MEET THE BAND: Fred Eaglesmith (vocals, guitar)
INSPIRED BY ELVIS: Often compared to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Joe El, Steve Earle, John Prine, Robert Earl Keen and Bob Dylan, veteran singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith grew up on a farm in southern Ontario. He started writing songs and playing guitar when he was a teenager. "I saw Elvis on television, and that was it," he says. "I just decided that was what I was going to do." At the time he recorded his 1980 debut album, he worked as a high-pressure washer. He'd work all day and then record his album at night. Daniel Lanois, an up-and-coming studio engineer who'd go on to work with U2, tracked the disc. "We made that whole record in seven or eight days," says Eaglesmith as he recalls how he often hitchhiked to the studio because his truck would break down on the way there.
CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: Back in the '90s when Eaglesmith first came to the States, he would joke that he had saved seats for his fanatical Fredheads who followed him from Canada but often couldn't get across the border. "The joke was that in all these years of following me, they never showed up," he says. "A big magazine interviewed me one time. I told him this story about the Fredheads and that they had Airstreams. All of a sudden after that article came out, these people started calling themselves Fredheads. At one club, a guy pulled up to a show in an Airstream and said he was a Fredhead. It got kinda creepy and weird."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HIM: Now 60, Eaglesmith says he intended to make an album that reflected his age. "I wanted to make a record that sounded like I was 60 years old," he says of his latest release, Standard. "My friends make records that sound like a hair transplant. I don't want to do that. Rock 'n' roll is a young person's game, though it's an old person's game now because young people don't want to participate. I listened to the vinyl version of Standard the other day and realized I did what I wanted to do." Songs such as the bluesy "Flames" and the brittle ballad "Jenny Smith" come off as evocative, narrative-based tunes that show off Eaglesmith's remarkable lyrical abilities. "It was a troubled record and a hard one to make," he says. "My wife came down into the basement one day and hip-checked me into the corner and told me she wanted to work on it. Unbeknownst to us, she had these natural abilities for doing this. It immediately came together."
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR HIM: fredeaglesmith.com.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: Fred Eaglesmith performs with Tif Ginn at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 5, at the Beachland Tavern.