The Meltdown Tour could be the city’s last call for Blair Harvey fans. David Keating speaks with the local man in black.
The plane ticket has been purchased and the farewell party has already begun. After 10 years of making music in St. John’s, musician Blair Harvey is departing for the mainland on June 1st. So before he goes, he’s organized one last blitz of local shows he’s calling the Meltdown Tour.
“I’m just going to go up to Toronto and cut the balls off it. That’s what I’m going to do,” he says.
We’re inside a crowded Rose and Thistle—Harvey’s regular Sunday venue—on a Thursday afternoon. There are the Rose’s daytime patrons and an ‘entourage’ of Josh Reid and Nancy Margaret Barry around Harvey. They’re residents of the “Blarvey Compound” they say.
But what exactly is the Meltdown Tour?
“Everything is part of the Meltdown” says Barry.
“Make sure you put that in there,” says Reid.
Then Harvey reads from a crumpled card: “Silent, barely audible to the human ear, mating sound of the manatee played subliminally underneath the meltdown recordings…”
Other explanations and definitions are offered up by the trio, including Harvey’s assertion that it’s about “burning bridges before we cross them; rivers dried up.”
But there’s a method to the madness. Harvey has firm reasons for heading to Ontario.
“My son is up in Toronto and I’m just going to go up there and start playing music there,” he says.
Frustrations with obstacles to making another album have also contributed to Blair’s decision. Despite winning MusicNL’s Molson Pop/Rock Artist of the Year in 2007, as well as past nominations for Music NL’s Country Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year, Harvey can’t seem to finding funding for another release.
“I’ve exhausted every avenue with grants here and got turned down for everything to get an album,” he says. “Five grants in the past six months. Nothing.”
The solution for Harvey is a live recording session at the Rose, scheduled for April 18th. Fans can look forward to a release party in Newfoundland some time in the future.
“I was thinking about doing the ‘Live at The Rose’ CD release at the Ship,” he says laughing.
In contrast to the recent lack of support from local funding agencies, Harvey says that St. John’s has always been the source and inspiration for his music.
“Everything I write is about St. John’s. It’s lots of nightlife kind of scenarios—drug scenes, broken hearts, you know. It’s St. John’s music, Newfoundland music- even though people might not call it that ‘cause there’s neither bodhran in the mix but it is Newfoundland music.”
“I moved to St. John’s when I was 21. I’m 30 now,” he says. “When I moved here, I moved into the apartment above The Spur. And I had a credit card. And they had an old-time credit card machine so I could never get cut off…. Kept swiping it. So that was six months of that. I bought a guitar for $1000 at Music Stop and I went to down to the bar owner, I said, ‘Can I have a gig?’ and he said, ‘You wanna play Friday night?’ Then I went to the computer and typed off 20 songs that I liked by other people and, then, sat them down in front of me and got up and started playing without any fear. And I didn’t even know what a PA system was or how to plug into it or anything. I just went into it because I had to.”
In the end, Harvey is unsentimental about leaving. Asked about collaborators and other musicians he might miss, he starts to list off names before reconsidering.
“Not really, man,” he says. “All I’ve got on my mind is my son and getting to him. It’s three weeks I haven’t seen him. I’m going to leave this place in the dust. Or in the fog.”
Blair Harvey plays The Rose and Thistle every Sunday. His last show is scheduled for May 30th at The Ship (Artistic directors: Josh Reid, Nancy Barry and Timmy Pottle). For more shows and updates, visit Blair Harvey on his myspace or Facebook sites.