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Son of a Cuddy

Blue Rodeo co-founder's son blazing a musical trail of his own

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It's the classic music-industry tale: boy meets girl, boy joins girl's band, girl signs with boy's record label, boy and girl release debut CDs simultaneously and embark on a co-headlining tour across Canada.

OK, so "classic" might not be the appropriate adjective; however you choose to describe this sequence of events, it's working for Devin Cuddy and Whitney Rose.

The Toronto-based duo, stablemates with the indie Cameron House Records label, are embarking on their first tour of Western Canada, beginning with a stop at the West End Cultural Centre on Tuesday, March 12 at 8 p.m.

"We met after she came to Toronto (from her native Prince Edward Island); she was hanging out at (bar/venue). The Cameron House, which is kind of a musical hangout, and mutual friends introduced us," says Cuddy, whose surname may sound familiar since he's the son of Blue Rodeo co-founder Jim Cuddy. "She started singing around downtown, and I was in her band for the first couple of years she was in Toronto.

"She's on the label now, and we have a lot of the same musicians in our bands, so it kind of made sense for us to go out (on tour) together. She writes her own songs, in pretty classic country-music style, and while that's not exactly my main influence or style, it's definitely in (my music), so I think her music complements mine, and mine hers."

Indeed, one might think the son of a Blue Rodeo frontman would naturally gravitate toward country, or at least some familiar sort of alt-country-rock musical hybrid, but the songs on The Devin Cuddy Band's debut release, Volume One, are a more challenging combination of country and New Orleans blues influences.

The 25-year-old performer says absorbing country was inevitable, given his lineage, and his interest in jazz and blues came from hours spent as a kid shuffling through his father's extensive record collection.

"I found them as a kid; I'm not really sure what drew me into New Orleans and Louis Armstrong and then jazz," he says. "I think it was the horns, and the upbeat nature of the music, and the imagery that surrounded New Orleans and Dixieland music at that time.

"The country influences came a little later, and it was just a natural thing through my dad and my brother. Obviously, my dad's music is a major influence."

Liking them was one thing; melding the disparate elements into his own unique musical style was quite another.

"To be honest, I think I'm still trying to do that," he says. "On the record, I have a few songs that are distinctly country and a few that are distinctly blues, and I'm still trying to mould it together. In terms of writing them, they just came out like they did -- the country ones came on guitar, and there were some that I transferred over to piano in order to de-countrify them. The blues songs were stuff I've been playing around with since I was younger, because my strongest piano ability was playing blues and New Orleans music."

While his famous father has been a supporter of his son's decision to make music as a career, Cuddy is quick to declare that neither of his parents ever pressured him to become a performer. What they did insist, however, was that music would be included as part of his early education.

"My parents always told us that you will never find a grown person who regrets taking piano lessons as a youngster," he explains. "And at 12 years old, I was like, 'Yeah, whatever; that's bulls--t.' But now, I've learned that it's true -- I have never met anyone, no matter how old or young, who's said, 'Oh, I really wish I hadn't taken piano lessons as a kid.' That notion just seems absurd to me at this age."

Cuddy enrolled in York University's music program, focusing on jazz and slowly developing his own distinct style. After graduating, he and The Cameron House found each other, and the rest is the next chapter in the Cuddy family musical history.

It's a history, by the way, that includes not much in the way of parent-child friction or offspring trying to distance themselves from their parents.

"It's just a family thing," Cuddy explains. "I never resented my father for any of his success or anything; there was never any period of extreme rebellion as a youngster.... I've never felt any need or want to shy away from it. I'm very proud of what my father has done, and the more I go into the music industry, the more I appreciate Blue Rodeo's accomplishments...

"My dad is an influence and an inspiration, in terms of the longevity of the career that he's built. And I've started to understand the professionalism and the hard work that has gone into it. Man, he works really hard. That's something that was hard to appreciate and understand when I was younger." Twitter: @BradOswald


Devin Cuddy & Whitney Rose

óè Tuesday, March 12

óè West End Cultural Centre, 8 p.m.

óè Tickets $12 at WECC, Ticketmaster, Music Trader and Winnipeg Folk Festival Store

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2013 C3

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