Sled Island pauses Shotgun Jimmy’s bio-graphy

Shotgun Jimmie will be playing at Sled Island this weekend.
Photo by Colin Medley, used with permission

by Carey Rutherford

“I’m Shotgun Jimmie, and I play all the instruments at once . . . I play drums with my feet, and I’ll play guitar and bass at the same time . . . which is not the way I’m going to be presenting myself in Calgary.”

After this statement of simple fact, Shotgun and I discuss creating ‘a terrible 90’s band’ called The Icelandic Zed, for reasons you can ask him about when he and his Winnipeg accompanists arrive here for their Sled Island attack on June 23rd, 24th, and wherever else he may end up.

Which on his current roundabout, is ALL over Canada from coast to coast to coast, and then into Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

“I’ve toured Germany 4 or 5 times now, so I have an audience there.. . . I think it’s a common thing for Canadian bands, to some extent. At least in my group of friends (The Burning Hell, John K. Samson and The Weakerthans).

Whenever I’ve played in Germany, I’ve also played in (Austria), the Czech Republic and often Slovakia.

“It is a wonderful way to work,” Jimmie says, bluetoothing it with us while on the road near Sault Ste. Marie. So our lil’ ol Shotgun has an international fanbase, which informs the music he’s bringing around Canada.

“The songs are quite autobiographical. I don’t know that I’m completely married to that idea: it could be interesting to sing about other protagonists. But there’s that ‘you write about what you know’ sort of thing. And I think that, for me, sincerity is central to the work that I do.

“One of the things that ends up happening with my music is that it’s very specific, and it is coming from personal experience, but they’re usually observations of the day-to-day life in a way that makes them accessible to anyone, even if that is someone who hasn’t necessarily experienced that firsthand.”

In that sense we talk about the track “Walkman Battery Bleed” from Jimmie’s current release, Field of Trampolines, and how it resonates with the nostalgia which he says is a common factor in most of his previous albums. The metaphors to memory and past experiences, pockets full of beach sand, music slowing as the batteries die, connect Jimmie’s past with his listeners’ pasts. It’s not unlike the Barenaked Ladies riffing on Rush, who elsewhere) reference the suburban kids ‘in the basement bars . . . in the backs of cars’, etc. etc. etc.

Back in real time, we discuss Shotgun Jimmie’s current touring complement, with whom he recorded the aforementioned album while they were all on the PREVIOUS tour.

“Human Music!. . . 2 of the members I’ve played with for maybe 4 years (and) they’re joining me for western Canada. Last year they did eastern Canada with me, and I did western Canada solo.”

And just to keep things interesting, he’s also toured with a pedal steel player from Calgary, or a keyboardist on the European leg of this tour. Jimmie mentions the orchestral palette of the pedal steel, and the cello-trained keyboardist,which would definitely be a counterpoint to the plain-faced rock of much of Shotgun Jimmie’s songs. Plain-faced, but not simple, which he mentions when we talk about his German fans:

“It’s generalizing, (but) afterwards they really bring a profound thought to the stage or to me at the merchandise table. They’ll say, ‘What you did reminded me of this’; or ‘It made me think of this person’; ‘Is this thing important to you?’ or ‘How are you doing this?’”

We agree that, based on the cheese, beer and bread, Germans are clearly smarter than us anyway, so he should expect such conversations. Come out to the Sled and challenge Jimmie’s (and your) intellect. Or not.