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Chris Ronald Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Chris Ronald Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Music has many new
fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How
would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never
seen or heard you?

Answer:  My music is a melding of folk, roots, and
Americana (though my countrymen prefer the term “Canadiana”).

Lamitschka:  How was the last year for you? What were
your highlights?

Answer:  The last year has been fantastic and has
seen many career highlights. I’m originally from the UK, and the Chris Ronald Trio
completed its first comprehensive tour of England and Wales back in April. I
caught up with lots of friends I haven’t seen since I emigrated to Canada 16
years ago. This last 12 months also included a cross-Canada tour and
appearances all over my home province of British Columbia including some major
music festivals.

Lamitschka:  What is your latest CD and how’s it
doing?

Answer:  Many of the successes I’ve seen this year
are due to my latest album, Fragments,
which was released on Borealis Records in May 2017. It’s received rave reviews
in Canada and Europe and achieved top ten song, album, and artist in the North
American Folk Radio charts.

Lamitschka:  How did you choose the title for the
CD?  Is there a story behind the name?

Answer:  It’s called Fragments because I saw the songs as being written around fragments
that I pick up on life’s journey. These fragments could be an observation, a
memory, a photograph, a story from my life or someone else’s, and so on.

Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not,
how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

Answer:  I write all the songs, though Fragments is the first album where I’ve
included a song penned by someone else. “Okanagan Sunset” was written
by acclaimed author Bruce Madole. He sang it to me at a folk music confernece
in Toronto. I was deeply touched and decided to record it myself.

Lamitschka:  Please tell us about the songs on your
album (influences, etc).

Answer:  People tell me they like the variety of
topics and styles. When I write I let the song dictate the style that works
best, which is why I sometimes have difficulty naming one genre that my music
fits into. There’s folk, bluegrass, soul, ballad, rock, and more. As for
influences, I’m rooted in the 70s singer-songwriter movement, but I draw from
all manner of music, old and contemporary.

Lamitschka:  What is the difference between your last
CD and your current one?

Answer:  We took more time to record Fragments compared to my previous album
entitled Timeline. Most of Timeline was captured in a single
weekend spent in the studio with some of Vancouver’s best session players.
Efficiency was important on Timeline
because the budget was tight. For example, my takes were recorded singing and
playing at the same time, whereas Fragments
we built bit by bit. I think the tracks on Fragments
are more varied and the songs a bit stronger.

Lamitschka:  Your current single is being played by
radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to
hear it?

Answer:  Actually, I don’t really release singles. I
just put out the album and leave it to radio to choose what they’d like to
play. It seems, though, that radio has picked up on two tracks in particular: “Everything
Goes Green” and “Freedom Train.” I think “Everything Goes
Green” is popular because it’s very gentle with descriptive lyrics and
catchy melody. As for “Freedom Train,” it’s an uplifting tune with a
bluegrss treatment.

Lamitschka:  What will your next single be?

Answer:  I’m thinking of making a more commercial
version of “Sons of Summer” and releasing it with a video to coincide
with summer 2019. It seems to be a favourite among fans. The production on the
album version is quite sparse, so we’re going to beef it up and put it out
there.

Lamitschka:  What kind of songs do you like to record
the most?

Answer:  I have no preference really, though I do
like it when a few great musicians are involved because they bring cool ideas
to the table.

Lamitschka:  You did a duet with Angela Harris. How
did that happen to come about?

Answer:  Actually, not really a duet in the true
sense of the word, but we do sing most of “Everything Goes Green”
together. Angela is a wonderful singer-songwriter from Vancouver, and our
voices blend beautifully together. A sextet features on “Rain City Blues,”
however. It’s a long and wordy song so we decided to share the singing between
me and five other local singers to make it more interesting.

Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the
songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?

Answer:  That’s a tough question, but I think it
might be “Twenty Little Stars” from the Timeline album. It’s a bit of a departure stylistically because
it’s quite jazzy and features ukulele and clarinet. The song was inspired by
the Sandy Hook shooting in the US where 20 elementary school kids and 6
teachers were killed. I remember the front page of the newspaper showing the US
flag at half-mast in the middle of the town where it happened. In writing the
song I imagined my own home and family in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have
over your music?

Answer:  I have 100% creative control over my music.
That said, I’m very lucky to have John MacArthur Ellis as my producer and sideman.
Our approach to recording is very collaborative so he has a lot of influence on
the final sound. I’m also fortunate to have a label that just lets me get on
with it.

Lamitschka:  There’s a lot of work that goes into a
number one hit. What did it take to make it in your case?

Answer:  “Number one hit” is a bit of a
stretch, but “Everything Goes Green” was the top Canadian song
internationally among folk DJs for August 2017. I remember a couple of things
about writing the song. First, it features intricate finger-picked guitar, and
it took me a while to master picking and singing simultaneously. Also, I
remember challenging myself to write the most lyrically beautiful song I could.
In summary, I think my best songs come when I challenge myself and push the
boundaries of my ability.

Lamitschka:  Do you have any interesting stories
about how fans have been affected by your music?

Answer:  Yes. Many. Too many to go
into here, but one example involves the song “Get Back in the Game”
from Fragments. It was written for a
friend who suffered a major heart attack while participating in a curling
championship. He was technically dead for 5 minutes before being resuscitated on the ice. He underwent
bypass surgery and lived to tell the tale. I’ve had people come up to me after
hearing the song and tell me about their back-to-life or back-in-the-game
experiences. From an elderly lady who felt like she was finally getting back in
the game after losing her husband to a down-and-out drug addict who was
managing to turn his life around.

Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep
do your musical roots run?

Answer:  My musical roots go pretty deep. My
grandfather was an important role model for me growing up. He was a singer and
storyteller, so I think that rubbed off on me. I also have three older
brothers, so I was exposed at an early age to whatever they were listening to
at the time. One of my brothers plays guitar and taught me my first chords when
I was about 10. As for who inspires me, the likes of Neil Young, Paul Simon,
Don McLean, etc. helped shape me musically.

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today’s music
scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?

Answer:  The music scene that we have now is very
different to what it was 10-15 years ago. The sheer amount of music makes it
hard for the listener to filter out the good stuff and equally hard for artists
to stand out from the crowd. I think the output and diversity of music will
increase in the future, and artists will have to become increasing extreme or
at least very clever to survive.

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today’s music
industry?

Answer:  Digital streaming is making it harder and
harder for artists to make money from recordings so having a strong
entrepreneurial spirit is key. Also, having a great live show is more important
now than ever, which is a good thing as it means better quality overall. CD
sales are still an important revenue stream for me, and the bulk are sold off
the stage. This might be the case for another 10 years or so particularly for
folk/roots music, but for most other genres that revenue stream has dried up
altogether. Streaming service providers are becoming the new record companies,
but they’re investing nothing in the artists.

Lamitschka:  If you had the chance to change
something about the music industry, what would it be?

Answer:  Nothing really. Success as an artist depends
on the opportunities you carve out for yourself. Where there’s a will there’s a
way.

Lamitschka:  As an artist, you so many tasks such as
recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your favorite
activity?

Answer:  I was asked this question for the first time
at Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival this summer. For me it’s performing. On
stage is where everything comes together and where any artistic pretense is
stripped away.

Lamitschka:  Are you doing anything to take music
beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?

Answer:  I’m happy where it is for the moment, but I
always try to think outside the box. I’d like to write a musical.

Lamitschka:  What was your big break that got you
into the music business?

Answer:  At 40 I realized that songwriting and
performing were my passions and decided to make a concerted effort. Three years
later I was nominated Songwriter of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards
for my Timeline album. That led to me
being signed to Borealis Records, so I guess that nomination was an important
breakthrough.

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become an artist?

Answer:  The love of being creative and the ability
to connect with others.

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become a
songwriter?

Answer:  I think poetry inspired me to become a
songwriter. My first song came from a poem I wrote in high school at age 15.

Lamitschka:  What drives you?

Answer:  I love to travel and meet new people.
Touring allows me to do that and work at my passion at the same time.

Lamitschka:  What’s unique about you that will
differentiate you from other artists?

Answer:  People who see me live often comment on my
stage presence, and they enjoy the accessibility of my music and the stories
behind the songs.

Lamitschka:  What has been your greatest challenge in
music business?

Answer: Booking
shows is probably the hardest part of the business, but it’s getting easier as
I become better known and start to build a team around me.

Lamitschka:  What moments in your career stand out in
your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?

Answer:  Making it to the finals of the Kerrville
NewFolk songwriting competition in Texas and being nominated and performing at
the Canadian Folk Music Awards. I’ve also been lucky to play for some wonderful
audiences like those at Calgary Folk Club and Rogue Folk Club (Vancouver) as
well as perform at some lovely venues in The Netherlands and Germany.

Lamitschka:  Any thoughts of retirement ahead?

Answer:  Funny you should ask that. I have a song
called “Retirement Plan.” One of the lyrics is “This is my
retirement plan, making music while I can.”

Lamitschka:  Who is your biggest critic, yourself or
others?

Answer:  Myself. I’m a perfectionist.

Lamitschka:  When you get time off, how do you like
to relax?

Answer:  Read, get stuck into a good TV series or
documentary, have friends over for dinner, go for a run or hike.

Lamitschka:  Is there anything in your life that you
would change if you could?

Answer: It would be
nice if the kids helped a bit more around the house. Just tidying up after
themselves would be a start.

Lamitschka:  What hopes and desires do you have?

Answer:  I hope my kids grow up to be well-rounded
adults, find and honour their passions. I hope the planet can recover from the
damage caused by humans so that future generations can enjoy its wonders.

Lamitschka:  What has been the biggest disappointment
in your life?

Answer:  The fact that England hasn’t won the World
Cup for over 50 years.

Lamitschka:  Many European fans travel to the United
States to attend the several of the music festivals for the opportunity to see
so many of their favorite artists, bands and celebrities. Will you be
participating and how will the fans be able to find you?

Answer:  I recently went to Nashville for the first
time to take part in AmericanaFest. If I’m involved in events like that, I
usually post something on my web site.

Lamitschka:  Is there any place you haven’t played that
you would like to?

Answer:  Australia

Lamitschka:  What can your fans expect to see when
they see you in concert?

Answer:  I’ve been described as having “a keenly
luxurient voice and immaculate songcraft.” Aside from that, they can
expect some laughter and a good dose of singing and clapping.

Lamitschka:  When you’re on tour, do you have time to
play tourist?

Answer:  Yes. Experiencing new places is one of the
perks of touring. As most shows occur at night and often shows at the beginning
of the week are hard to come by, there’s usually plenty of time to play
tourist.

Lamitschka:  Do fans mob you everywhere you go or do
they respect your privacy?

Answer:  The closest I’ve got to a mobbing situation
is people lining up to buy my CDs and get them signed.

Lamitschka:  Many music fans today get their
information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will
fans find there?

Answer:  Yes, my web site – www.chrisronald.com – is
the best place to go to sample my music, watch videos, check for upcoming shows,
etc.

Lamitschka:  Tell us about the fan club and how
people can join it.

Answer:  The best way is to subscribe to receive
email bulletins by signing up online or at a show. As for social media, I’m
most active on Facebook and sometimes post things there that I don’t put on my
web site. So “liking” my Facebook page – chrisronaldmusic – is also a
good idea too.

Lamitschka:  What’s the best compliment a fan has
ever given you?

Answer:  I received this compliment
just the other week: “I’m not a fan of roots n blues but you blew me away.
Wow! Already looked for another venue to go to but you’re leaving the country,
boohoo. Looking forward to hearing you again. You
have the most amazing, beautiful voice and Grandpa’s Wedding Ring made us both
cry. Keep up the singing. Good retirement plan!

 Lamitschka:  What’s your favorite song that you
wish you could have recorded?

Answer:  Joni Mitchell’s Blue album is amazing. Anything from that.

Lamitschka:  What message would you like to send your
European fans?

Answer:  Last time I was in Europe, many of you
prepurchased the Fragments album, and
you were among the first people to receive it before it was officially
released. Thanks for your support. I hope you’ll come out to see us again in
November and bring a friend.

Lamitschka:  You have a new love in your life? Can
you tell us something about it?

Answer:  Yes, she’s a black lab called Tesla.

Lamitschka:  Fans are always hungry for good road
stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be shy)?

Answer:  We played a venue near Preston, England, and
the owner kept a parrot in a cage by the bar. Of course, we were hoping it
would say something, but all we got was “F**k off!”

Lamitschka:  Describe what a perfect day is like for
you.

Answer:  My kids joined me on the road this summer
for a trip to Whitehorse. When we were camping in the Northern Rockies, we
spent most of the day bathing in a natural hotspring. Later, on the way back to
the tent, we saw our first moose just metres away. That was pretty darned
perfect!

Lamitschka:  Most careers don’t last as long as
yours.  What’s given your career the staying power?

Answer:  While I’ve been writing songs on and off for
over three decades, I’ve only been pursuing a career in music for the past 7
years. That’s a relatively short period of time but it’s still required some
staying power to take my career this far. The notion that “we only get one
life so we might as well, as much as we can, do what makes us happy” has
kept me going.

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de ) for Country Music
News International Magazine & Radio Show

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