Grain farmer by day, troubadour by night
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
Thunder Bay will be hosting another world renowned folk singer this upcoming April 18th, 2018. Joe Vickers will be performing at Algoma House as he finishes the Canadian-leg of his tour. The acoustic folk singer released his latest album entitled “Notes for the Wood Burning Stove” on March 3rd and has just completed his European tour.
Like most aspiring musicians, but unlike those who are as established as Joe, the troubadour lifestyle is a part-time gig for him. In the winter months, he can be seen performing, recording, and writing across the globe – but come the spring and summer seasons, Vickers can be found working on his grain farm in Alberta. The fourth-generation-farmer has come to see his split life as a blessing, and told The Argus, “I find that I live in opposition, where when I’m back at the farm, I’m not very social and I’m out in the country and with nature – but then when I’m touring, which is mostly in the winter time, I’m in big cities and in the company of lots of people at a time. So, whenever I get burnt out of one of the it’s about time to transition to the other lifestyle – but it somehow keeps me in balance which I’m thankful for.”
Vickers says that his ability to be outside and in nature has often allowed him to express creativity in his writing, “I’ve always found space to be creative when I’m alone and that’s afforded with my life on the farm.” He admits that he hasn’t always viewed his juxtaposed life in such a positive light. As a child, Vickers resented being on the farm, but he says, “when I became an adult I realized the privilege that can come with being able to work seasonally because… that gives me the winter time to focus on this part of my life which is sharing my music.”
Although he advertises himself as a folk artist now, Vickers’ musical beginnings were routed in punk-rock. He explains: “I started writing acoustic songs when I was 18, and they had more of a punk-rock approach to them – very fast and usually had a social or political approach to the lyricisms – and it sort of evolved from punk-rock to more country/folk in more contemporary times.” Although he’s transitioned to more folky sound, Vickers says that the storytelling and the discussion of socio-political aspects of his music have very much remained at the center of his work. He notes, “I think the songs that I’ve always been moved by as a listener are the ones that challenge my way of thinking. And I think that that is a sign of good art – it’s stuff that makes you stop for a moment and think, or be critical, or allows you an opportunity to get in the head space of the character of the song and allow you to maybe feel for that voice and to be more compassionate and empathetic. I would say that that is the sign of a good song, it’s allowing people to be moved by music and help change their world view.”
Vickers describes his latest album, “Notes for the Wood Burning Stove,” as “a stripped down acoustic record.” He explains that musically there is nothing that has been re-invented, however there is a strong emphasis on storytelling. He adds, “the album includes a number of different perspectives that are beyond my own experiences, but a lot of different voices in the record are of people I know or experiences from people I know or even minor experiences of my own.” The inspiration of this record is taken from living his life in his small hometown in Alberta. He explains, “It’s an album that plays off of living in a rural landscape – but really the whole idea about the record is just sort of being reflective. I know for me, being a white male, I’m a person of privilege, and [when] living in a small town it’s easy to lose scope of that and I think it’s important to live a more compassionate an empathic life and recognize that my life and the privilege that I’ve been given is not equal to everyone.” He explains that all of the songs that comprise his album intertwine and apply to one another, and that he hopes to create a record that invokes reflection from his listeners and allows them to challenge some of their world perceptions.
Vickers’ Thunder Bay show will be taking place at Algoma House, a venue owned by Chad Kirvan, a TBay resident who felt our community was lacking a more intimate and welcoming space for people to gather and listen to music. Kirvan described the space as “an AirBnB for bands” in an interview with CBC last month. Vickers says of community atmospheres, “I’ve been playing a number of house shows on this tour and they’re very intimate performances. They’re very conversational and they’re very special experiences because you come into somebody’s home and it’s just a very comfortable setting and it allows you to really connect with everybody in the room.”
Joe Vickers will be performing at Algoma House on April 18th. You can find his music on Spotify, Apply Music, Google Play, and Bandcamp and his merchandise is also available for purchase from the Bandcamp store.