Five Questions With... CR Avery
Musicians often say flippantly they don’t fit into a single category, but that’s definitely true with C.R. Avery. The Vancouver-based artist has carved out a singular career as a singer/songwriter, poet and playwright, with his music bridging the divide between traditional blues and folk, and cutting-edge hip-hop.
Avery’s latest project is a new collection of poems entitled The Black Water Under August Moon Parade, a work that once again captures impressions of his ceaseless travels with the visceral thrust of the Beat poets, blues artists and rappers that have long been his primary inspirations.
What makes Avery unique is how effortlessly he continues to create without any regard to artistic boundaries. His foundation remains the power of words and rhythm, and building compelling stories on top of that. Anyone who bemoans the idea that there are fewer original voices within Canada needs only to be pointed toward Avery’s wide-ranging body of work.
He launches The Black Water Under August Moon Parade in Toronto with a reading and musical performance at the Burdock on May 27. After that, look for him at select festivals across Canada throughout the summer.
What's your new book about?
Neil Young was getting interviewed on Howard Stern’s radio program a while back and Howard said something along the lines that this is a crazy mixed up harsh world. Neil piped up, ‘There’s also a lot of beauty, Howard.’ In times of commercial radio, Live Nation, sports bar sliders and shitty sitcoms reissued on Netflix, the book is a high kick reminder of the other. There is still lots of Howlin’ Wolf magic in this world.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m getting the set together with a new crew for summer festivals; it will combine the book and some sting-like-a-bee love songs. I’m memorizing the new material, trying out players and figuring the beginnings of my first screenplay.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
“The Boxer Who Just Returned From London.” It’s a reminder to me that you can take a very down-and-out moment in your life and turn it into something with spark. It’s been a true tough-love friend to me for years now.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
There are too many to list, but it’s just not songs. It's lines in books, scenes from movies, a bit from a comedian's early club act, sermon gospel preachers, well-dressed sharp militant leaders at press conferences, drunks after hours, kids riffing high on sugar, modern gladiators in a tight bind, ball players talking smack before the big game, or a lover talking about rain in January, snow in October, or dead cherry blossoms on the March sidewalk while I make her French press coffee.
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
The phrase itself is ill-advised—“Music” and “Industry.” I get the hustle, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I hear “music industry” all the time, which is way too often. It sounds like a producer doing a commercial for a record label selling hip mismatched clean socks to folks with no sense of history or legend.
My best advice to aspiring artists comes from three sources: Leonard Cohen said, “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” Rakim said, “Thinkin' of a master plan 'cuz ain't nuthin' but sweat inside my hand.” And there’s a traditional folk song that goes, “Lick the nipple, listen to the moan.”