Troubadour on tour

John Wort Hannam closes off Cranbrook Live Concert Series Wednesday at Stage Door

“I honestly believe that songwriting is one of those things that if you want to be a songwriter you have to sit down and pull out a piece of paper and pencil and just do it

“I honestly believe that songwriting is one of those things that if you want to be a songwriter you have to sit down and pull out a piece of paper and pencil and just do it

Barry Coulter

A noted Canadian folk musician and songwriter is coming to Cranbrook to close out this season’s Cranbrook Live Concert Series,

John Wort Hannam is playing the The Stage Door Thursday, March 10. Joining him onstage will be Bob Hamilton, a well-known multi-instrumentalist from the Yukon.

“I bring one guy and he just happens to play dobro, lap steel, pedal steel, mandolin …,” Hannam said from his home in Fort Macleod, Alberta, in an interview with the Townsman.

“I tour sometimes with as much as a four-piece band, but a duo can make a pretty full sound, with a couple of voices, and a couple of instruments.”

Hannam is a true troubadour, in the Canadian style, known across the country for his story telling through music. Themes which are central to his music include life in Western Canada, and the human experience as seen through the eyes of simple working folk.

Since he switched careers from full-time schoolteacher to full-time musician and songwriter in the 1990s, he has gone on to release five albums and capture a Juno nomination for Best Tradition/Roots album and a Canadian Folk Music Award for Album of the Year.

Hannam released his latest album, “Love Lives On,” in October last year, and is touring material from it this spring.

“We did a full Alberta tour, and we went into Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, but we didn’t come west, so now we’re making up for that.

“I grew up by the ocean, and now I live on the prairies, so every chance I get to go to the ocean I’m pretty excited.”

Hannam was born on the island of Jersey, just off the coast of France, and lived there until he was eight. “So I think I’ve have a little of the ocean in my blood.”

Hannam took a moment to discuss the craft of songwriting, and how he approaches it.

“There is the sort of notion that songwriting is a mystical, metaphysical activity that we involve ourselves in, but I don’t buy it,” he said. “I think there’s an aspect of the way you view the world that you can develop as a songwriter. But there’s a reason they call it the craft of songwriting. Just like turning wood, or painting, you can develop those skills.

“I honestly believe that songwriting is one of those things that if you want to be a songwriter you have to sit down and pull out a piece of paper and pencil and just do it, again and again and again.”

When it comes to songwriting Hannam finds inspiration, taking his themes from his observations of the world or from his personal experience, and starting with the musicality of the spoken word.

“For me, it’s usually phrases that come first (when crafting a song). Within that phrase are words with an inherent meter and tempo. I hear that that in my head, and it lends itself to the melody.”

Hannam said a significant life change has led to a different approach in his songwriting, apparent on “Love Lives On.” That was the birth of his child.

“The last record, the one I’m touring in B.C., is a lot more of a personal record — I’ve opened up a little more about my personal life. I never wrote about it much before, and if I did it was always hidden, in me writing in third person or me creating a character, and there were glimpses of my narratives, or my truth.”

Hannam said the birth of his child  caused considerable reflection on his life as a working musician.

“I was looking for some kind of balance that I’d never had to find before — the balance between being a dad and being at home and also trying to be a musician. It was kind of like a late coming of age.”

But Hannam is driven, as he says, to continue the road life, the performances in the venues across Canada like the Studio Stage Door.

“The kind of music I write and play, I’m never going to have that AM hit. The way that I try to build an audience is by going out on the road and building it little by little at a time.

“When I step away and look at it, it’s making a small amount of money at a period in your life and being gone away from your family — I feel driven to do it, for the passion of it.”

John Wort Hannam plays Thursday, March 10, at The Stage Door. Doors open at 7 pm., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $25 at The Paw Shop, Lotus Books, or mike.robinson@lotic.co

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