Normally when you think about Canadian roots musician Jim Cuddy you envision him onstage with the legendary Blue Rodeo, standing alongside cosongwriter-guitarist Greg Keelor while the band blasts out killer tunes like "Diamond Mine" or "Til I Am Myself Again". Or you might picture him doing a solo concert, performing a heartfelt number from one of his five solo albums.
"It is absolutely," says Cuddy on the phone from his home in "steamy" Toronto. "You know l love collaboration in general, to just step out of your own career path and just play music. And I'm so admiring of my sons, that they have developed their own careers, their own original music, and that they've become good professionals. They understand that when they get on a stage they have to perform well, and it takes some discipline."
Cuddy says that the music his kids play could be described as roots, but that guitar player Sam makes is a bit more quirky and poppy, while pianist Devin has more of a blues base and "a lot of Randy Newman in him." Both offspring gravitated towards music at an early age, but not, according to Cuddy, in a predictable way.
"The first people that Devin liked were Louis Armstrong and Jellyroll Morton," he says, "it was stuff I didn't know a whole bunch about. So he really tried to move as far away from me as he could. He went to jazz school at York for four years, and then sorta came around to roots.
"Sam's a little bit more like me—played guitar and wrote songs and covered the Skydiggers and things like that. So a little bit more closely inclined to my path. But they both did it entirely on their own. You know, their mother and I, we didn't even know they wrote songs until we saw them on stage. They were living in the same house, but somehow they kept it from us."
Though he's been keeping himself busy during the pandemic, performing a lot of online gigs and working on Blue Rodeo and solo albums—both of which he expects to be out early next year—Cuddy always keeps his ears open to other artists. When asked what he's been listening to in his spare time, he doesn't hesitate.
"What I really like is Rose Cousins' new record," he replies. "She won a Juno for that too, which is great. I was listening to the Teskey Brothers, kind of a soul band I heard about that's really good. And you ever hear of Jimmy LaFave? He'd be just about my age, but he died at 61, and he just does this most amazing cover of 'Walk Away Renée'. I was listening to some new Jackson Browne and then all of sudden that stopped and he came on and I was like, 'Whoa, who is this guy?' He slows that song down and does a soulful version of it, and it's heartbreaking."
Speaking of touching tunes, Cuddy recently released a video for an uplifting ballad called "Good News" that will be included on his solo record.
"I was very moved by all the kindness and consideration that people were showing each other [during the pandemic]," he explains. "It's not normal when we're all shut down and people are all of a sudden inquiring about how everybody is and trying to do things for people that maybe are shut-in or scared. Then all the Black Lives Matter protests. I just thought it was really inspiring to see people go out of their way for others."
"Good News" may make the set list when Cuddy and his sons play the online Mission Folk Music Festival on a "Fathers and Sons" bill with Barney Bentall and his son Dustin Bentall. Expect to hear some original compositions from his boys as well.
"I encourage them to do originals," says Cuddy, "so they'll probably do an original each and then a cover each, and I'll do a couple of originals, and then we'll do something together. Barney and Dustin and Devin and Sam and myself, we've done a lot of playing in bars, so we have quite a repertoire. I guess we can't play together because the Zoom doesn't allow you to play in time with somebody else, but we've got lots of encores and inspirational tunes. It's great stuff."
Cuddy officially became a senior in December, but turning 65 hasn't caused him to look back on his career and ponder how things could have been.
"Oh, I don't think I'd change anything," he says. "You know, so much of a music career is just what leads you along. I was doing TV commercials and stuff and it was good money and I could have a family and we could play, then one thing led to another and the music business just took me along. And it's not like there wasn't planning and a lot of hard work, but you just respond to opportunities. So I don't think I could look back and say, 'I wish we'd done this, I wish we'd done that.' I think we've been very fortunate, obviously, and it's not a thing that I look back on without gratitude."
Jim Cuddy, Devin Cuddy, and Sam Polley perform at the online Mission Folk Music Festival, as part of the Fathers and Sons concert, which also includes Barney Bentall and Dustin Bentall. The virtual festival runs from July 23 to 25.More