Steven Page to Headline Great Trail Celebration
Photo and article by Patrick Lemieux
“On a physical, geographical level, Canada is a country that is still so defined by its wildness. The Trail is a way for a lot of people to connect with that wildness, especially for the urban community to still have that connection wherever they go.” – Steven Page
For 25 years, Trans Canada Trail has dreamed of uniting Canadians across the vast and varied land of provinces and territories in a very special way. As it nears connection, The Great Trail is the realization of that ambitious goal. This year the nation commemorates 150 years of Confederation and to mark the occasion, the organization is hosting The Great Trail Cross-Canada Connection Celebration, a free event headlined by Steven Page.
“I think symbolically it’s very exciting,” says Page, “because being such a geographically large country, the idea of being able to connect all Canadians pretty well is fascinating.”
Page co-founded the band Barenaked Ladies in 1988, and though he left the band in 2009 to pursue his own career in music, he remembers when they first hit the road, touring with such acts as Corky and the Juice Pigs. He recalls, “Early on when we started touring as Barenaked Ladies back in 1989 and ‘90 we were always aware that, especially in those days of MuchMusic, that Toronto could see itself as the be-all and end-all and we could very dangerously slip into just being a Toronto band. And we were very conscious of the fact that we wanted to be a Canadian band first and foremost. We were able to learn at a very young age the difference between the different regions and different attitudes towards each other. How much they know and how much they don’t know about each other.”
Page recently visited Ottawa with The Art of Time Ensemble during Chamberfest, where they played the entirety of the famed Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“It was a really great audience. It sold out. They were really enthusiastic,” says Page. “We were allowed to re-imagine it because it was never performed live by [The Beatles]. Do our own interpretation of it.”
He goes on to say, “Andy Maize sings ‘Within You, Without You,’ which is one of those songs which I tend to sometimes skip over when I listen to the record, and his performance and his arrangement of it is spectacular. It’s one of my favourite points in the evening. We also add Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields to the program and everybody enjoys it.’
Back in 1992, Barenaked Ladies released their debut album, Gordon. The same year, Sgt Pepper marked its 25 year anniversary. Now in 2017, Gordon, has reached that silver milestone and it gives Page a moment of pause, “I remember on the 20th Anniversary of Sgt Pepper is when they released the CD version of it. And 5 years later, which seems like a lifetime, we’re recording and putting [Gordon] out.”
Page also reflects on the perception of the passage of time, “I remember reading an interview with Ian McEwan, the novelist, years ago in which he talked about how he can tell where he was in his life by what year which book came out. And that’s the same thing for me, I can identify an age I was at or a year by which album I was working on or what I was reading at the time. So if something seems in a certain way very close, to put a quarter of a century distance is a fascinating thing.”
Last year he released his fourth solo album, his third since leaving Barenaked Ladies. Titled Heal Thyself Pt. 1: Instinct, the album is equal parts fun and introspection, a combination Page has handled deftly throughout his career. Even with his busy schedule these days (a UK tour following The Great Trail celebration and more performances next year with The Art Of Time Ensemble), Page finds time to work on Heal Thyself Pt. 2.
“I’ve been steadily working away on it, especially through the summer,” says Page. “I’ve been setting myself some deadlines to get everything mixed and sequenced and figured out. I don’t have a release date for it yet, but it’s certainly forefront in my mind.”
Asked how the album evolved into a two-part opus, Page explains, “I didn’t know what it was going to be when I started it. I realized that I had so many songs, it could be a series of EPs, it could be one big double album, it could be split up, and I realized it was probably best to split it up. It’s a lot to expect of an audience, it can be arrogant of an artist to expect an audience to sit down and digest a double album worth of material. And we live in a time where you release a record and if it’s not a huge hit right away it disappears almost immediately and I wanted to give the album a little bit more life than that.”
In addition to Steven Page, Trans Canada Trail will welcome to the stage at Major’s Hill Park on August 26th acts from the vast wealth of Canada’s performing arts community: Afro-Canadian singer-songwriter Kimberly Sunstrum, the three-piece francophone band La Récolte, Ottawa’s own Cody Coyote, the Métis Cultural dance troupe Prairie Fire, the gospel group Voices of Praise, who also hail from Ottawa, Inuit music duo Nukariik, and Punjabi DJ D-Luxx Brown. The celebration will be hosted by Valerie Pringle and Michael Mancini. Pringle, a veteran of Canadian broadcasting, is also a Co-Chair of the Trans Canada Trail Foundation.
“The Great Trail is a living symbol of national collaboration,” says Pringle, “For all of us at Trans Canada Trail, along with our volunteers, partners, and donors, 2017 marks the realization of a dream 25 years in the making.”
“At TCT, we are thrilled to be celebrating the amazing accomplishments of so many people,” says Deborah Apps, President & CEO of Trans Canada Trail. “As we look to the future, we are excited about how we will work to enhance and preserve our shared national treasure that connects Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”
To learn more about The Great Trail, including how to get involved, donate or explore parts of the trail near you, the TCT has an informative, interactive website (thegreattrail.ca) and a downloadable Great Trail app.
The Great Trail Cross-Canada Connection Celebration
August 26, 2017
11 AM – 2 PM
Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa, ON