Friday, April 2
Bowness Community Hall
For a guy that pumps out loads of the stuff, Danny Michel doesnt listen to a lot of music.
"I admit it. I listen to the same 10 records from the last 10 years," says Michel.
For the singer-songwriter, thats not necessarily a bad thing. If you listen carefully through the young mans five releases, there are hints of whats in that small vinyl pile old Bowie, Frank Black, The Rheostatics, Tom Waits, Ron Sexsmith and Elvis Costello.
But the thing that makes Michel such a standout talent in Canada is the fact that none of those influences end up on his sleeve. In such a blatantly derivative industry, Michel has found a voice that works. And while Toronto crowds and critics go ga-ga over his every move, the West is just starting to catch on.
His latest, Tales from the Invisible Man, is full of that same focused diversity. Its the kind of pop music that knows its clever (but never flaunts it), with songs he refers to as the "weird and twisted little tales" in his head.
"I love the dark stories about mining disasters as much as I love writing the sappy love songs," he says. "Going back and forth thats how you shake people up emotionally."
Michels visit to Calgary coincides with his trip up Highway 2 to take in the Juno Awards. In true Juno form, Tales from the Invisible Man has won Michel a nomination for Best New Artist. An honour, even though hes been making music for years, both on his own and in recognized bands such as Starling. It kind of makes the title of his CD work.
The parallels dont stop there. Michel manages to stay pretty invisible when he needs to get things done. Queen Street is littered with the same parade of players hanging out next to has-beens who reminisce about the glory days the rest of the country has forgotten. Instead, Michel can be found miles outside the city, living in a remote lakeside cabin making records. Often, all by himself.
"I get a lot done that way," he says. "And whats great is that I still feel like I cant wait to make the next record. I get it now. Thats a good sign. It would be a bad sign if I listen to my old stuff and thought oh, I love that.
"You have to keep learning and going. To me, music is at an all time low right now. Weve scienced the hell out of it, and everybody sounds the same, even the smaller bands. That Canadian Idol stuff has really brought the quality of music down and sold it to the public as the standard."
Considering this is a musician who tries to keep his ear as far away from the ground as possible, it might not be a coincidence he stays so prolific and true to his style. When I compliment one of his songs as a nice homage to the former Replacements frontman, there are a few beats of silence on the other end of the phone.
"Youre going to kill me. But who is Paul Westerberg?"