Fred Ealesmith's latest release 6 Volts is rapidly becoming our most played disk since we scored a copy at his recent show at Mucky Duck. Recorded live as a band with ONE MICROPHONE(!) as one track mono to a reel-to-reel deck (oh, you want lo-fi!), the album has drawn frequent comparisons to the last Neil Young album, Le Noise.
As usual with Eaglesmith, the album is packed with memorable lines and hard-bitten characters. We recently spent a sleepless night lying in bed with "I'm dangerous, I'm dangerous / I'm dangerous to myself" running on repeat deep in the cranium.
And then there's:
Yesterday I was out on the bluffs over the ocean blue Saw a girl swimming, splashing in the water, she sure did look like you Before I knew it I was out over the edge, someone threw me a line Pulled me to safety and said "Man, are you crazy?" I said "No, I've just lost my mind
When Eaglesmith sings "I'm living on the corner of stupidity and recklessness," we believe him.
We caught up with the irascible Eaglesmith prior to his Houston show. He was his usual wry, frank, wily Canadian self.
Rocks Off: You've been independent for a long time now, essentially doing everything yourself. Have you heard that Hayes Carll and Ryan Bingham have opted to leave Lost Highway?
Fred Eaglesmith: I'm not surprised. Both of those guys had big records that made a splash, and in a way a big record is the kiss of death. It's so hard to repeat, yet the expectations are there that every record will be bigger and in today's climate, that's unrealistic. So I'm not surprised to hear they're leaving the label.
RO: You're not exactly playing big venues, arenas, etc., and you don't tend to go out opening for big acts. Yet you seem to be surviving as well as anyone, better than a lot.
FE: Yeah, we've built this from the ground up. And we've been able to create not just an audience, but a community. We always seem to be making a few new fans and we don't seem to lose many of the old fans, so it's slow but sure growth. Hopefully people come for the new songs as well as the old ones they already know.
RO: What's happening for you musically that's a change?
FE: Since I've been working with the Ginn Sisters, I've gotten more in to "ooh la las."
RO: Well, that was in evidence during your appearance on Letterman. How did that appearance come about, what are the mechanics of coming to their attention?
FE: They called us.
RO: You're kidding.
FE: Man, they've got a whole team of people digging through stuff all the time. It really was as simple as answering the phone when they called.
RO: Are those things a nice financial windfall?
FE: Nah, by the time you take all day to do a couple of songs, you make decent money but nothing like you're probably thinking. Less than a thousand dollars per person. The visibility is the real pay off.
RO: What's next for you?
FE: I'm heading out for a month of solo dates in Holland, just me and my kids as roadies. We'll just rent a van and make a working vacation out of it.
RO: You go to Holland a lot and occasionally Belgium. Do you try to work England?
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FE: I hate England. The food is bad, they don't get my jokes, the weather is terrible.
RO: Well, I lived in Holland for a while and I never thought they were particularly quick on the uptake when it came to jokes.
FE: They get me, man, I'm telling you. Part of it may be that I'm Dutch (Eaglesmith's actually surname is Elgersma). But I have this rabid following in Holland. And now they all speak perfect English, so I'll do a gig at some bar in these tiny towns in Friesland and they know all the words to my songs. You have to admit, that's something.