Vancouver Folk Maverick Returns to Cranbrook

Rodney DeCroo on tour for ‘Campfires on the Moon’ CD

Rodney DeCroo plays the Studio Stage Door Friday

Rodney DeCroo plays the Studio Stage Door Friday

Ferdy Belland

“I’ve never really struggled to write songs,” says Vancouver singer-songwriter Rodney DeCroo. “It’s not that hard to write a song. I struggle to write good songs. That’s where it gets tough. But the songwriting gods have been pretty good to me. I have a handful of songs I’m very proud of, and I’ve got a few new ones I haven’t recorded yet that I’m really excited about. That’s always a good feeling.”

The good feeling continues this coming Friday. April 24. at the Studio Stage Door Theatre in downtown Cranbrook as the Fisher Peak Performing Artists Society (FPPAS) presents Rodney DeCroo live in concert, with guests Mark Haney and ‘Great Aunt Ida’ Nilsen.

Rodney DeCroo follows the beat of his own drum. Closing in now on the dangerous side of 50, he was born the son of a PTSD-damaged Vietnam veteran who deserted from the US Marine Corps and dragged his family through various small towns in the remote BC interior (DeCroo’s father briefly managed the Tudor House Hotel in Cranbrook at the turn of the 1980s, with the young Rodney in tow). Weathering a harsh childhood traumatized by verbal and physical abuse, DeCroo discovered releases in both the guitar and the bottle by the time he entered his teens…emotional pain that courses through much of his recorded output (seven critically-acclaimed albums to his credit).

Emotional pain has never been anything DeCroo cultivated as a insincere act. Previously notorious for his touchy temper as much as his fiery performances, DeCroo was considered  to be a unique cross between Roky Erikson and Steve Earle; a talented songwriting eccentric who ran hot and cold, building a loyal, spellbound audience almost despite himself. However, DeCroo has conquered his demons, for the most part. Clean and sober now for many years, he finds focus and discipline with his jujitsu studies as much as through his artistic muse (DeCroo is also highly respected as a poet and a playwright). And his music resounds even stronger for it.

“I hunger to play shows for audiences,” DeCroo admits. “I don’t know how much anybody hungers for the road for its own sake, at my age. It’s bloody hard, but it’s necessary if you want to play – and I want to play. I need to play. The longer I do it, the more experienced I become at it, and the better I’m able to connect with my audiences. And when more people come to the shows who know what I do and come for it, then the shows get better and better as an experience.  Tours are not adventures. They’re more like odysseys. I come back changed as a person every time.”

Even though he’s touring Canada for Campfires on the Moon, he’s already well into his next few projects.”I’m working on a new album called The Devil’s Brother. It’s a collection of Appalachian songs that I’ve entirely re-imagined. I’ve kept the lyrics for each song, but musically, I’ve changed them completely. My goal’s to focus on the stories and the characters in the songs; they’re overlooked when they’re played now: the emphasis is just on pickin’ and grinnin,’ and the words get lost.”

And his advice to other songwriters? “Keep writing, keep playing, keep doing it. There isn’t a ‘way.’ You have to find your way, and you can only do that by keeping on.”

The Fisher Peak Performing Artists Society presents  Rodney DeCroo live (with guests Mark Haney and ‘Great Aunt Ida’ Nilsen) at the Studio Stage Door Theatre (11-11th Ave S.,  Cranbrook), Friday April 24, 7:30 pm. Admission: $20 advance/$25door ($15 advance, $20 door for FPPAS members. Advance tickets available at Lotus Books and the CDAC office.