A day at the Museum of Dufferin that won’t be forgotten.

May 30, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By JUDY LEA

This past Sunday, May 26, at the beautiful Museum of Dufferin (MoD) in Mulmur, my husband and I experienced a day we will never forget! It was twenty years in the making.

One of my career highlights as a senior graphic designer is the time I was hired by the Rotary Club of Alliston to design a poster for their concert event. In 2008, and again in 2009, they were able to bring one of Canada’s most iconic bands to the Alliston Potato Festival. 

I remember getting the call to design the poster promoting the Blue Rodeo concert. Blue Rodeo was THE band whose music was woven into the fabric of my life. Husband Rick and I would crank their music up on car trips, on vacation, and belt their tunes out any time and anywhere. If we were fortunate enough to see one of their shows, and it was general admission, we would arrive early so I could get a good spot in perfect view of where Jim Cuddy (one of the band’s lead singers) would stand on the stage. 

I loved watching Jim perform. Getting to design the poster for him, and the other amazing musicians who make up Blue Rodeo, was an honour, a dream come true and the most intimidating project I’ve ever tackled. 

At the 2009 concert in Alliston, I was fortunate to be given back stage passes for my husband and I to meet Blue Rodeo. We brought a copy of my poster and each of the band members graciously signed it for us. I still remember that feeling. It was incredible. 

Fast forward to present time where, if the conversation sways that way, I will share my dream of getting to design for Blue Rodeo again. Maybe they would need me to promote a show, a charity event, or an album cover? Just thinking about that possibility makes me smile. 

I am currently the Production Manager here at the Orangeville Citizen and an email came through announcing that Jim Cuddy was going to be doing a talk at the Museum of Dufferin (MoD). The show was sold out at this point. With the excitement of a little kid on Christmas morning, I asked my editor if he would be able to get media passes for our newspaper to cover the show, and if so, could I pleeeeeease be the one to go? I don’t have experience as a journalist, and my husband is by no means a photographer, but we would give this assignment our whole heart if granted the opportunity. Well, our awesome editor, Mike Baker, made it happen for us!

We arrived at the MoD (located at Highway 89 and Airport Rd.) extra early. We checked in and waited to find out if we would get a chance to actually speak with Jim Cuddy and interview him. While we waited, we spoke with a couple of the patrons who had also arrived early to get a good seat for this event.

Ulrika Rhynold recalled working with the band years ago and how Jim is a, “very personable and sweet person,” and how his music “touches her soul”. Carol Zarb summed up Jim’s music as being the “soundtrack of my life”, a sentiment that resonates with so many Canadian music fans. 

I will never forget seeing the elevator doors open and Nancy Malek, the Museum’s Events, Marketing & Promotions Coordinator, motioning us over with a friendly smile. My husband and I gulped as we headed up to the dressing room for another chance to meet one of our most favourite musicians. 

Jim was tuning his guitar when we walked into the room. With the warmest, genuine smile, he greeted us and I began the interview. I was surprised that talking with him came so easily. His down-to-earth nature made the interview go more smoothly than I could have even hoped for. 

Question: “You have received several prestigious awards [including 15 Juno Awards, the Order of Canada and along with bandmates Blue Rodeo, have been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, received the Governor General Performing Arts Awards and a Star on the Walk of Fame] for your contributions to Canadian music and charitable organizations. When you think back on these moments, how do you feel about the accolades you’ve received?”

“Well, they are amazing, and they’re so gratifying, and they are completely tangential to what you do. We have had so many fortunate things happen to us and we’ve worked hard and played a lot of concerts, so you get the Governor’s General award…it’s amazing. You get the Order of Canada…it’s amazing, and the people that you meet… And then the next day, you’re just playing again. So I think that they almost exist in two separate worlds.”

Question: “Your latest solo album, Countrywide Soul, is being released May 31st. You recorded it live at your farm on the top floor of your barn. That must’ve been incredible! Can you tell us about that experience?”

“Well, that was amazing. I sort of have a three-level barn because it’s built on a hill, so on the top level, which we’ve had to, you know, redo the barn so it’s all weather-tight up there. So I’ve played up there and have had lots of luck writing songs there. I’ve always thought it would be a great place to do a more acoustic recording. It was a live, off-the-floor recording. We did it in three days. Everybody had to play. What they played on the record, they had to play on the song. And I play with a bunch of really fine musicians. So they were up to the task. And it’s very nice to share the farm because it’s beautiful up there.”

We wrapped up our interview, after grabbing a quick photo with him, and headed down to the gallery floor where he would be speaking. By this time, the crowd had gathered and there was an excitement in the air. When Nancy Malek introduced him, the audience gave him a huge, warm reception. For the next hour, Jim answered questions from Nancy about his career, his songs, and his experiences. He even had his guitar with him and sang a few songs between the road stories. He didn’t have a mic on when he sang and no audio equipment to enhance his performance. It was incredible. He sounded SO good, just him and his guitar…a true musician. 

He finished with a George Jones’ cover tune that will be released on the upcoming Countrywide Soul album. His version of, “Almost Persuaded” was beautiful and I shakily recorded it on my iPhone. It’s a video I will always treasure. 

As Rick and I drove home that day, we couldn’t stop smiling. Had this awesome day actually happened? Did we really just interview Jim Cuddy and enjoy his company for an afternoon? We’re still processing everything. Thankfully I will always have my shaky video recording, a treasured photo with Jim, and this, my first (and likely only) published article.

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