The Newfoundland Music Magnet
As a Newfoundland performer, I get to travel and play music for people all over the world. And it's safe to say that no matter where I end up, I'm guaranteed at least one fan - a fellow Newfoundlander.
I call it the "Newfoundland music magnet" because as soon as I get off "the Rock" to play, they start to come out of the woodwork. From the woods of Mabou, Cape Breton, to the pubs of Toronto, Boston and New York, and as far away as the shores of Cork, Ireland, transplanted Newfoundlanders have found their way to my gigs to show their support and hear my music.
Colleen signs an autograph for a fan in Toronto
I'm a very proud Newfoundlander and it comes out in my songs. As soon as I step on stage, no matter where I am, I begin by telling stories and relaying news from the Rock. It makes a lot of Newfoundlanders homesick to hear the stories and songs, but I believe that at the same time I make them feel at home for a while.
At a recent show in Rothesay, New Brunswick, there was one woman at the bar who told me she was from Newfoundland. She said she'd been living and working in New Brunswick for 13 years. About halfway through the show, I played a French song called "Vol de Terre-Neuve," which is about travelling and missing my daughter, Robyn, who was back in Newfoundland while I was touring. The lady was so overcome with tears that she had to leave the bar for a while. When she returned a short time later, she bought a CD and said she would certainly be back the next time I returned to Rothesay. I felt especially touched by her because she missed her home and family so much. I wished I had enough money to buy her a plane ticket home, even if it were just for that weekend.
Last November I played a show with another Newfoundland songstress, Rhiannon, at the Degrassi House in Toronto. The place was packed with Newfoundlanders and I really appreciated it. I felt just like Harry Hibbs at the Caribou Club. It had that sort of vibe. People were yelling out for my songs, including "Newfoundland Weather" and "Face and Eyes In Love," and they were buying CDs and T-shirts hand over fist. It was the kind of support that only my own kind could give me.
As any Newfoundlander can tell you, travelling from the Rock to just about anywhere can be very expensive no matter what the time of year. That's why a lot of Newfoundland acts cannot afford to tour very often. Many bands never get heard on the Mainland but they are still able to make a living playing music in the vibrant downtown St. John's pub scene. And when visitors come to our province, most notably downtown St. John's, they are blown away by the abundance of live music streaming out of the pubs and bars. Some of them return just for the music and, in the case of many performers, they make Newfoundland their new home.
Recently I spoke to Neil Conway, a talented young songwriter who has made Newfoundland his home since 1998, and asked him why he stayed. He replied, "I didn't stay in Newfoundland for the weather...(but for) the humour and enthusiasm of the people here, the supportive and talented music community, and also the way downtown is like a small town with the same things happening as a larger city, only better. People don't dance in Toronto. People are snobbier in Montreal and Vancouver. I come from a small town in Nova Scotia and I've lived in cities like Montreal and Toronto at points. As far as I can tell, St. John's has the best of both worlds."
Despite his love of St. John's, Neil Conway still does a lot of touring. He's among the vast number of touring performers who hang their hats in Newfoundland. The popular notion used to be that once musicians become successful, they would move away from Newfoundland. However, this is far from fact. Just look at the internationally renowned act Great Big Sea. They adore Newfoundland and would never live elsewhere. And why would they? I know I wouldn't.
I do make a modest living playing the pub scene in downtown St. John's. So do a lot of other performers of all genres. There are not too many cities or towns that can boast that they have that amount of employment for live musicians.
I love living on the Rock. And I love to treat expatriate
Newfoundlanders and anyone else who fancies my songs to a taste of
Newfoundland music by touring. All in all, I enjoy every bit of it. I
love to live here and I love to tour. I am more than happy to have
become part of the Newfoundland music magnet.
Colleen Power is a native of Freshwater, Placentia Bay. Her latest album is entitled Face and Eyes. If you have a question for her about the province's music scene, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.