Fred Penner Interview – The Order of Canada and Touring

Fred Penner guitar
Fred Penner

Fred Penner, Canadian children’s music performer notable from the tv show called Fred Penner’s Place. Interview August 11, 2013.

Fred Penner Interview

1. What’s new in the land of Fred Penner?
I am getting my second…or is it my third wind? In the last few years there seems to be an acceleration to my career. I have played major universities from Victoria to Halifax and the generation who grew up with my music and television series Fred Penner’s Place, are very excited about reconnecting.

2. Having been presented the Order of Canada must have been a great day in your life?
My mother accompanied me to Ottawa for the Order of Canada ceremony, that made me extremely proud. But it was overwhelming to be in the company of the other amazing recipients. The feeling of ‘what am I doing here’ seemed constant. It was a wonderful day!!

3. Have you been keeping up to date with guitars and playing?
I practice almost daily. I play acoustic mainly, and I have an assortment of instruments that I visit in my bedroom and in my basement. I have couple of Larrivee cutaways that are my main performing instruments, but one of my favorites is a 1961 Gibson Hummingbird. Plays like a dream.

4. Are you keeping busy this summer with tour dates in Canada?
This Is a very busy summer. I have played on Vancouver Island, twice, BC, AB, MB, ON. From Wells BC to Owen Sound, ON. Yes burning a trail!

5. Would you say touring now is more relaxed and easier to do now?
I have been touring for 42 years, so I know how to do this:) I can follow the necessary procedures that will get me where I am going with minimal stress. I love being on stage and connecting with my fans, and everything else is process to getting to the stage!

Fred Penner singer
Fred Penner

6. What equipment are you currently endorsing, etc.?
Unofficially I endorse Larrivee guitars, officially I have a connection with John Pearse strings – truly the best strings I’ve used. They wear evenly and last for a couple of dozen concerts.

7. Do you think social media changed everything in the music business?
No Question. The major companies are freaking out because the social media has changed the game. Product (not always good) can be created for minimal cost and sent around the world. The potential of a song going ‘viral’ is the hope. I am concerned about this because the young performers coming up the pike are less aware of the real work it takes to build a career in the music business. The north american talent search TV shows are putting young people in the spotlight, often before they are ready to make that step. Too much, too far, too soon!

8. What were your earliest influences in life as a musician?
I grew up in a cross over of many genres. They all had an influence on my life and awareness of the world of music. From the swing era of my parents, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, The Dorsey Brothers etc., to opera and classical ( my dad’s penchant ) to the boy bands of the 50’s ( the Four Lads, The Crewcuts and the early rock and roll icons – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets. Then the Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Roy Orbison era. As I moved into the 60’s the Folk scene was erupting, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Peter Paula and Mary, Dylan etc. filled my ears and brain with tunes and melodies and great lyrics that stay with me always. This list is just the beginning!

9. What would be some of your main influences today?
My children have been feeding the contemporary sounds over the more recent years, so John Mayer, Feist, Imogen Heap, Sarah Slean, Maroon 5, Postal Service, names and bands that don’t begin to scratch the surface.

10. What could we find interesting in your music collection at home?
As you may have guessed, my taste is very eclectic. I have a favorite CD called The Voice which features choral sounds from around the world, Bulgarian Womens Radio Choir, the Monkey Chant from the island of Bali, klezmer music from Israel. Plus Miles Davis to The Beatles ( no surprise ).

Fred Penner promo
Fred Penner

11. Could you describe what goes on in a day in your life as a musician on tour?
My touring is lean and mean. Either solo or with my pal Paul O’Neill. We have been playing together since 1990. The day in my life is travelling to the gig. So, it is the taxis, planes, automobiles trip. Making sure I have a handle on my itinerary details, where are we going, best route to get there, who will meet us, any surprises at the gig. Do they have Paul’s guitar amplifier? Details and details and more details. Ultimately the show must go on, so being aware of all the details relieves stress and makes for a better road experience!

12. Where do you see music going in 100 years from now?
The creative people in this world, the artists in all creative directions, music, visual arts, dance etc. do what they do because they Have to. There will always being someone trying to make sense of the world through their Art. Music 100 years from now may be completely retro, i.e. going back to basics and singing an acoustic song in front of an audience. After all the electronica has been filtered into oblivion, there will be the realization that the human voice and the creation of A Song is powerful and compelling.

Extra questions with Fred Penner
Life without music would be…impossible
Favorite movie…The Green Mile
Favorite sport…Football
Favorite food…Chicken soup
Favorite drink…Water
Favorite saying…Don’t compare yourself with others lest you become vain or bitter
Favorite car…Never owned one, but the 1930’s Plymouths had a great style
Favorite band…The Beatles
CD or Vinyl…Vinyl
Star Wars or Star Trek…Star Trek
PC or Mac…Mac