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Photo by J. Michel Carriere (Apt613 Flickr Pool)

An interview with “Singer Songer” Jim Bryson

By Jenn Jefferys on April 21, 2017

Though there’s no shortage of hunger for good sound in Ottawa, there are also a whole lot of dudes with guitars and big dreams who don’t seem to go anywhere (at least the ones I’ve dated).

But if there’s one guy who can really drive a crowd together, and who really seems to have done the impossible, making a name doing exactly what he loves, it’s Jim Bryson.

Whether you’re a grad student in your twenties or a lapsed hippie in your sixties, you’ve probably crossed paths with this sweet beer-drinking dad. Jim’s indie rock sound is equally poetic and nostalgic.

The self-professed “Singer Songer” started off touring small towns with his friends in the 90’s (his band back then was called Punchbuggy). Today he’s got 5 critically acclaimed solo recordings under his belt, has managed to tour clear across Europe and the States, and has shared the stage with big acts like The Tragically Hip and Kathleen Edwards.

Jim (being the super nice guy that he is) was kind enough to answer a few questions for us before his highly-anticipated jazz gig with Petr Cancura at the newly-renovated National Arts Centre on Friday night.
Apt613: Jim, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. There’s so much buzz about this show. Not just because of the evolving venue, but since we haven’t seen you perform since your famous annual holiday gig at The Black Sheep Inn back in December. Tell me what we can expect from you on Friday night?

Jim Bryson: I would say expect the unexpected with a healthy dose of familiar. It’s all very fresh and new to us doing it, which is both exciting and a tad worrying, ha.

Your sound is generally fairly chill, folksy, indie. What motivated you to swap genres? Have you ever dabbled in jazz before?

I studied jazz music when I was younger, but studying music is an odd thing versus experiencing it. I have a very high level of appreciation for jazz music.

This combination will be less jazz than really just something contemporary. I don’t really know how to prepare for it as it is kind of unknown still until we rehearse tonight.

“What may set me apart is just being who I am and creating a body of work that for those who will know it, help them to identify me.”

How did you and Petr Cancura connect? What inspired you to collaborate?

Petr and I have talked a bit over the years about collaborating and he created this series (it’s in its second season now) so it is really his baby he is carrying, I am just along for the ride as a part of something he created. 

Tell me what it’s like being a dad to two daughters, as a creative professional. What do they think of their dad being a musician?

It changes how you do music at least for me. I probably tour less to be honest but make sure what I do counts, as being away affects everyone in the family when I am far off and frolicking in the fields.

My kids think aspects of it are def ok, they like coming to shows and seeing how it all works and they def like free stuff at shows. ha.

I understand you live out in the country in Stittsville. You might say that’s a pretty stereotypical Canadian existence. What would you say defines you as a Canadian musician? Sets you apart?

I don’t really actually think of myself really in term of where I live, but I know it’s all over what I do. I think the biggest thing is that the music or art or whatever it is I make is affected by the life I live as I tend to reflect on my existence in what I do create. So I guess geography defines me.

Regarding being Canadian, I don’t really think much about it, I’m not particularly nationalistic and def don’t view things like Canada 150 with any regard.

What may set me apart is just being who I am and creating a body of work that for those who will know it, help them to identify me.

Also of note, I actually live in my family old home, so memories and life as it were are sort of surrounding me, so the more new memories created are the more to battle the old.

I’d like to get personal for a minute if we can. I know you’ve spoken a bit about your battle with anxiety and depression. How has that shaped your art and your view on the world? Do you feel any responsibility as a public figure, as a Dad, to talk about it publically? To break down stigma?

I don’t feel responsible as much as I do want to be part of the dialogue and for there to be a dialogue. It’s something that has been a part of my life since my late teens and I have spent a lot of time with it in private and maybe even with shame, so the more I see it in the public conversation, the better off we all do.

We are sort of the first generation that is openly discussing it and I know my parents both mentioned unhappiness being forces in their own lives, but it just wasn’t talked about. So where we are now is def in the right direction.

Now if things like therapy could be covered as the medical conditions they are, that would be a great next step as so many people who can’t afford to access it would def benefit from that.

Warmer weather is coming soon (let’s hope). What can we look forward to from you in the coming months?

I am in the studio working on projects for people but I hope to get a bunch of songs recorded before fall. I think I basically need someone to knock on my door and say “Jim, let’s get this going”.

Like wise I’m going to do some festivals and some other shows and spend a lot of time in the hammock I have here.


Jim Bryson and Petr Cancura’s Crossroads Band perform at the NAC Studio (1 Elgin St) on Friday April 21. Tickets cost $39 and are available online at www.nac-cna.ca, by phone, or in person at the NAC Box Office.