Murray McLauchlan survives music's revolutions

MUSIC

What: An Evening With Murray McLauchlan
Where: McPherson Playhouse
When: June 13, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $52.50 from rmts.bc.ca and the Royal McPherson box office 250-386-6121

Singer-songwriter Murray McLauchlan did his best to buck the establishment during the folk boom of the late 1960s. But as his reputation as a writer grew, he saw the benefits of embracing parts of the mainstream music industry.

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Though becoming part of the system would be considered anathema by many of the young stars of today, who have been groomed to obsessively caretake their individual brands, the 70-year-old Torontonian believes the time he put into personal relationships in the industry was a key to his career early on.

“Young people today who are in the same position I was in 1969 are having to be their own marketing people and design their own websites,” he said this week from a tour stop in Nanaimo.

“They essentially have to be their own promotion staff. And that means there’s a lot less time concentrating on your music.

“When I was with Columbia Records and True North Records early on, my manager owned [True North] and all the people at Columbia, including the president, were friends. They were supporters. All the promo guys, we went fishing together. It was a very different world.”

McLauchlan, who was born in Scotland and moved to Canada when he was five, lived in Greenwich Village in 1969 and worked with Albert Grossman, who was Bob Dylan’s manager at the time. But by the early 1970s, McLauchlan had returned to Canada, where he soon became one of the country’s most respected songwriters, with songs such as Whispering Rain, Down By the Henry Moore, Farmer’s Song and On the Boulevard.

By the mid-’70s, McLauchlan, who had a background as a painter, was exploring an early version of southern-fried country rock, distancing himself from more folk-oriented peers such as Gordon Lightfoot. McLauchlan said he knew almost immediately that chasing trends would not be wise.

“I have seen a lot of revolutions in pop music. What was extant when I was coming up was the era of the singer-songwriter. We were eclipsed as a form of pop music by the British Invasion, and then punk, and that, in turn, was eclipsed by urban and grunge music later on. The tendency in the music business is for whatever’s popular to eat everything else and eclipse all other forms of music.”

When he tours Canada, McLauchlan breaks the country into segments, with weeks in between groups of dates. He balances solo shows with performances by Lunch at Allen’s, his super-group with Cindy Church, Marc Jordan and Ian Thomas.

McLauchlan usually leaves his home in metro Toronto for his cottage in Stony Lake, Ont., during the summer, but he’s interrupting that solitude for a tour that has been on Vancouver Island since Monday, with a stop tonight at Victoria’s McPherson Playhouse.

“This country has been awfully good to me, and I feel some sense of wanting to pay that forward,” he said. “I know it sounds kind of sucky, but I really believe that.”

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Award winner recently appeared at the Voices That Care Concert in Toronto, in support of the music-therapy charity he has been associated with as a board member for 10 years.

He was also on the board of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada for 17 years, and served as vice-president of the society’s charitable foundation. McLauchlan has made a point of giving back to the industry that has given him so much.

“Lightfoot once said: ‘The motion is the potion, man.’ He was talking about going to the gym, but it fits. As long as I can play well, as long as I can do what I do, and the bits are working OK, I don’t see any reason to stop,” McLauchlan said.

“I don’t plan on not doing it anymore. I love playing music.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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