Artist Q&A

Q&A: Great Lake Swimmers

Tony Dekker is the lead singer/songwriter of quiet Canadian darlings, Great Lake Swimmers. The band has been touring for the past decade, and was nominated for a Juno award in Roots & Traditional Album of the Year for 2013 for their recently released New Wild Everywhere.

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By Dessa Bayrock (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: May 8, 2013

Tony Dekker is the lead singer/songwriter of quiet Canadian darlings, Great Lake Swimmers. The band has been touring for the past decade, and was nominated for a Juno award in Roots & Traditional Album of the Year for 2013 for their recently released New Wild Everywhere.

How was the show last night?

It was great. I thought it went really well.

Really high-energy crowds this weekend, I’ve noticed.

Yeah, which was great – because we had a low-energy performance. We’re just a quiet band, I guess.

You’ve been touring for ten years. How do you keep it going? How do you keep finding new life?

You have to love what you’re doing, you know? It’s a labour of love. It’s not always easy to keep finding the energy to do it, but it’s the songs – the momentum and the energy comes from the songs when we’re playing.

You’re the main songwriter for the band. Is that a lot of pressure?

No – I try not to put too much pressure. Any pressure that there is comes from myself and my own deadlines. I try to be disciplined with my writing, but I wouldn’t see that as pressure. It’s kind of like exercising. You just need to keep doing it, and hopefully you get better at it.

Do you have a rigorous schedule for yourself?

I find that nights are usually best for me – I’m kind of a night person. So in the dead of night, when everyone else is asleep is kind of my ideal time to be free from distractions and to work on things. I wouldn’t say I have a set schedule, but I cherish my night hours.

How late are we talking?

Like two, or three, or four in the morning. Sometimes I’ll stay up until sunrise working on stuff. It sort of makes for some pretty unusual hours in general, and with the amount that we travel it’s not always easy to get that kind of schedule on the road. But at home I really like staying up late and writing.

Do you think writing in that time period comes out in the more quiet nature of your songs?

Hmm. Maybe. Yeah. I’ve never really thought about that, but that could be true.

There’s a lot of nature imagery in your work – how are you inspired by nature and how do you find ways to get back to that when you’re touring?

We try to take as many detours as we can, and especially touring across Canada there’s so much great nature stuff out there to do when we’re travelling. We do try to visit parks and things along the way and add that into our tour schedule as we can, but in general I try to get out into nature as much as I can on my off-days. That’s really a continued source of inspiration for me and my music.

I really like going into northern Ontario as much as I can. It’s also kind of the easiest for me to get to, being based in Toronto. But I love being in St. John’s, Newfoundland, because there’s just such an interesting topography and the ocean – it’s really beautiful. I love being in St. John’s.

The band has done shuffling with who’s in and who’s out and who’s doing other projects – have you kind of set on a group now?

Yeah, I think a core group. Especially the four of us—Miranda and Eric and Brett and myself—I feel like that’s kind of the core of the group now for sure.

It was nice to have an album where we all play on every song, and to see it through to a year later where we’re at the Junos – it’s really nice to see the whole cycle of everyone working hard on touring and working hard on the album, and being able to hang out with everyone here has been really nice.

And what are you listening to these days?

I just saw Leonard Cohen again recently, so that always makes me dig back into my Leonard Cohen catalogue in my record library, you know? So I’ve listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen lately, since then. You know when you hear a band that you really like and it kind of sparks your interest again in music – and there are so many great albums by Leonard Cohen. I’ve just been digging back in and re-listening to a lot of that stuff.

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