Q&A: Corin Raymond, the Toronto musician who’s funding his next album with Canadian Tire money
By Ty Trumbull
Corin Rayond (guitar) and his band, The Sundowners
If you don’t know Corin Raymond’s music, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with his face. Over the last few weeks he has graced the pages of newspapers and appeared on network news channels. And it’s no wonder his latest endeavour is capturing people’s imagination: much like his music, it’s steeped in Canadian tradition that’s thicker than maple syrup. This songster has set out to fund his upcoming live album with fan-donated Canadian Tire money.
The project started, in part, when Raymond learned that Toronto’s Rogue Studios accepts Canadian Tire money at par, and from there it has mutated into a veritable money blowing machine. Ultimately, the whole crazy caper is simply an extension of what makes Raymond’s music so enthralling. It’s straightforward, fun and inclusive, and if you can’t smile when you think about it you’re probably a little dead inside.
We caught up with the Toronto musician to talk folk music, Ray Bradbury and of course Sandy McTire.
So, the Canadian Tire money project has been taking up a lot of your time lately. Are you getting sick of talking about it so much? Are you looking forward to moving on to something else?
It is taking up a lot of my time, and I guess this is what happens when you have an idea that captures the collective imagination. Momentarily I’ve become an entity in the bloodstream, and keeping up with all the reactions — not to mention the constant incoming tide of Canadian Tire money — is a full-time job. The whole enterprise is full of wonder for me; mainly at just how beautiful people can be when they’re inspired and how much love we can come up with when our hearts are ignited. I’m loving this ride, and I’m gonna have as much fun with it while it’s happening as people are willing to share with me.
It seems like it’s put you in contact with pretty diverse groups of people who are sharing their stories along with their Canadian Tire cash. Are there any names or stories that stick out for you?
The stories are overwhelming, and so good. It’s not an exaggeration to say that there are new stories every single day. Yesterday I got a package from a grade five class in Tecumseh, Ont., with all their names and a drawing and everything. The teacher saw me on the news and had fun with the kids putting together their paper nickels. People are sending me pictures, artwork, cards, letters. One friend of mine went around to all his buddies’ garages up north and came up with $33.80. He said a lot of weed was smoked and a lot of foosball was played to come up with that money. The crazy thing is that every single bill has a story, and most of them have been collected and saved for years. They’ve got dreams in them. People write to me and tell me what they were thinking of purchasing before my album — an idea they liked better — came along. One little boy in Kelowna named Will Snedden sent me $1.55 which he’d been saving for a soccer ball, and I don’t think anyone would hold it against me if, before this caper ends, I make a trip to Canadian Tire to purchase a soccer ball for little Will Snedden.
The live album this is funding has you and the band performing songs by other Canadian artists. Are the songs a collection of lesser-known or forgotten tracks, or will people recognize the artists? And why do you think it’s important to preserve the Canadian folk tradition in this way?
Yeah, it’s a collection of songs by other songwriters from across North America. Mostly Canadians. Songs I’ve collected over the last 10 years of travelling; songs that are too good not to put out there. The songs are a lot like the money I’m using to pay for the album: it’s taken years, and persistence, to gather them together; they belong to us, to this country. They’re part of what makes us a community, and as a currency they’re undervalued. Most of the artists’ names will not be recognizable, but a few of them will. People outside of the roots scene may not recognize a single name. Part of the thrill of the media blitz is that a lot of people are now following the progress of this project, and all of these songs will be first-time experiences [for them]. The whole point of making this album is to turn as many people as possible on to the gold that’s hiding in their own backyards.
Let’s get down to it: how much have you raised so far?
On Oct. 30th I had $2.45. At the end of November, I had $22. Jan. 7., I broke a hundred dollars ($100.75), and those victories were amazing enough. Today is Wednesday, Feb. 8. at 1 p.m. and I’m at $2,126.75. I include the time because the total changes by the hour — just wait until today’s mail arrives.
For those unfamiliar with your music, who — or what — would you list as influences?
My influences are, first of all, anything I’m reading. Anywhere words hang out — from pulp fiction to high literature to newspapers — can be a jumping off point for me, and the books I read are a constant influence on my songwriting. The musical language of the early Ray Bradbury stuff is a great example of that. Songwriters? Tom Waits for his storytelling, and the details he brings to everything he does. Leonard Cohen for his rigor, for being such a diamond-cutter. John Prine for his humour and common touch. Texas is a huge influence. But the truth is that a lot of my greatest influences are writers and performers that I know, which is what led me to make this album right now — an album of songs by writers I’ve met on the road. The songwriters who influence me the most these days, I have their phone numbers.
Who are some other good Canadian musicians people should check out?
If I had to narrow it right down, I’d say my favourite songwriter in Canada is Raghu Lokanathan, out in Prince George, BC. He does something the rest of us are trying to do; me included. Raghu has a mythological, mystical authority in his songs that we associate with writers like Leonard Cohen or Townes Van Zandt. Raghu has every kind of song you could want: story songs, character-portrait songs, love songs, funny songs, heartbreakers; songs he calls ‘profane hymns,’ songs that have the power of prayer; black humour and irreverence in spades. As far as I’m concerned he has it all. It’s hard to discover him online. Your best bet would be to see him live, and if you ever get a chance to hang out at a campfire he’s playing at, even better.
Is there a potential release date for the record?
No date on the calendar yet, but the record will be released in the fall. I’m envisioning a November release.