The time has come to hit the road! Our second national tour! Normally at this point, before heading out, we would have been filling the iPod with podcasts of “The Vinyl Cafe”. But this year, it might not make the playlist. Hearing Stuart McLean may not bring joy and optimism but rather a sadness – a reminder of his passing earlier this year. His voice became the soundtrack to Farmer The Band’s first tour across Canada.
We cherished his welcoming address to the live audiences, describing the subtleties and nuances of their own backyards. That brought an excitement to us, looking at our tour schedule, knowing that we will be visiting some of those same places. Once we got there, it also brought a sense of accomplishment and connection after witnessing and experiencing the exact same things Stuart so vividly painted in our minds.
He read letters from his devoted fans during The Vinyl Cafe’s “Story Exchange” like they were his own. He read them so well that we felt the heartache and struggles as if they were our own. But we also shared the joy and the hope that Stuart pulled out of every story.
Then, of course, the adventures of Dave and Morley would start. What predicament will Dave get himself into this week? Will we be laughing aloud like when Dave gets trapped in a storm drain, or will we be sitting in quiet empathy as Morley watches her daughter leave for college? In those moments that are so normal and everyday, or so absurd yet so close to home, we realize we all have a bit of Dave and Morley – or Sam, Stephanie, even Mary Turlington! – in us. Not that any one of us has ever cooked an industrial grade Christmas turkey in a hotel, but we all have stories that – if told by Stuart McLean – would be more than normal and worthy of The Vinyl Cafe.
But it wasn’t just the stories that made his show so good. There was good music – sorry, GREAT music. So many amazing musicians were able to be heard coast to coast on CBC Radio every week – Kathleen Edwards, Whitehorse, Joel Plaskett, Bahamas, Said The Whale, The Weakerthans, and one his favourite (and ours) Danny Michel, and many, many others. He didn’t just bring on established artists. He also found up and coming musicians and introduced them to new ears either on stage or during studio recorded episodes dedicated solely to music. We wanted to be one of those up and coming. Maybe that’s really why our podcast playlist might not include Stuart McLean.
So where do we go from here? Yes, it was a dream of ours to be the musical guest on The Vinyl Cafe. No, we will never grace the same stage with Mr. Mclean. But when it comes down to it, every time Stuart introduced the musical guest and the music started to play, it gave us inspiration to write and perform our songs, to follow our dream of being musicians, to go out on tour. The sincerity in his voice and his openness gave us inspiration to share ourselves, our ups and downs, our normal and our absurd. He gave us inspiration to share… our stories. So, this tour, maybe our final destination of The Vinyl Cafe has changed, but our soundtrack doesn’t need to. Looking forward to being back on the road with you, Stuart.
We are Farmer The Band. And if we may borrow your words sir: “We may not be big, but we’re small.”