By: James Sandham
Greg Keelor still isn’t quite ready to acknowledge Blue Rodeo as much more than something he likes doing “very very much.” He’ll concede that “it’s a passion” – but, despite their recent induction to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, “we’re not exactly a legacy band,” he says of the multiple Juno Award–winning, decade-spanning alt-country outfit.
To hear Keelor tell it – after 12 albums, combined record sales in excess of four million copies and various solo projects – Blue Rodeo is just something he stumbled into. He can’t recall, off the top of his head, any memorable moments in their 20-plus years together; the hall of fame induction was merely a pleasant “tickle” in the course of a very long ride; and when it comes to giving advice to emerging artists, after all his experience he’s “not really an advice kind of guy.”
“I’m sorry,” Keelor says. “I’m really not good at these things, interviews.”
But perhaps that’s because, to him, what we’re discussing is a life – not a career – and when people speak about their lives they’re unaccustomed to conceiving of them in abstraction, as neat bundles of accomplishments that can be viewed from various angles, examined and summarized. And while the components of this life add up to one of the most successful and well-known contemporary Canadian bands, Keelor doesn’t talk about the sum. In fact, he seems almost unaware of it.
What he talks about instead are the ongoing and unique experiences that continue to comprise his life, beginning back in high school when he first met Jim Cuddy. They would go on to form Blue Rodeo in 1984, the year they returned from living in New York City.
“When we got back to Toronto, there was a scene here, a community,” that didn’t previously exist, says Keelor. It was this community, based around Toronto’s legendary Cameron House, that bred and fed their inspiration, as it continues to do for the new generation of artists Blue Rodeo has helped foster.
Keelor and Cuddy, along with original band mates Bazil Donovan, Cleave Anderson and Bob Wiseman, would go on to release their first album, Outskirts (Risque Disque/WEA) in 1987. Over the following 22 years, with the help of Mark French, Glenn Milchem, James Gray, Bob Packwood, Kim Deschamps and Bob Egan, they would release 11 more. They hope to add another by the spring of 2012.
“We always dreamed of making a living at this,” Keelor says, “but we never really thought it would happen.”
In the end, of course, it did. But life’s like that. As John Lennon said, it’s what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans
Video: "Try" by Blue Rodeo