He has lived a rock ‘n' roll road life of constant travel and impromptu gigs, all the while voyaging by bus (that's sometimes run on cooking oil) and soaking up each moment as it comes.
Fred Eaglesmith wouldn't have it any other way.
I'm not really in the music business, he said in a recent phone interview from Florida. I'm living a lifestyle.
The Fred Eaglesmith Traveling Steam Show will bring its unique sound – which over the years has blended rock, country, folk, and bluegrass – to the stage of the Mauch Chunk Opera House Jan. 26.
The Canadian-born artist has been in the business quite some time, releasing his first album in 1980. He has watched it change, even since he began writing songs as a child at age 12, but he holds true to the ideals he became familiar with in the days before rock ‘n' roll, and music in general, became a business.
When rock ‘n' roll started in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s, the musicians had some control, he said. The industry was behind; the industry was playing Frank Sinatra when the Rolling Stones were coming out, and they couldn't quite catch up, so the musicians had it. Then everybody in the world got in the music business, and it was slowly taken away from the artists; slowly they started to tell us what to do.
Eaglesmith has made it a point to stay an independent artist and stray from those who wish to dictate what he should and should not be doing. He has enjoyed success through having his songs covered by the likes of Toby Keith and Miranda Lambert, as well as seeing his music used in films by Martin Scorsese and James Caan.
Still, the road beckons. And how could it not, when it fuels much of what Eaglesmith writes about?
I sing a lot of songs about living out on the road, but I also sing a lot of songs about adversity, he said. A lot of songs are just a reflection of how I live. And even though it's about being out on the road, they're not necessarily about me being a musician and being on stage; they're a lot about broke-down trucks and people I see while I'm out there. People come to me after a show, say their wife just left them, their husband just left them – I get material every day.
There are also the people he meets who remind him just how lucky he is to live the way he does.
Every day I talk to people that don't have their edge, they've lost it. They don't really know why they're alive and they're sort of existing, and I don't live that way. Every day is very edgy for me; every day is very alert and very awake, and that's a really nice way to live.
He brings this spark of life to every show he plays with his band, many of which are planned, but just as many that are not. Eaglesmith and the Traveling Steam Show will stop and play wherever they see fit.
We just really want to put on a good show for people, wherever we go.
Fred Eaglesmith Traveling Steam Show: Jan. 26, 8 p.m., Mauch Chunk Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe). $24.