A Canadian in Nashville

After relocating to Tennessee’s Music City, Luke Doucet returns to touring

For the record, Doucet is not a fan of modern country music.
For the record, Doucet is not a fan of modern country music.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of myspace.com/lukedoucet

Luke Doucet is boarding a plane to New York City in about “13 minutes” when I call him. Time is not my friend, but Doucet is friendly enough to make me almost forget that.

He has got the new issue of the Economist for the plane, but no good book. He said he regularly
reads publications like Harper’s and The New Yorker.

“My hobby outside of music is to read about the world and try to understand the world, try to figure
out what’s going on,” Doucet said.

“I stay so much of my life with my head in my own ass as a musician that I feel like I need to put time aside to stay on top of what’s happening in the world, so I can make an educated opinion.”

Luke Doucet has accompanied just about every famous Canadian singer there is, from Sarah MacLachlan to Blue Rodeo to Oh Susanna. Formerly the singer and guitarist of Vancouver rock band
Veal, his first solo effort Aloha, Manitoba, was released in 2001. The album Aloha, Manitoba showed a different side of Doucet: country and jazz influences, undistorted guitar and sensitive, sardonic lyrics.

After Outlaws, an album of live material and rarities, Doucet released the full-length album Broken and Other Rogue States in 2005, exploring the dark psychology of his breakup with another Canadian musician with surprisingly upbeat melodies.

2006 was a good year for Doucet—not only was he nominated for a Juno for Alternative Artist of the Year, he also married singer-songwriter Melissa McLelland, whose two albums he produced and co-wrote. Doucet’s political interest explains his concern with the Russian city of Vladivostok on Broken, an otherwise very personal album.

The particular theme he wanted to draw out with “Vladivostok.” was the idea of exposure.

“Overexposure to something like sunshine, although it seems like a really good thing, is probably really psychologically trying for the people that live there,” Doucet said.

“People in the world are more affected by American politics than they are by their own … I was trying to draw, I suppose, an allegorical comparison between exposure to white nights and exposure to white rednecks.”

However, Doucet doesn’t believe in politicizing his entire repertoire.

“I’ve been very careful how much I’ll allow my music to be infused with politics,” he said. “To be honest, it takes a lot of smarts and a lot of creativity for politics to work in music, and [for] music in a ay that’s still musical.

I’m not sure I have the energy or creativity to make that work. I’ll try, I flirt with it.”

Doucet, a west coast native who has hop-scotched all over the country from Halifax to Winnipeg to Vancouver to Toronto, relocated to Nashville, Tennessee two months ago.

“We pulled out a map, and the only city where we can live in where we can still get back to New York and Chicago and Toronto, and that is in fact warmer than Toronto and that has a music scene of any size, is really Nashville,” he said.

Do Canadian winters really bother him that much?

“I like to play hockey, run around the snow. I like brisk cold walks,” Doucet said. “I’m not personally all that committed to avoiding the cold, [but] we decided that we were going to try to spend a winter outside Canada.”

Doucet’s musical influences mostly come from the early and mid-’70s, including Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Dr. John and Stevie Wonder.

“Tom Waits is pretty prominent for me, and The Band [too],” Doucet said.

On Wednesday, Doucet took part in “We Shall Be Released—A Celebration of the Last Waltz,” marking the 30th anniversary of The Band’s monumental The Last Waltz. The concert will be broadcast Sunday at 2 p.m. on CBC Radio Two and 8 p.m. on CBC Radio One.

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Luke Doucet plays The Grad Club tomorrow night with Melissa Ferrick. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Destinations or at The Grad Club.

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