons, coyote, puma, wolves, and the people of-course, about 36,000,000 souls and there's the not insignificant fact that the United States of America tried to invade Canada in 1812. I love that! And the fact that they blew it. I love that even more. Australians are usually incredulous. I tell them, "Look it up. The U.S. tried to stomp on Canada in 1812!"

Funny thing is, very few of them ask why, which is kind of boring.

And leads me to another "why"? Why Canada? Well, it's incredibly beautiful for a start. There's the massive sky, the rolling powerful dirt-country, glaciated and scoured by the ages, the sense of frontier, the long shadows, the slow twilight, gorgeous colours of the fall and being on the edge of the infinite north; the road west around the lakes, the van we rolled coming into Edmonton, the Saskatoon load-in, when the ramp iced over, and everyone pitched in, the long runs across the prairie, the hardness of it, the whining engine, driving on, and the uplift of performance, the rising tunes of love, sadness, and hope. It is in a very primal way, a lot like Australia. If you're up for the rigour, you will reach people, where they live. We are skirting the edge of emptiness. Canada is alive.

Yesterday we arrived with no visas, playing for nix in lieu of coming back next year to do the full band tour but the no visa thing was going to be a test. There would be difficult questions and lots of documents. But when in answer to the question, "Have you been to Canada before?" I said, "Many times," the mood lifted. She smiled and the doors opened.

I've always had an audience here. Don't ask me to explain that. Canadians were up for it from the start. The Toucan Club, Toronto, 1982. It isn't there anymore but we lit something that night, even though I don't remember much of it.

But there's another why. Why anywhere you may well ask? Why go? Why leave home? Human beings want to be wherever looks good in their dreams, but getting there is always a bitch. The baggage carousel is like the village well. A meeting place of whingers! And there in lies the riddle of it. Touring is all about exactly that. The getting there.

I love Canada.

- Nov 7 at Edelwiess in Kitchener with Mike Marlin, 8 p.m.
- Nov 9 at Mod Club with Mike Marlin, Matinee show, 3 p.m.

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  • Ketchup Chips

    There are some snacks that define a nation, but not many that taste good to only those who live there. What do we love? The fact they leave our fingers dyed red after we've had a whole bag. Ketchup has never tasted so salty, non-tomatoey and outright good. Our U.S. friends may go nutty over Doritos, but we love our ketchup chips.

  • Les Stroud aka 'Survivorman'

    Many Canadians will point to the fact that Superman has a strong connection to the Great White North, but we'd like to reintroduce you to the real thing. <a href="http://www.lesstroud.ca" target="_hplink">'Survivorman</a>', while it was on in the late 2000s, showcased Les Stroud, a gritty Canadian who shot his own show in snow, sleet, heat and rain with nothing but random household objects and a trusty knife. We like to think that in a country that's increasingly urban, the outback is still our domain. Les, he's the best of us.

  • The Greatest Scream On Film

    It was the scream heard around the world, and has been imitated - although never duplicated - several times since. <a href="http://www.williamshatner.com/" target="_hplink">William Shatner</a>, who in his own right is a great Canadian, uttered the famous scream '<a href="http://khaaan.com/" target="_hplink">Khaaaaannnnnnnnnnnn!</a>' in a scene during 1982's 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan'. Was it the close up on Shatner's face or the fact he shook while he screamed that made it so powerful? Thirty years later, filmmakers and actors are still trying to outdo Shatner. But some things just can't be beat.

  • The Caesar

    In warm weather, it will cool you down. If you're hungover, it's the magic antidote. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_(cocktail)" target="_hplink">The Caesar</a>, Canada's favourite breakfast, lunch and evening cocktail adds a spicy twist to the Bloody Mary. Canadians are so particular about how it tastes -- with Clamato, not tomato juice -- that many don't even bother ordering it in the U.S. out of fear of disappointment. Served with celery, a lime and, if you're lucky, a fat dill pickle, it's the perfect cocktail. Who knew clam juice could add that kind of magic to a drink? (Photo Shutterstock)

  • Cheaper Drugs

    Overall, Americans can save 24 per cent if they buy their drugs from online Canadian pharmacies versus filling their prescriptions at home, according to a <a href="http://www.annals.org/content/143/6/397.abstract" target="_hplink">study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.</a> The study sought to find out why so many U.S. citizens have been taking advantage of the deep discounts north of the border, and the results showed dramatic savings across the board. "Forty-one of the 44 brand-name medications examined were less expensive in Canada." Canucks are proud of their health-care system and easier access -- in this case financially -- to pharmaceuticals. (Photo Alamy)

  • Our Ties To The Monarchy

    The debate on whether we should cut ties to the monarchy was <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/why-the-monarchy-sigh-still-survives-in-canada/article4181939/" target="_hplink">all but quashed last year</a> after the outpouring of pomp and pageantry -- in Canada -- around the royal wedding. Canadians embraced the nuptials as if Prince William was their own and turned out in droves to see the newlyweds during <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/royal-visit-canada-2011" target="_hplink">their cross-country tour last July.</a> From trying to get Pippa's butt to putting in their two cents on whether Prince Charles deserves the throne, Canadians love their Queen and all of the gossip that goes with her. (Photo Rex Features)

  • Coffee Crisp

    When it comes to food, Canadians concede there's far more selection in the U.S. but we're fiercely proud of the candy bars that can only be found here. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_Crisp" target="_hplink">Coffee Crisp</a> is a great example. Consisting of a crunchy wafer, milk chocolate coating and slightest hint of coffee flavouring, the chocolate bar is true to its marketing slogan of making 'a nice light snack' and is adored by all moms and seniors. Rumour has it they've been spotted in a few U.S. border town convenience stores. We want proof!

  • Better View At Niagara Falls

    Undoubtedly one of North America's natural wonders, the power and beauty of Niagara Falls never ceases to amaze, whether it's your first trip or 100th. Luckily for Canucks, the <a href="http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/eastern-us-niagara-falls-which-side-is-better.html" target="_hplink">best place to view the falls is on the 'Canadian side'. </a>That's right, busloads of tourists from around the world flood the observation areas near the falls in Ontario every day to snap the perfect picture for their Facebook profile. Do Americans bother to cross the border for the better view? You betcha. Just look out for the person using 'eh' at awkward times. (Photo Shutterstock)

  • We Love Seeing Our World

    About 56 per cent of Canadians have a passport while just 37 per cent of Americans do. While the majority of Canadians haven't been to countries like Azerbaijan, they do take pride in seeing the world and it's difficult to not run into a Canadian while travelling abroad. A story by TechCrunch claims <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/22/more-americans-are-on-facebook-than-have-a-passport/" target="_hplink">more Americans have a Facebook page than a passport.</a> Perhaps they prefer to view the travel photos of their friends online than to actually see sights for themselves... (Photo CP)

  • Limits To Election Spending

    Canada limits corporate influence on our electoral process via spending limits on political donations and third-party advertising. The 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/21/supreme-court-rolls-back_n_431227.html" target="_hplink">similar campaign finance laws in that country</a> -- on grounds they violate the free-speech right of corporations -- poses a serious threat to democracy and the integrity of future elections in America. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Hockey In Middle Earth

    The soul of hockey isn't at the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Or the Air Canada Centre (sorry Leafs fans). It's in places like Windy Arm, Yukon where you can skate on ice clearer than your bedroom mirror in a setting that's straight out of Tolkien's Middle Earth.

  • President's Choice

    There are few brands in Canada as reliable as President's Choice. Mr. Christie thinks he makes good cookies but nothing tops<a href="http://reviews.presidentschoice.ca/6584/F14934/reviews.htm" target="_hplink"> the Decadent</a>, the brand's answer to Chips Ahoy. Kraft Dinner, in its familiar blue box, pales in comparison to <a href="http://www.presidentschoice.ca/LCLOnline/products.jsp?type=details&sortOrder=byRate&productId=4745" target="_hplink">PC's White Cheddar Mac & Cheese</a>. It also doesn't hurt that nerdily-handsome Galen Weston (hearthrob of Canadian suburban housewives everywhere) is the pitchman for this iconic line of Canadian products. Why yes, Mr. Weston, I'd like some more <a href="http://reviews.presidentschoice.ca/6584/Fprod1410011/reviews.htm" target="_hplink">Memories of Morocco Sweet And Spicy Sauce</a>...

  • Better Cities

    Ours might be smaller and fewer in number but Canadian cities consistently rank above American cities on livability.<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/30/mercer-quality-of-living-cities-canada_n_1120615.html" target="_hplink"> In the most recent Mercer survey of livable cities</a>, Canadian cities took 4th, 14th, and 15th place, while the highest-ranked American city was 33rd. (Photo Getty Images)

  • Best Place To Do Business?

    According to Forbes, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/04/forbes-canada-best-country-business_n_994554.html" target="_hplink">Canada is the best country in the world to do business</a> and it's not because of the climate. Chalk it up to a lower corporate tax rate, excellent infrastructure and a well-educated populace. The U.S. and Europe's recent economic woes don't help them either. (Photo CP)

  • Social Mobility

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/27/canada-income-inequality-by-numbers_n_1545900.html" target="_hplink">Canada has greater social mobility.</a> If you are born into the poorest 10 per cent, your odds of making it to the richest 10 per cent are considerably better in Canada than in the U.S. In other words, it's easier to realize the American Dream in Canada than it is in the U.S. (Shutterstock)

  • Hey Girl...

    (Photo Getty Images)

  • Canadian Anthem

    When it comes to national anthems, we've always had a bit of an inferiority complex (the maple leaf is not a banner spangled in stars). But according to new research, our simple and quaint pro-Canuck ballad "O, Canada" is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/16/best-national-anthem_n_1282311.html" target="_hplink">among the world's finest.</a> We even trump the Americans and Brits. So what if you can't remember all the words? This is an anthem worth singing. (Photo Getty Images)

  • Maternity Leave

    Having a baby is hard work. And many women around the world aren't given the amount of time off they deserve post-delivery. But here in Canada, the true north strong and free, a lady can take up to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/22/maternity-leaves-around-the-world_n_1536120.html" target="_hplink">a full year of paid maternity leave </a>(17 weeks at 55 per cent of their salary and an additional 35 weeks after that). This contrasts vastly with The United States, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia and Lesotho who provide no type of financial support for new mothers. (Alamy)

  • Our Milk!

    It completes your morning bowl of cereal, can quench thirst and is the perfect companion to chocolate chip cookies. Milk, dear readers, is an all around amazing drink. And grabbing a glass of the white stuff in Canada is unlike anything you'll be able to experience in many other countries. That's because there's <a href="http://www.dairygoodness.ca/good-health/dairy-facts-fallacies/hormones-for-cows-not-in-canada" target="_hplink">a complete lack of unnatural hormones in our dairy products</a> (so concerns about negative side effects simply doesn't exist), and we <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/760654--so-we-drink-milk-from-bags-does-that-make-us-weird" target="_hplink">serve the beverage in a plastic bag</a>, which, frankly, is far more convenient and environmentally friendly than cardboard containers (the baggies can be reused as makeshift lunch bags!). (Photos Shutterstock)

  • Our Air!

    Take a deep breath in... and slowly exhale it out. Do you smell that? You may not, but that's the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/air-quality/" target="_hplink">scent of clean air flowing through your lungs</a>. According to new research, Canada rates tops in air quality (meaning you can say "ta ta" to stinky smog and gross pollution. [Ed. Note unless you live in smog-heavy Toronto]). In fact, while the U.S. averages 18 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre of air, Canada averages only 13 micrograms. That also decreases our risk of developing bad air-induced health conditions like allergies. Now once again and all together now: inhale... (Photo Alamy)

  • Gay Marriage Rights

    This "fake" Heritage Minute says it all: on July 20, 2005, Canada's government passed the Civil Marriage Act giving same-sex couples the same rights and privileges as heterosexual pairings. The LGBT community can not only marry, they can also adopt children. We also host one of the largest Gay Pride festivals in the world in Toronto every June/July.

  • Poutine

    French fries. Cheese curds. Gravy. All mixed together in one bowl. There's really nothing more to say than <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jacqueline-vong/poutine-guilty-pleasure-food_b_1366823.html" target="_hplink">this dish is gluttonously awesome</a>. And we're proud to say it's 100 per cent Canadian. (Photo CP)

  • We Can Go To Cuba

    A decades-long U.S. trade embargo on evil 'Communist' Cuba means that that island's beaches and resorts have long been free of American tourists. Canadians, needing an escape from long winters have been <a href="http://www.gocuba.ca/client/home/index.php" target="_hplink">flocking to the island for decades now</a>. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Canada has also been a crucial trading partner of the island country. (Photo Getty Images)

  • Joe Fresh

    Many people think Canada is a country of citizens who don plaid, beaver tails and fur all year round. (We also, obviously, live in igloos.) So thank goodness for Joseph Mimran, the fashion powerhouse who is behind one of Canada's biggest and most popular clothing exports: <a href="http://www.joefresh.com/" target="_hplink">Joe Fresh</a>. His bright, colourful and decidedly on-trend collections are showing the world what Canada has to offer sartorially (which is not limited to some hipsterish version of a lumberjack). (Getty Images)

  • Canadian Music

    Once a 44.5 kg weakling, The Great White North punches way above its weight class in the music world. A few decades ago, only a rare few Canadian musicians managed to establish international careers. But the rise of government funding for music and CanCon radio regulations supporting domestic tunes developed our homegrown scene until it was strong enough to lead a post-millennial Canadian Invasion. Nowadays we claim the world's biggest artists in almost any imaginable genre - Arcade Fire, Justin Bieber, Feist, Drake, Michael Buble, Deadmau5, Metric, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Nickelback, Diana Krall, etc. Don't tell the Republicans, but we can thank "socialism" for all that money, money, money these musicians are making. (Photos By Getty Images)

  • Your Turn!

    Tell us why you think Canada is great. Is it a photo of your favourite camping spot, a Canadian you really admire, our weird obsession with hockey and cold weather? We're looking for your responses on Twitter with the <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23LoveCanada" target="_hplink">#LoveCanada</a> tag, Facebook, in the comments and <a href="mailto:canada@huffingtonpost.com?subject=Love Canada" target="_hplink">via e-mail</a>. We'll be collecting the best responses and featuring them on our site in the coming weeks. (Photo Getty Images)