We chatted with Jim Cuddy about his latest album Skyscraper Soul. He talks about his work with Blue Rodeo, his inspirations and thoughts on country vs. city living.
iVillage: This is your third solo album. How did your writing process differ from your work with Blue Rodeo and your other solo albums?
Jim Cuddy: The writing process differs because I am only writing for myself, not an ensemble. When I write for Blue Rodeo I write with the band’s character in mind. But when I write for myself, I write whatever comes.
iV: The first track (and title of your album) Skyscraper Soul is about the city. Your lyrics seem to speak to how hard it is to live in the city at times, but still remains an ode to the city. What is it about the city that inspired the song?
JC: I have always found inspiration in cities and mostly that has to do with the energy and connecting with people and the beauty that lies in the cracks in the pavement. I have always liked the cityscape but probably most importantly are the creative communities I have been involved in in the cities.
iV: Do you prefer one over the other in terms of city and country living?
JC: No, I don’t have a preference. Both have been essential to me. I have found an amazing inspiration in the beautiful places I’ve been. The mountains, the prairies. Equally I’ve been able to do my work in the cities connecting with all the other musicians and the activities that they do that inspire me. I couldn’t do without one or the other.
iV: The first single on the album is Everyone Watched The Wedding. You’ve mentioned that it’s about the royal wedding, what was it about the wedding that inspired you?
JC: What inspired me was reading that 2 billion people were going to watch it. The more closely I looked at it, I realized it was one thing that universally provided relief for people from their own lives. It was a beautiful fairy-tale come to life.
iV: Is there a story behind creating the song Still Want You? I can’t help but think that the song will be a favourite.
JC: I think everybody knows what it’s like to love somebody who is troubled. And that is just my ode to loving somebody who know is going to cause you trouble endlessly.
iV: The album has strong family and relationship themes. How do you balance your family as well as creating and supporting solo work and Blue Rodeo?
JC: It’s been very difficult and I probably haven’t done it as well as I could, but I just try to honour each thing in their time. I had to work a lot when my family was young so I had to miss a lot, but as my family got older I was able to spend a lot more time with them and that’s been a benefit.
iV: Many musicians have quoted you as a person who’s influenced them to pursue music. Who has inspired you?
JC: I’m inspired by the good guys. By Neil Young, by Steve Earle, by Kris Kristofferson, by artists that have maintained very high standards of musicianship while also being dignified and gracious people in the world.
iV: Are there two or three other songs on the album that you look forward to playing live?
JC: Regular Days is fun. I love the horn line. Banks of the 49 is surprisingly fun. I thought being a ballad it wouldn’t be as much fun, but it sounds very beautiful to me when we’re singing and playing it and I love the story.
iV: You have toured with the musicians playing with you on this record. What was it like being in the studio with them?
JC: This record, more than any of my other solo records, is at least half about the contributions of the musicians on the record. I was fairly absorbed by writing the songs and getting the lyrics right. All the while, all these musicians around me were contributing these beautiful parts that in all cases helped me to finish the songs. I am deeply grateful for their talents.
iV: Will we be able to see you play these songs live soon? Any chance you’ll be wearing the handsome suit on your album cover?
JC: Yes, you will be. I’ll be coming around in November, December, January and February. I probably won’t wear the suit, but I’m going to uptown my image a little bit and give my cowboy shirts a little time to rest on the rack.
iV: What does your perfect weekend playlist consist of?
JC: I would probably listen to only albums. I would listen to:
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago
Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
Anything by Elliot Smith and while I was cooking I’d throw on The Weepies.
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