third time’s a charm
jeremy fisher on his third juno nomination
Singer/songwriter Jeremy Fisher has been nominated for his third Juno Award. All it took was seven dollars for Jeremy Fisher to confirm the music industry was where he wanted to be.
“I remember the first time I played music on the street in Seattle at the Pike Place Market,” he says. “I made $7 for four hours of straight playing outside, and I was like, ‘wow, I can make money doing this’ and I thought that was real money because I was only spending 50 cents a day on (surviving). I got my determination to make a career out of it.”
Fisher went on a bicycle tour across Canada and the United States in 2001 to promote his debut album, the independently released Back Porch Spirituals.
“I got on my bike with my best friend and we rode across Canada and that’s when I started borrowing guitars and playing on the streets and sort of worked my way from there to making recordings to playing in venues that had walls and maybe a sound system,” he laughs.
The Lemon Squeeze, Fisher’s sixth album, is nominated in the Adult Alternative Album of the Year category for this year’s Junos. This is his third Juno nomination (he was nominated in same category for his 2007 release Goodbye Blue Monday, as well as for Best New Artist).
Fisher, now living in Ottawa, was excited when he found out the Junos were being held in his hometown of Hamilton this year.
“It’s pretty cool...‘95 was my last year of high school and our drama club got asked to come to the gala dinner before the awards (which were held in Hamilton that year as well) and dress as mimes and seat people,” Fisher says. “So I actually got to see behind the scenes of the show that night (and) we got to watch the show from up in the nosebleeds. I was probably the worst mime; I’ve never done it in my life, you know, but, whatever, I think we just needed to look the part. I never would have guessed then that I would have been invited to the awards as a nominee 20 years later.”
Fisher’s songwriting process is “a little bit different every time”. He says a song can be “born out of some sort of musical idea” or it can also stem from an actual event.
“I’ve got this song called ‘The Bride is Dead’ and that one is based on a true story about a guy who married his deceased girlfriend. I know, it’s a weird one, you can Google it,” he says. “In his grieving he was regretful that in the 10 years that they’d been together that he’d never asked her to marry him. She died in a traffic accident and his way of grieving was marrying her posthumously; which is like super weird and probably not legal... but I thought it was sweet. It’s funny, but, ultimately, sweet. So that song in particular I came to with a lyrical idea and I already had the chorus and lyrics in my head by the time I sat down at the piano.”
Songwriting can be a vulnerable experience, says Fisher, but it is also key to forging success in the music industry.
“My high school guitar teacher gave me the best advice through and through. He told me that if I wanted to have a career in music I had to become a songwriter, recordings of songs will be out there working for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The income that comes from the publishing side of music is a great supplement for artists as they try to promote themselves.
“When you’re out there on the road and you’re playing a gig, and the gig pays as much as it costs you to maintain and operate your vehicle... or when you’re trying to grow and you’ve hired a band; that’s a big expense and that means you don’t make money off the tour. It’s really important to have those songs out there earning income for you in any amount. The work has already been done,” he explains. “And now, six albums into it, it’s not like I’m a household name, not everybody knows who I am, but I’ve got 56 recorded, published songs out there that are available for people to license for the radio to play and that income does add up. That was definitely the best advice that I got.”
Fisher admits songwriting can seem intimidating, especially to artists just beginning their music journey.
“That’s a tough thing. Believing in yourself. Not in the ‘after school special’ kind of way,” he laughs. “But it takes a lot of confidence to play somebody a song you wrote for the first time. Especially to sing it if you don’t really think of yourself as a vocalist. It’s a very vulnerable position. And because most of us write about personal things, especially starting out, you just write about what you know or what you’re feeling and that can make you vulnerable.”
But, for all the vulnerability songwriting evokes, Fisher says the payoff of performing your own songs and connecting with the audience is worth it; especially when the audience sings along.
“One time I played this show, a kind of workshop at an elementary school in Nova Scotia, and the kids had learned one of my songs. The whole choir got up and the music teacher played the piano and 40 kids sang my song for me. It was probably one of the top five coolest things that has happened in my career. At that moment, when a kid’s choir is singing your song, that makes you feel like it’s a real song,” he laughs.
Fisher’s appreciation of the small, less than flashy moments in his career is what sets him apart in an industry that propagates a reputation of fortune, frenzy and instant fame.
“There was never that moment where it was like I was struggling and struggling and then I have this big break from my perception because it started with so little. One day I made $30 and that seemed amazing. I still try to remember that to this day when I’m doing things. I like to do what I can when it comes my way because you know, at one time, $7 meant the world to me.”
The Lemon Squeeze, is available for download on iTunes as well as on his site, jeremyfishermusic.com.
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