Saint Andrews – One might think that at 75-years-old, a man would want to sit back and enjoy his retirement. That cannot be said for Canadian folk singing legend Valdy, who after five decades of performing, still plays sold out shows on any given night. In the ranks of such story tellers as Gordon Lightfoot, Stompin’ Tom Connors, and Bruce Cockburn, Valdy is still telling stories that captivate and entertain his audiences. On Sunday, he brought those stories to his audience in Saint Andrews, performing at the All Saints Anglican Church.
Two-time Juno award winner Valdy, born Paul Valdemar Horsdal, joked he uses the stage name Valdy because it “fits better on the marquis better than Valdemar Horsdal”. He began his career as a member of the London Town Criers in the 1960s, later joining the Prodigal Sons out of Montreal. Before beginning a solo career, he worked out of Victoria, BC, with such artists as Blake Emmons. He began his solo career in the early 1970s, and is known for his hit song, “Rock and Roll Song”, his first mainstream single. He was awarded two Juno awards, Folk Singer of the Year and Folk Entertainer of the Year. He has recorded 14 albums, reaching sales of nearly a half a million copies, with four of those albums being certified gold.
Following the Saint Andrews performance, Valdy was gracious enough to be interviewed before heading off to dinner at Salty Towers with show organizer Jamie Steel. This was his fifth show in five days, and he said he probably wouldn’t last too long following dinner, but he had Monday off and planned to do a bit of exploring in the area.
“I have a day off tomorrow, which is nice,” said Valdy. “The last time we were down here, we took a boat tour and we had a wonderful time. I’m going to hunt up a bowl of chowder tomorrow.”
Valdy, who lives on Saltspring Island in BC, has a story for every song. Or, is it a song for every story? He tells his stories with a gleam in his eye, injecting them with his own personal brand of humour, much to the delight of his audiences. If you have never seen Valdy perform, you might think that you are in for a quiet show with a man and his guitar. It is so much more than that. Valdy is loaded with enough energy for three men, and is well-known for his dancing and jigging during performances. When asked about his own musical influences, Valdy said he had several influences.
“When I was a kid, I used to listen to Henry Mancini a lot. He was a wonderful composer. He taught me melody,” said Valdy. “Then, in terms of playing, I was very fond of a bluegrass group, the Dillards. It was a lot of pop radio at the time, of course, we were all subject to that. But, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were a couple of bluegrassers out of Nashville who I enjoyed a great deal. And early Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, I was impressed with them.”
One would think such a great guitar player would have had many years of training. In fact, Valdy said he never took any guitar lessons. He did study piano for five years, and laughed about only reaching Grade 3.
“Guitar, I didn’t take lessons on it, but I’ve watched a lot of people. So, I’ve stolen a lot of tricks from people. That’s how it works,” said Valdy, adding that he hopes people have stolen tricks from him as well.
When asked which of his songs is his favourite, Valdy remarked that he doesn’t have a favourite in particular, and that his most recent song is usually his favourite. Most recently, he wrote “The Future” for kids for Canada, but he didn’t perform it at the Saint Andrews show. He has another five or six songs he is currently working on, and they will be added to his new CD, which is partly recorded now. When not on tour, Valdy said he logs.
“We have 15 acres of Douglas Fir, and I’m the steward,” said Valdy. “So, I have to cull out the snags and dead stuff.”
Valdy said he loves touring all over Canada, and he enjoys coming to the Maritimes. The next stop on his tour will be on Wednesday, when he plays Shepody House in Dorchester. Then he heads to Nova Scotia, where he will play in Liverpool, Halifax, Cape Breton, and Pictou. He noted that audiences from this part of the country are a “different breed”.
“I come here every few years,” said Valdy. “The people down here are particularly well-trained in music. They understand kitchen parties here. They don’t elsewhere. Around here I run into people who are well-schooled in music. You have to be pretty good at what you do in order to be accepted. Let’s just say that the bar is higher here than in some other places.”