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  • Writer's pictureErin McCallum

Behind The Curtain: Paul Reddick

Photo: Paul Reddick.


       In each instalment of Behind The Curtain, the goal is to bring readers something beyond what the regular press release or bio provides; regular readers know that this forum strives to bring enterprising content that offers new insight about the artists at the core of the Canadian Blues Collective. For the newly initiated reader, it is worth mentioning - it’s always recommended to seek information about the featured artists outside of this forum.  All artists highlighted in Behind The Curtain have the biographical foundation to warrant deeper investigation by looking within the bio to discover more. This month’s edition is in lockstep with the ongoing quest to bring readers information and insight that can’t be found elsewhere, and features singer, songwriter, and harmonica player, Paul Reddick.


       To offer a brief introduction, Paul Reddick has been performing his brand of Blues for more than three decades. He’s been met with industry acclaim for his work in-studio (he has 10 albums of his own work to his credit), and his most recent recording (“Ride The One”, Stony Plain Records) received a Juno Award (Best Blues Album). Beyond his independent music offerings, Reddick has recorded and written with artists/bands such as Colin Linden, Monkeyjunk, and Tom Wilson, and he is the brainchild of the contemporary composition award for Blues songwriters/composers, The Cobalt Prize. Reddick is also currently performing on the live music scene, mostly in Toronto, although he has toured extensively internationally.


       People familiar with Reddick’s work could very reasonably conclude that his lyrics are his main “point of difference” with respect to what he offers in his original songwriting that makes him most artistically identifiable. It is this element of his work, and his efforts beyond his own artistic contributions via the Cobalt Prize, that created the justification – and curiosity - to embark on this investigation. Having a direct conversation with Reddick is certainly appropriate if one is looking for insight on his process, or interested in discussing the Blues in a broader sense.


       For quick reference, the Cobalt Prize was established to support and promote the creation of Blues music that draws upon the traditions of the genre while also con-temporizing compositions in a way that appeals to future generations of fans and artists. In other words, by my own interpretation, the vision for the Cobalt Prize is to support the evolution of the genre. Knowing that Reddick is both an accomplished songwriter and the person who brought the Cobalt Prize to existence, there’s merit in asking him directly what he thinks makes for a good Blues song:


       “There’s so much rarity and possibility with that question. I suppose that groove, notes, and the relationship between the lyrics and the music are all qualities that are important.  With Blues, there’s usually a template that references the genre in structure – a rhyming pattern or a chord progression – that helps identify the genre as well, but there’s so much possibility.”


         In learning Reddick’s thoughts about what the components of a good Blues song are, the natural course of the conversation led to asking what his personal process is with respect to songwriting. He offers:


         “I usually start with the lyrics first, then I write the music separately – to a point. I discovered that using different kinds of poems and poetry structures can offer a different structure/effect when paired with a 1,4,5, or a Blues structure, musically. The process can determine the content or storyline of the song too. Sometimes, I’ll be in a room with musicians, and I will voice musical ideas, and they play it on their instruments – that process can develop ideas in a different way too.”


          After getting a sense of what Reddick’s thoughts and personal methods are when it comes to Blues songs, there’s a solid foundation to discuss the Blues beyond any one artist’s offerings. For many, the topic of the future of the genre with respect to how it will sustain and grow for future generations is a very “loaded” one; opinions vary, and there are almost always strong ones when it comes to the subject. Given Reddick’s aforementioned contributions to the Blues Collective, it makes sense to think that he has something credible to offer with respect to this broad and weighted topic.  The more specific curiosity within the topic of the future of the Blues, which Reddick has some solid credentials that lend credibility to his thoughts, is in discussing if “traditional” Blues can co-exist with “evolving” blues. The rationale in asking for Reddick’s thoughts comes from examining other genres that have evolved in sound and maintained the genre by title and identity (the best example for readers to identify with is perhaps Country music, which has had several evolutions with the “Garth Brooks” era of the 1990s, and more recently again in the early 2000s) though that evolution. When examining the Blues, there tends to be “offshoots” (Rock and Roll, Rap, and even Country music are all arguably genres that evolved from the Blues genre) that get identified as new genres. Reddick responded by offering his thoughts on why the Blues genre itself hasn’t yet taken on a new identity through its evolution in general, and offers his thoughts on how the Blues is evolving:


          “I believe one of the factors is that the Blues audience isn’t as large as, let’s say, a Country audience. Country is so broad that it has more room to take shape as a genre, and there’s a large audience there to embrace it. There’s an expression, “keeping the Blues alive”; I’ve personally never seen it under threat.  It is nice to think that the Blues is full of possibility – playing live is also a way to grow that possibility. I think the Blues is evolving, and it’s the interpretation and the way people are creating and playing it, that is uncovering new possibilities.”


           Although the topic of the future of the Blues will undoubtedly remain one that yields many differing opinions, it’s fair to say that Reddick’s answer is arguably a solid one. As stated earlier, he has a solid foundation of contributions to offer credibility to his thoughts on this subject, with his decades of experience as an artist, as well as his development of the Cobalt Prize. 


            As the main curiosity that warranted investigation has been quelled, the conversation draws its conclusion with one last question to provide readers with more enterprising information about Paul Redick. When asked to provide readers with something about himself as an artist that isn’t available in his bio, he offers this:


            “I don’t care much about money, and I’m not particularly ambitious with respect to travelling and playing big stages…just being a part of it is good enough for me.  The experience of playing is something I really value, and I’m happy that I’m doing it.”


As this edition of “Behind the Curtain” draws to a close, I trust that readers of all varieties have gained something more about the artist of mention, and it inspires further investigation outside of the confines of this column. Every artist featured in this article has a biographical foundation that cannot be covered here, so it is always encouraged to find out about the music and career that substantiates the credibility in these conversations.  In Paul Reddick’s case, he’s offered exclusive information that can be substantiated through both his work as an artist and the Cobalt Prize, yet there’s a lot more that can be discovered via independent research, or attending a live performance. This article can be found each month as a regular contribution via the Sound Café with the intention of providing a deeper and exclusive insight into the Canadian Blues artists who are at the core of the Blues music Collective.

Photo Credit: Prashant Rawate.

Touring blues musician, Erin McCallum's formal post-secondary education was in media studies (news, radio), graduating from Humber College in Ontario, she went on to be mentored by Canadian News Hall of Fame inductee, Robert Holiday, and she is a regularly published writer in music and investigative journalism, having focused on music for the last six years. Erin has an exclusive monthly column in The Sound Cafe featuring musicians and industry professionals from across Canada who work predominantly in the Blues & Roots genres.

Erin McCallum. Big Voice. Big Sound.

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