Cross Country Checkup·Ask Me Anything

Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy on getting back to the stage and writing music during a pandemic

As part of Checkup's Ask Me Anything series, Jim Cuddy, one of Blue Rodeo's frontmen, answered questions from listeners on performing when pandemic restrictions loosen, what has inspired his songwriting and more.

Cuddy took calls and answered questions from Checkup listeners on Sunday

Jim Cuddy will host the Juno Songwriters' Circle on Saturday, June 5. (Heather Pollock)

Jim Cuddy, one of Blue Rodeo's frontmen, says that while performing to a packed house is a "long way off," getting back on stage will be a relief.

The musician, who will host the Juno Songwriters' Circle which livestreams on CBC Music on June 5, has spent his time in pandemic lockdown working on new music, with plans to release a new Blue Rodeo album next year.

And though he says he took the opportunity to write, the pandemic has proven difficult.

"Sometimes it seemed a little bit like the myth of Sisyphus, just rolling the rock up the hill to have it all fall back down again, as it just has gone on so long," he told Cross Country Checkup host Ian Hanomansing on Sunday.

As part of Checkup's Ask Me Anything series, the Canadian rocker answered questions from listeners on performing once pandemic restrictions change, what has inspired his songwriting and more.

'There's going to be a lot less complaining'

Calling from Vancouver, Torri Enderton asked if the pandemic has discouraged Cuddy and his bandmates from touring.

He says it's had the opposite effect. "What happened was we realized how good we felt when we toured," responded Cuddy.

Cuddy, left, and Greg Keelor, right, lead Blue Rodeo. (Amber Bracken/The Canadian Press)

"When you're a musician and you have an audience, [while] touring there's a lot of complaining that goes on," he explained.

"But what you feel is useful. You feel like you're actually doing something you've struggled and learned how to do."

So the next time Cuddy hits the road with Blue Rodeo — which he hopes to happen in 2022 — he expects things will be different.

"There is going to be a lot of joy when we get back there — and there's going to be a lot less complaining," he said.

Music inspired by pandemic

With a new tour comes new music, and Cuddy admits that certain pandemic-related themes snuck into his songwriting.

"I don't write with anything particular in mind, but a couple of songs that I wrote, one was specifically called Good News, which was about how we were all getting through this," he said.

With lyrics like, "I know I'll get through it/I've just gotta hear some good news," Cuddy describes it as a song about human resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity — so long as there is hope ahead.

Other songs, especially those written early in the pandemic, are about escaping.

"They were all about selling everything, moving somewhere else, you know, don't look back. And I didn't do it consciously ... Obviously, that's where my mind went," Cuddy said.

Writing with melancholy

But callers weren't only focused on the pandemic's effect on Cuddy and the band. Cody Simmons in Trail, B.C., asked which artists have had the greatest impact on the performer. 

As a young musician, Cuddy says The Rolling Stones and The Beatles played a big role in his growth as an artist. 

"And although I was very in love with the music, I never thought I could do that," he said.

"It wasn't until I heard the singer-songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan and then later Jackson Browne — Jackson Browne was a really big influence on me — and that was music, when I heard it, I thought, 'I can do that.'"

Cuddy approached his writing with a similar type of melancholy and guitar playing.

"That's what really took me through my late teens and early 20s, when I was kind of developing or trying to be a songwriter," he said.

Written by Jason Vermes. Ask Me Anything segment produced by Steve Howard.

Hear the full Ask Me Anything with Jim Cuddy on CBC Listen, our free audio streaming service.

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