Long Walk Home

I recently got to know my family a bit better …

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I’ve always been a bit of a ‘family-tree’ buff, researching where my family came from. I find it interesting to discover the stories behind the people who paved the way for us. Most recently I dug up the tale of how my family came to be in Canada.

The first Robertson from my family tree to come to Canada was Duncan Robertson. He was a captain with the 42nd Black Watch from the Highlands of Scotland. He battled on Long Island in the American Revolution. In return for his loyalty to the motherland he was offered a free boat ride home or a parcel of property in the colonies. He accepted a piece of land in northeast New Brunswick, in a little town called Tabusintac.

From all accounts, all of the original settlers in this community fished, farmed and hunted. They did what they could to get by and survive in a new land.

Duncan married a woman named Elizabeth Williams, whose story was not very traditional for the times …Elizabeth was born out of wedlock to my grandmother – 8 generations removed – Charlotte Taylor (a trailblazing woman’s rights advocate back in the early 1800’s). Charlotte Taylor was from England and fell in love with the family butler, Pad Williams. Their love affair was frowned upon by her family, so they eloped and boarded a ship heading to the Caribbean with hopes of a new life with their new baby. He died on the journey, disease running rampant among the passengers. Charlotte survived, and found herself in the West Indies with nothing to her name, giving birth to her first baby. She eventually got assistance from a ship captain, who took her to the colonies to raise her newborn. She settled in Tabusinatc.

Elizabeth and Duncan had up to sixteen children (some records say fourteen, others say as little as four). Some of the children stayed in New Brunswick, while others ventured to small communities in Quebec with place names like Malbaie, Bridgeville and Matapedia. A couple of brothers even built a ship called the Gaspe Trader that traveled to and from Barbados with supplies. It stayed in business for twenty years!

Amazing stuff, this lineage research. Not only had I discovered that Duncan Robertson is my grandfather, seven generations removed, but I also found the names of my grandfathers since – John, Sylvanus, John, George and Walter (my dad’s father).

Years ago I traveled to Tabusintac. Even though the place is real and is thriving, for me it has a mythical quality and seems surreal, magical. While there I visited Duncan Robertson’s grave. Just recently I found out that he died young, drowning in the nearby river. A life gone too soon.

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There are millions of stories like this. I’m lucky and grateful to have found my founding family. I wrote a song about it called “Tabusintac (The Duncan Robertson Story)”. Hope I can share it with you someday.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Rockin’ In the Free World

How I love Canadian music and Canadian musicians.

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Let’s rhyme off a few who totally dig the scene – Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, The Band, Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, The Hip, Rush, Joni Mitchell, Blue Rodeo, Rufus Wainwright, kd lang, Bryan Adams, Ron Sexsmith, David Francey, Bruce Cockburn, Ian Thornley, Anne Murray, The Guess Who, Oscar Peterson, The Daddy Cokes, Daniel Lanois, Destroyer, Metric, Harmonium, Hawksley Workman, The Rankins, Sloan, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Leonard Cohen, Matt Mays, Michael Buble, Max Webster, Paul Anka, Saga, The Sadies, Sarah Harmer, Sarah McLachlan, Teenage Head, Corb Lund, The Trews, Wolf Parade and more …

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CANADA KICKS ASS.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Country Home

Recently I discovered a great new (or maybe old?), Canadian music talent …

David Francey

His name is David Francey. His story is very cool.

He lived the bulk of his adult life working as a carpenter, tradesman and general labourer. All the while, he was writing songs about his life. But these songs never saw the light of day as he would hide them away for only himself and his wife to see.

He was finally convinced by his family and friends to perform. He did so, catching the eye of a CBC producer who went on the produce his first album which slowly won him fans across the country. His second album won him a Juno Award for Top Folk Artist. Upon winning, he decided to pursue music full-time and quit his job as a carpenter.

I happened upon this story from the documentary called ‘Burning Bright‘. It’s a great tale of later-in-life success. You get to hear his songs too, which are honest and real.

Here’s a link to his website – http://www.davidfrancey.com

Well worth checking out.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Born In Ontario

Today’s blog marks the first in a week-long “Proud to Be Canadian” series. Today’s post is about my Canadian pin …

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I love to travel, love seeing what our world has to offer. It has given me great respect for the world around us and has offered me a greater love for my home country. I got this ‘travel bug’ from my Dad, who was a proud Canadian.

My Dad was a big believer in seeing the world, experiencing and learning from other cultures. He never finished high school, so traveling became his education. When I was a kid, we would take family trips every summer to see parts of North America. My folks would pack the camper, pack some food, pack the rum (my Dad’s stash) and off we went to see The Grand Canyon or the California coast or Graceland or Las Vegas. I was also lucky enough to travel to Europe with my Dad as a teenager. We saw Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. These experiences left a mark on me, and fueled my thirst for more. To this day, I make seeing the world an important part of my life.

I am very lucky to have had these experiences, and don’t take them for granted. For that I am grateful to be Canadian, as we live in the coolest country on the planet. Not only does our country offer geographical beauty (The Canadian Rockies, Niagara Falls, Cape Breton, interior B.C., just to name a few ...), but we as people are kind, generous, funny, friendly and warm. I can say this from visiting many different places and cultures, we kick ass.

Throughout his life, my Dad worked with many Americans. He always trumpeted the coolness of Canada and wherever he went he carried a pocketful of Canadian pins. Whomever he ran into – a business associate, the waitress at a restaurant, the gas attendant – he loved tooting the Canadian horn and offered them all a Canadian pin.

I remember once being in England with my folks. My Dad gave a pin to a five-year old boy who was fascinated with it. Returning home, the family sent us a picture of the boy wearing his Canadian pin proudly. My Dad was beaming.

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So with Canada Day nearing, I remember the proudest Canadian I knew – Bruce Robertson. I still have a pocketful of his pins, wear them proudly and thank him for giving me the genetic curiosity to see our world. It makes me a prouder Canadian.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

What Happened Yesterday

They say it’s your birthday …

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This week marks Paul McCartney’s 71st birthday. Maybe the most famous musician on planet earth …

My first memory of a Beatles song is listening to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and being SCARED. Yup, actually getting frightened of the loneliness and the tragedy in the song. I can also vividly remember being fairly freaked out by ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ (and this was long before I started to ‘experiment’). Their music was, for me, something out of this world, something I had never heard before and it intrigued me.

Soon after I found out that Paul McCartney used to be in this little band called The Beatles. Prior to this discovery, I thought he was a solo artist who had a few cool tunes like ‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Jet’. I never knew he was a Beatle !?

And then I found out that John Lennon was a Beatle too? I was floored. The guy who wrote ‘Imagine’ was the same guy who wrote ‘Help!’? Seems weird now, but I was 9 years old or so, and was discovering on my own.

I love them both for their unique twists on songs – McCartney for his sweet melodies, old-fashioned charm and a voice that can sing anything. Lennon for his dark, introspective lyrics and a voice that felt hurt and lonely.

Mustn’t forget George Harrison, who, for my money, may have written one of the classiest tunes of all time – ‘Something’.

Oh yeah, Ringo as well. Some will argue, some will say I’m nuts, but his drumming kills me. Awesome player, who innovated the way drummers play to this day.

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I still listen to The Beatles. It’s hard not to admire what they did for music and their brilliance. At times, it takes me back to the days when I would listen to a Beatles record in my bedroom, completely engulfed in the sounds and the images conveyed with the words. Even if it still scares me …

… back to McCartney being so famous. I saw him in concert a few years ago. The guy is so well known, has so many hits and fans – young and old – that he opened up for HIMSELF. The show started with a half-hour video/music montage of Beatles, Wings and solo stuff with photos of him throughout the years. Paul McCartney, opening for Paul McCartney. Too good.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Here We Are In The Years

It’s been six months since I left my secure, full-time job to pursue other opportunities in life …

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… and I’ve never been happier.

It hasn’t all been roses and sunshine, as I had my doubts and reservations early on (and still do at times …), but in the end it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

The act of quitting my radio career to pursue music was, and will be, one of those milestone moments. I had a great run in radio, met some amazing people and had a ton of fun, but it had it’s time in my life and what I’m doing now feels more true to who I am. I still get lots of people asking me “Do you miss being on the radio?”. I actually thought I would, I really thought there would be times of really wanting to get back on the air. But I don’t …

These past six months have been a whirlwind – I’ve written lots of songs, done a swhack of gigs, met some great industry people, recorded some new music, travelled, taught a few classes, rehearsed for future shows, etc etc — but the one thing I’ve done the most of is learning about life, and that enjoying our time here is so important. We are here for one shot, one round, one life, so we should make the most of it.

Amazing thing about this journey is meeting others who have done the same! They are coming out of the woodwork – old friends who quit secure gigs to pursue their dreams. It’s been very cool to randomly run into them, to get their phone calls or to find their emails in my in-box. It’s nice to know that we’re not alone.

I’ll tell you one thing, this whole process would not have been possible without the support of an amazing person – my wife Crystal. I can’t think of doing anything as crazy as quitting your job to pursue something that notoriously makes people POOR!, but she has not only supported it, she has been my spark and my biggest fan. To her I owe more than thanks, I owe a part of me, as this is my life pursuit and without her, it would not have happened.

In closing I want to thank you for reading my blog, my little journal of life. It’s nice to know people are on the other side of these words, so thank you.

See you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

This Old Guitar

I love it when an album comes your way that surprises you, makes you love the ‘art’ of the album. I bought one last week that I can’t stop listening to …

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Her name is Laura Marling. She’s only 23, hails from England and her new album “Once I Was An Eagle’ rocks. It’s an acoustic guitar-based folk record with stripped down drums, bass and cello. But it’s her voice that gets to me – it’s so compelling that I get lost in her lyrics and melodies. Her sound reminds me of a cross between Joni Mitchell and Beth Orton with a touch of Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons and PJ Harvey.

The record is also a real album – with a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s a 45-minute snapshot of one idea where songs and ideas blend into each other to form one piece of ‘art’ – a rarity these days. It’s a throwback to the 70’s, when bands and artists defined the word album.  It’s nice to hear.

There have been a few albums and artists I’ve really latched on to the past few years – The Vijay Iyer Trio, Michael Kiwaunka, Atoms for Peace, Frank Ocean, Arcade Fire – but this album stands out for me as one of those records you stumble upon that stays with you.

One other artist I’ve been digging lately is Ron Sexsmith, the Canadian songcrafter who is still a-top of his game. I saw him live recently and love his honest, simple approach to writing songs. He has such a way with words, such a beautiful range of melody in his songs and such a unique voice to tell his stories. He is still one of my favourites and hasn’t lost his touch.

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Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Natural Beauty

The Canadian east coast. Best vacation ever.

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Incredible scenery, down-to-earth people and a new appreciation for how beautiful our country is. Not to mention meeting some great musicians along the way. Every turn was a highlight, but here are a few to share;

*Peggy’s Cove. It’s a real-life postcard. Spent a Saturday night in Peggy’s Cove at the Sou’ Wester restaurant enjoying ‘The Saunders Brothers Show’, a true east coast kitchen party band. With a pint of Clancy’s in hand and a plate of fish cakes I enjoyed some great maritime music with sing-a-longs, spoons, mandolin and tons of laughs.  The guys in the band are super friendly and they gained a new fan (they play Toronto on June 19th!)

*Cabot Trail. I can cross it off my bucket list. Stunning coastline, rugged cliffs, twisty turns and deep canyons. The place is surreal.

*Deron Donovan at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish. Deron is a Cape Breton songwriter and I had the chance to catch two of his shows : honest, heartfelt songs about his life. ‘Capers’ are very proud of their heritage and it shows up in a lot of their music.

*The Celidh Trail. This is a scenic drive along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence where The Rankin Family and Natalie McMaster hail from. There is the Celtic Music Museum where you can learn to fiddle and jig, and at every turn a community centre that features music. TONS of musicians in the area, very cool.

*The cities – Halifax, Quebec City, Charlottetown. Halifax for it’s lay-out of the steep hill in the city, the Citadel and the views of the harbour. Quebec City for Old Quebec which, for my money, is the coolest part of any Canadian city. Charlottetown for it’s friendliness, small-town charm and Cows ice cream.

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There were so many memories along the way – driving through the rolling scenery of P.E.I., the Acadians in Cheticamp, N.S., a Lobster Supper, the stormy ferry ride from P.E.I. to Nova Scotia, the stories from the locals about lobster fishing, artifacts from the Titanic at the Maritime Museum in Halifax, the Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick and even the St. Hubert chicken dinner outside of Montreal!

We live in an amazing country – beautiful scenery, diverse cultures and a rich heritage that is evident – especially the Acadians –  strong people, very proud of their french heritage and are still keeping their culture alive.

The one thing that sticks with me the most though is the friendliness of maritime Canadians – down-to-earth, laid back, easy going, funny and great musicians to boot. I can’t wait to go back again.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

I Am A Child

Once in while I’ll be featuring guest blogs from folks that inspire. This week the post is from Paula Murphy, who’s daughter Maya is a fighter. Her story is right here …

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MaYa INSPIRATION

To look at my beautiful 8 year-old daughter Maya, you would never know she has a serious health issue. You would never know that she endures daily physiotherapy to clear her air passages. You would never know that she recently spent a week at Sick Kids hospital hooked up to an IV, followed by another week at home with a PIC line. You would never know she had to have twice daily masks with medicine to rid her of the bug that invaded her lungs. You would never know because you can’t see her “disease” and you probably have never heard of it.

Maya was born with a rare genetic disorder called Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, (PCD) which affects the respiratory system. We are blessed though. Maya’s condition was suspected at 2 days old and confirmed at 4 months. Most people wait years and years for a diagnosis and by that time, the damage is permanent.  Maya’s recent CT scans actually show improvement in her lungs from a few years ago.

We are also blessed because Maya is an amazing child. She has energy, spirit, humour and an empathetic side that is a treasure. She does not let her diagnosis define her, she defines it.

She is my inspiration, my energy, my passion and my reason for our annual fund raising event to support PCD research at Sick Kids hospital. We are busy planning the 5th annual Maya’s March for June.

Please join us Sunday June 2, 2013 and meet my inspiration. Help raise much needed research money. Help Maya and kids like her.

Visit www.mayasmarch.com to learn more about Maya, PCD and our event.

Peace,

Paula Murphy

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You got to love kids man. We can all learn from their spirit. But to see a kid be a fighter and contend with issues some adults couldn’t deal with is pretty incredible. The motivation and inspiration that fuels this family’s year-long pursuit to help others is amazing.

Thanks to Paula for sharing her story and the beautiful pic of Maya.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Just Singing A Song

You ever get lost in something so good, that it takes you to another place?

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I love performing live. What a buzz it is.

This past Friday night I played the Free Times Cafe in Toronto. It’s one of those timeless clubs that has hosted so many amazing artists, has a great vibe and is still cooking after all these years (when so many other Toronto clubs have come and gone …). A great crowd turned up and I, along with Rob Isabella who plays guitar me, were primed to play.

We nailed it  —  Rob’s guitar solos were soaring and beautiful. His feel for the emotional impact of the songs had me lost in the music (audience ovations after his solos attest to that!!). My vocals haven’t felt this good in a long time and the buzz from the room was heartfelt and joyous. Could not have asked for better.

It was another reminder why I love music so much  and why performing is in my blood. I get lost in it by closing my eyes, feeling the lyric, sensing the guitar interaction and taking in the vibe from the audience. It can, at times, be an out-of-body experience and there’s no better feeling.

To be able to play music, write these songs and experience moments like this, I am truly grateful. I’ve worked very hard for it and still work at it, but I also know that it’s a gift to enjoy and fully realize these moments. So to the music gods I lift a glass of thanks.

And hey, not all gigs are as cozy and cool as this. I’ve played some bummer shows when it can all go wrong :: guitar doesn’t stay in tune, vocal mics go dead, nobody claps, the band isn’t in sync, nerves get the best of your performance. So when it does go right, it feels so right …

More gigs to come, more songs to write, working on a new album (actually working towards 2 new releases and a bunch of singles …) and hopefully the music gods will offer up more of those inspiring on-stage moments. It’s too good to not do it again.

** A special shout out to Matt Holtby and Robbie Patterson who shared the bill. They were, as they always are, awesome. **

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca