David Usher is a Canadian icon. Mention his name and many can attest to his musical genius as both a solo artist and front man for Moist. He also deserves this title for his work outside the music sphere. Usher is the founder of CloudID Creativity Labs, an ‘idea incubator’ that unites artists, programmers and designers with collaborative projects. He’s even helped to create real-time social media aggregation softeware used by the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. In his hometown of Montreal, he sits on the board of McGill University’s Institute for the Public Life of Art and Ideas and co-founded its Connexion Creativity Conference. At Cirque du Soleil, he’s a creative consultant for new project development. Usher is also well known for his activism as the founding director of Amnesty International’s ArtistsforAmnesty.com and participation with Warchild where he filmed a documentary in Burma. And the list of ongoing projects goes on. It’s clearly evident why anything associated with his name is a success.
“It’s pretty crazy how much is going on,” admits Usher. “Things are really winding up again and I’ve been consumed with a lot of projects. The beginning of the year is always a breath of fresh air to redefine and refocus on what I’m going be charging into.”
Recently, the four-time Juno Award winner was on a Canadian-wide tour with Moist, which ended on Dec. 19. And now, he’s been speaking about the creative process to a number of different organizations on the importance of creative engagement.
“I love the creative process and I strongly believe that it’s ingrained in all of us,” said Usher. “Life has a way of beating it out of us but for some, we’re disconnected from this natural ability to be creative. It’s crucial to reconnect to our creative selves because creativity doesn’t just exist in the arts, it spans across all disciplines including science and entrepreneurship.”
Despite the demands of his hectic schedule, he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do creative work because I love it and I’m only this busy because I love the things I do,” said Usher. “When your job is the creative life, then it’s your job to constantly dream up cool things that are fun and stimulating. It’s not something that I try to take a break from.”
His latest record, Songs from the Last Day on Earth was created on the idea that as the digital life tends to be meaningless and fleeting, we need to find balance and reconnect with real, individual moments.
“I’m as guilty as anybody,” explains Usher. “I’m a huge geek and involved with building web technology and I love the digital world, but there’s something about the physical world that is being swept away. This record is about final moments and the moments that truly matter.”
One of the personal moments for him was when one of his young daughters fell out of bed in the middle of the night and hit her head.
“When you’re a parent, that instantly snaps you into the moment and everything else is not as important when your child is freaking out,” Usher said. “It all fades away so quickly. Any of those life moments can really bring you back to the things that matter.”
Most importantly for us, he’s making his way to Ottawa where he’ll be performing on Feb. 21 at the Shenkman Arts Centre.
“It’s a bit crazy and fast and everything rolls together when you’re on the road,” he said. “But we always have a great time in Ottawa and always go out because we either start or end our tour in the city. Half the guys are from Quebec and half are from Toronto, so it’s a great middle ground.”
Usher added that the show would be a mix of his old solo records as well as new songs and Moist songs.
“It may well be the last time that I play any David Usher songs for a long time,” he said. “I think the nature of life and creativity is that it rolls on so quickly and I always tend to be focused on what’s next and most excited about what’s going on in the moment.”