By Mark Weber
Acclaimed Canadian singer David Essig is one of the acclaimed artists gearing up to perform at Foodstock – set for Sept. 14th at Red Deer’s Elks Lodge.
Complete with a fabulous barbecue hosted by the Red Deer Food Bank, the evening, which is being presented by the Central Music Festival Society, also features an array of musicians including David Essig, Nine Second Ride, Rob Lamonica and Laurelle.
All proceeds raised through the event will go to support the Food Bank.
The fun kicks off at 5 p.m. and runs through to 11 p.m. Tickets are available in advance or are $30 at the door.
For his part, Essig can’t wait to be part of an exceptional event that supports such a worthy cause.
His own amazing career is really the stuff of legend – Essig, although always having had a passion for music, actually had his sights set on a career in economics in his native U.S.A.
But fate would define a different path for the gifted artist, who relocated to Canada back in the early 1970s and found himself in a burgeoning musical community in Ontario.
It wasn’t long before folks took notice of his tremendous skills not just as a musician but also as a storyteller via song. Soon, the gigs started piling up and Essig found himself to be an in-demand musician across his adopted homeland and beyond.
“It was 1971, and my life had been very intense and involved at that point,” he explained during a recent chat. At the time, he had been enjoying a strong academic career, finishing up his studies for a PhD in Economics at the University of Wisconsin.
“I loved my field of study and I loved the research, but I didn’t like the way things were going in the university setting.”
He was only in his early 20s at the time, and ultimately, opted to head north and visit his sister during a year off.
“I went up for a visit (to Canada) and I really liked it. It was a breath of fresh air. I had been in band growing up, and now I was immersed in academics. But I had this need for change.”
As luck would have it, he had landed smack in the middle of what really was a singer/songwriter-rich community.
“I had gotten into the singer/songwriter kind of style,” he said. “I had grown up playing traditional music, and I had this realization when I was about 20 that what was wonderful about traditional music is that you can be a creative person as well as a ‘curator’.
“You can contribute to the medium by composing your own music. And I realized that all of my heroes had been people who had done that.”
Essig dove right in, melding his traditional sensibilities with his own unique style.
“I found this really strong singer/songwriter scene in Ontario at the time, so the opportunity presented itself. Good stuff happened so quickly. I also went down to Toronto to do a guest set at a coffee house in Yorkville.”
From there, an invitation to perform at the Mariposa Folk Festival came his way as well.
“It was the beginning of the folk festival ‘era’ in Canada, and it was also the beginning of my career. So the two things kind of went together nicely. And the next thing I knew I was touring around, and there was a circuit of really nice places to play.
“It became kind of a national career, and I think what also turned the corner for me what that I came to realize the… commercial music scene wasn’t going to be for me. So I got some money together and I started my own record company. Two or three of us had the idea at the same time, but I may have been the first one out of the gate – I can’t quite remember,” he added with a laugh.
He launched Woodshed Records, and worked hard to line up other artists for the label as well. One of the first musicians he produced and and recorded for was none other than Willie P. Bennett.
“The second project we did (together) was Hobo’s Taunt, and it became kind of a classic in the Canadian singer/songwriter genre. It still stands up.”
Next came a flurry of invitations to perform in Europe.
“I look at it all like just a wonderful string of fortuity. And great people along the way who were encouraging me and supporting the kind of independence I was striving for. I always wanted to speak and sing with my own voice.
“If I had to sum it up, I’d say good fortune, wonderful friends and supportive audiences. It amazes me – a lot of the places that I go around and play in, the audiences will have people I already know, or they will come up to me and say, ‘I saw you all those years ago’.
Another key to success? Keeping in touch with folks and maintaining friendships over the years, too.
“I haven’t had the big record contract, but I have had an affectionate and intelligent audience across Canada for three generations now who have supported some of the off-best stuff I have done.
“I also write songs that hopefully speak to elements of the human condition, and I like to play my guitar with a bit of ‘grit’ under my fingernails.”
For more about Foodstock, or for advance tickets, check out www.centralmusicfest.com.