The numbers that make up the career of Canadian music veteran Valdy are staggering.
The folk musician, who lives on Salt Spring Island, first launched his career in 1971 with the debut of his single "Play Me A Rock 'n' Roll Song" and went on to travel the world several times over, win two Juno Awards and score four gold albums. In 2011, four decades after he first took the stage, he was also awarded the Order of Canada.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Valdy is currently criss-crossing the country playing music with renowned New Zealand musician Graham Wardrop in tow.
Pique caught up with Valdy over email as he stopped briefly in Kamloops for breakfast en route to Whistler to launch the 26th season of the Performance Series on Oct. 17.
Pique: You're stopping in many smaller places on this tour. What's it like playing those tiny towns mixed in with bigger cities?
Valdy: As a receptor, I get to see Canada in its totality, seeing it, meeting folks, sussing local cultures. And as a touring entertainer, I get to play more than the 80-or-so major stops in Canada; I still aim for 200 shows a year.
Pique: You've been playing music for over four decades now. How do you keep songwriting and performing fresh for yourself?
V: Songwriting, or writing of any kind, sharpens the pencil, keens the edge and I write daily, so there's always something new and possibly relevant to expound upon, usually just to myself. Co-writing is also an option, and I've written with my wife, women and men in Nashville, and that tickles the muse in different ways every time.
Pique: What do you like about working with other musicians and what do you like about working solo?
V: Playing solo gives me freedom to navigate the show wherever I feel appropriate, while playing with others lets me be a session player, fitting in and maxing our strengths. I play some bass with Graham (Wardrop), as I do with Gary Fjellgaard, and with Duck Creak, although that's electric bass. I play acoustic bass guitar with Graham, and I am a bass player by trade, from 1964 on. So, to answer succinctly, I get to apply vocal and instrumental skills when I combine with other players and lower my financial expectations. It's a fair trade.
Pique: You've had many interesting experiences and accomplishments over the years, including receiving the Order of Canada, working with Quincy Jones, playing all over the world. Do you have a favourite or most treasured memory from your career?
V: My most striking event was playing at the Sopot International Song Festival in Poland in 1975. It was a gathering of mostly communist regime musicians and I jammed backstage with a Cuban pianist and we were joined by singers and percussionists and none of us could talk together, or at least I couldn't, having only English and a smattering of French, but we played rather well together, until the stage manager came back and shushed us.
Pique: What are your future music goals?
V: I am learning the banjo, the steel guitar, both lap and pedal, the double bass and the band-saw, as I'm planning a Douglas Fir beam business. Ultimately, I will be part of a seniors' boarding school project, The Rock 'n' Roll Rest Home.
Pique: Are you working on any new material?
V: Yes, for a love-song CD, and a few film pieces. Finding time is always the ticket.
Pique: What are you playing on your current tour? Is it career-spanning songs, or mostly from 2012's Read Between the Lines?
V: I play an amalgam of my hits, my recent recordings, some newer material and a tune that Graham Wardrop and I penned. I also get to support Graham on vocals, guitar and bass.
Pique: If you had to give advice to young Canadian musicians hoping for a long career what would it be?
V: Play, perform, work it out at open mics, family gatherings, parties, anywhere we can hone our skills, and learn what works, what doesn't, and why. Singers, dancers, musicians, athletes, editors, we all learn by doing, so give 'er.