The many careers of Brendan McLeod all began with slam poetry.
The novelist/musician/writer first competed in spoken word about seven years ago and quickly started winning competitions, eventually earning the title of Canadian champ in 2004 and 2005. But after a few years he figured out what judges were looking for and it began to affect the poems he was writing.
"A lot happened really quickly," he says. "It's a pretty limited format, writing three minute poems. If you're getting judged, there are certain things that will get you higher scores. I didn't want to write to win competitions. That didn't seem that artistic to me."
So, he began to delve into other mediums. He wrote his debut novel, The Convictions of Leonard McKinley, a one-person play The Big Oops and began touring with his folk band the Fugitives, now working on their third album. He also writes (non-slam) poems, often presenting them at secondary schools to get kids interested in literacy.
Working in different formats influences his art as a whole, he says. "Spoken word (competitions) are rapid, high energy, fast words. When I picked up a guitar that style influenced my songwriting," he says. "It kind of all melts together though. I rarely sit down and say, 'I'm going to write a song."
To that end, McLeod will perform a variety of songs, poems and stories at the season finale of Creative 5 Eclectic, the cabaret-style showcase that has been presenting an array of art throughout the winter, at Dusty's April 26. "It's hard to do a song or poem without telling a story about where it came from," he says, explaining his mash-up performance. "I try to do them all. I like to call them pongs or soems because sometimes the songs are more poems than songs. It's hard to draw the line, so I just mash them all together."
For music, at least, he finds inspiration from current events — which, surprisingly, stand up over time, he says. Some examples include tracks about the new pope, the robocall scandal and gun control. "I think right now I'm more focused on what's going on. I just want to have a dialogue about things," he says.
Stephen Vogler, the organizer of the event, had been trying to bring McLeod up to Whistler for the show for months, but schedules only aligned recently, McLeod adds. "My friends have gone and been featured (at the event)," he says. "I've never really played in Whistler."
After performing here he says he will hole up at home in Vancouver for the summer to work on his second novel, with hopes of finishing it by the fall. While he's reluctant to talk about the plot, he describes it as "a coming of age in a relationship- sense" involving 20-somethings. Essentially, he adds, he aged the characters from his last book by about 10 years.
"I feel like I don't know what I'm doing. There's a lot of fumbling in the dark," he says, of his nascent career as a novelist. "It's probably getting done this summer. I like to say that."