Last summer Murray McLauchlan was in Ottawa to receive the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, but the singer-songwriter says he still has much to achieve.
In his speech to those gathered at Rideau Hall, McLauchlan said, “The joy is not in the destination, the joy is in the journey and in the evolution and in the growth that occurs.”
That journey began in the late ’60s, when as a visual arts student in Toronto, McLauchlan turned his focus to music after being inspired by the folk music boom coming out of New York City. He said he had no idea where his journey would take him.
“When you’re 19 or 20 years old, I don’t think you can even see 30. You’re just kind of living day-to-day,” McLauchlan said. “And of course the very simple task of trying to get things done and establish yourself over what seems like insurmountable obstacles is highly preoccupying at the time.”
Back then McLauchlan just wanted to make a record, and after having some success in New York as a songwriter he returned to Toronto to become one of the first artists signed to a nascent True North Records.
He went on to record nearly 20 albums with True North from 1971 to 2017, and along the way collected 11 Juno Awards and membership in the Order of Canada and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. But the journey continues.
“Shoot me if I’m crazy, but it remains in my feelings that the best work I have to do and the best days that I have are still in front of me,” McLauchlan said.
This June, McLauchlan’s journey brings him to Vancouver Island, where he’ll be drawing from his nearly half-century-spanning catalogue. He said putting together a set list can be a challenge.
“It’s not easy because if I were to play all of the stuff that I could play, I think folks’ll be sitting in their chairs for about two and a half weeks,” he said.
McLauchlan said he’s lucky to have “a fairly indulgent” fanbase that appreciate his ’70s radio hits as well as his contemporary songs. He said he’ll be playing a lot from his most recent albums, 2011’s Human Writes and 2017’s Love Can’t Tell Time, for which he learned a new style of swing jazz guitar. He noted that his songwriting has changed over time as well.
“You’re obviously not going to write the same kind of songs when you’re 19 that you do when you’re 70,” he said. “You’ve been around the block a little bit more and certainly there is a greater empathy and sympathy and understanding of life’s vagary.”
Despite being celebrated for his past body of work, McLauchlan said he has future artistic endeavours on his mind, like returning to his other creative outlet: painting.
“I would very much like to do another full-bore painting trip where I get in some lumpy, big vehicle and just drive across the country and paint it,” McLauchlan said. “The last time I did that there were a bunch of really nice works that came out of it and I’d like to do more of that because I find it a very centring experience.”
WHAT’S ON … Murray McLauchlan plays Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre on June 7 at 7:30 p.m., tickets $44.75; Duncan’s Cowichan Theatre on June 9 at 7:30 p.m., tickets $49.50; Courtenay’s Sid Williams Theatre on June 10 at 7:30 p.m., tickets $49.50; Nanaimo’s Port Theatre on June 12 at 7:30 p.m., tickets $47.50; and Victoria’s McPherson Playhouse on June 13 at 7:30 p.m., tickets $52.50.