By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
When Steven Page briefly reunited with Barenaked Ladies for the Canadian Music Hall of Fame ceremony, it wasn’t out of love for his former bandmates.
The event, which was part of the Juno Awards earlier this year, shut the door on that chapter of his life.
“All I needed was to express to them how fond I am of what we did together. I was grateful to have the opportunity,” Page says.
“I’ve spent 10 years working on this stuff. I don’t know what their band dynamic is. It was great to see their grown kids and hear bits about their lives, share some inside jokes and make music together.”
That aside, it was still emotional.
“When it was over, I went right into the studio with the Odds to record six songs,” Page says.
The result was his fourth solo effort, Discipline: Heal Thyself, Part II, which he recorded with the Odds’ Craig Northey and Kevin Fox.
“I’m so glad I went in the studio,” he says. “Otherwise, I would have crashed and felt depressed. It was this thing that built up and then it was done. I figured I had to go and be creative and work hard and be with my friends.”
The trio will come to 191 Toole on Tuesday, November 27.
“Craig is my production partner and my best friend, my foil and guitar player,” he says. “Kevin Fox is on cello. I’ve played with him the longest since I left Barenaked Ladies. He was the first guy I called after I split from the band. After leaving them, I had to get out there and play every folk festival I could across Canada.”
He met Fox during his time with Barenaked Ladies.
“He was playing with Sarah Harmer in 2000,” he says. “I said, ‘Do you want to play cello with me?’ Thankfully he said yes and we’ve been inseparable since.
“I was doing duo shows with Craig and Kevin, and I thought I should put the two different duos together and make a trio. It was magic. As soon as it happened, I knew it was something special. We all clicked personally and musically. It’s a pleasant way to spend an evening. We all have our own lives. We don’t have baggage. We just have laughs, which is nice.”
The trio feels bigger than it might imply, Page adds.
“We’re not doing jazz cabaret versions of ‘One Week,’” he says, before launching into the line “Chickity China the Chinese chicken.”
“It’s energized. There is a lot of banter and passion. We do songs all the way from Gordon to the new stuff.”
Discipline: Heal Thyself, Part II is the second half of the songs he wrote for part one. Page didn’t want to release 30 songs at once, so he split them and re-recorded some of the tracks for part two.
“It would have been a sizeable double album,” he says. “I thought it was, perhaps, presumptuous of me to think people would want to wade through 30 songs.
“I thought, ‘If people aren’t going to dive into it all at once, am I just throwing this material away?’ So, I split it into two records.”
His plans changed, however, when he returned home. The songs didn’t feel comfortable nor could he connect with them. So, he re-recorded the songs, re-edited them and replayed them.
“I can’t stop touching stuff,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a bunch of new songs I’m super excited about.
“There are a lot of artists and bands who can sing songs into a mic, say, that’s good and ‘Here’s my new song.’ That’s not how I make music. There’s a saying: A sculpture’s already in the stone, you just have to chip away at the stone until the sculpture’s revealed.’ I have a head full of white noise. I chip away at the white noise to get to the thing I hear. I get fixated on making sure it’s as close to what I can hear in my head as possible. Sometimes that takes me some time.”
Part of that lends to depression. Page says when anything ends, like a tour, an album cycle or a departure from a band, it’s hard.
“Those are things that should be positive, but they suck the life out of me in a way,” Page says with a sigh. “I feel like that’s sometimes when I slide, while other people might celebrate.”