The outdoor community is blessed to have singers/songwriters who use wilderness travel to inspire their music. It could be their time in the woods and water that influences a song, or a song that stimulates them to head back out. Whichever the case, I’m just glad we have them among us.
Last week I interviewed three of my all-time favourite woodsy musicians for my on-going online Whisky Fireside Chats (due to our continued isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic).
The first is Jerry Vandiver from Nashville. Jerry has had his songs recorded by Tim McGraw, Phil Vassar, Lonestar, Barbara Mandrell, Lee Greenwood and The Oak Ridge Boys. However, paddlers would know him more for his “paddling songs” (check out his latest The Middle of Somewhere). For several years, I’ve joined Jerry Vandiver on stage during his performance at Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin. I dressed as a cow and played the cowbell during “Too Tired to Start a Fire,” played drums on canoe barrels for “Headwind” (and then pulled a Keith Moon and tossed them out into the audience), had his attractive fiddle player seductively remove my PFD during “Don't Paddle Today,” danced with random bewildered audience members to the “Bear Barrel Polka” in a bear costume, mimicked a crazed loon during “Mister Loon,” tossed papier-mâché rocks at a couple of helmet-clad kids for the song “That's Why The World Has Rocks” and even had my daughter help write and perform Jerry’s “Canoeing With Daddy.”
The second is a lesser-known Canadian singer/songwriter: Adam Ruzzo. He’s an amazing musician. So why does he have a limited audience? Maybe because he lives in a cabin in the woods, off-grid. He’s the “real deal.” Adam is a highly accomplished guitarist, having received a Master's degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the University of Toronto, and winning First Prize in the FCMF National Classical Guitar Competition in 2010. He has paired his skill on guitar with an unmistakable tenor voice that has made a lasting impression on audiences across the country. His new album 'Froze In,' an ode to Canadian winter, was released in May 2019 and features a traditional feel with guitar, bodhran and fiddle. He is currently in St. John's Newfoundland performing regularly and working on an East Coast traditional inspired album, which is sure to be a huge success and a breath of fresh air in the Canadian folk music world. In pursuit of preserving the Traditional Canadian folk song tradition and adding to its catalogue, Adam Ruzzo has performed, written and collaborated all across Canada from coast to coast, gathering stories and capturing the essence of the Canadian experience in his original music. He also finds inspiration in the wild landscapes of Canada, and musically aims to express the awe-inspiring beauty so evocative of these silent places. His performances paint a picture of the whole country by combining his own music with Canadian songs from past artists such as Stan Rogers and traditional songs from Ontario and the Maritimes.
The third recording artist is David Hadfield. Dave has a vast repertoire of music. His work as a singer-songwriter has celebrated and documented the passions in his life—people, wilderness, flying and sailing. He also happens to have a famous Canadian astronaut as a brother: Chris Hadfield. I don’t know Chris (except that he went to high school with my sister), but I know David. We’ve hung out at outdoor shows together for many years. He’s a nice guy, who absolutely loves being in the woods and on the water and is passionate about writing about his experiences out there.
Check out the three separate Happy Camper Whisky Chats for Jerry Vandiver, Adam Ruzzo and David Hadfield on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel: