With the One Man Band festival about to start and the Sappy Forever book tour in town, I talked to Manitoba’s Shotgun Jimmie about what it’s like to be a man who takes on the world with nothing but his instruments and a plaid flannel shirt.
“My wife has encouraged me to lose some of the flannel,” Jimmie says. “She says to get some nice cowboy shirts.”
Jimmie speaks to me from the first night of his tour with Lady Hawk in Regina. From there, he’s flying out to the east coast to support the Sappy Book Tour and eventually reach Montreal as part of the One Man Band Festival.
Touring is pretty much how Jimmie spends a chunk of his time. “Typically I tour across Canada once a year and I also go over to Europe every couple years, mostly in Germany and on the Continent, but not really in the UK. I tour in the States a little bit too. Last year, I did a tour that was from St. Johns to Victoria, by myself.”
It might sound lonely, but Jimmie doesn’t mind. “It’s beautiful,” he says. He’s done it enough times that he finds it “a relaxing and beautiful experience. The life of a one man band is pretty solitary existence.”
Although Jimmie plays in some other bands, most often, he performs his one-man-band show. He’s particularly excited to be part of the One Man Band festival, because of the opportunity to meet those of like-mind. “I sometimes run into other one-person acts on the road and we talk about stuff and share tips and techniques and that.”
“I think it’s interesting to feel the community of connecting with all these other one person acts,” Jimmie adds. “I typically feel there’s a strange dynamic when you’re a one-person act playing at a concert with a bunch of other bands. There’s the gang mentality of them being best friends and traveling together. You can infiltrate that group to some extent, but you don’t have you own band.”
He also notes that one-man bands often face a kind of discrimination. “One time I booked a show in Victoria and I was headlining. I had a local band from the island and a band from Vancouver opening up for me to play and the sound guy pretty much refused to let me headline the show, because he was under the impression that I was the solo guy and couldn’t be the headliner. He was insistent, ‘You’ll play first. The bands will be louder, so they’ll play after you.’ I went along with it, but I booked the show, I had the posters made, and hired the guys to put the posters up. It’s hard to be discriminating against.”
“At this festival I won’t be discriminated against,” he says, “It’s all the weird outcasts. A freak show of jugglers.”
Jimmie’s style is best described as garage rock. “I use electric guitar and amps and drums. I play the drums with my feet – kick and snare. The type of music that I play is driving and has a strong forward motion and energy.” In general, it’s hook-laden music and largely positive. “People who come will be watching a happy guy have a lot of fun playing quick rock and roll. I like to rock. I’m not bluesy, riffing. I am more like the Replacements.”
Jimmie is also a purist. “No looping,” he insists. “There’s times when I’ll play a show in Germany and a guy will be like ‘Do you loop.’ No, never. For me, that takes the fun out of it.”
One thing that Jimmie has in quantity is personality. He has a low-key, unpretentious way about him that sets him apart from many other performers. “I’m a songwriter first,” he says. “I don’t sing in a typical way. I don’t have a pretty crooning voice. I’m not a very virtuosic guitar player or beat drummer. I do all right, but I’m not shredder.”
The result is that Jimmie creates a sound that is distinct, honest, and sincere in its imperfection. In fact, he cherishes that raw sound, even in his recordings. “I don’t comp things together. Some singers will sing the vocal part seven times and take their favorite parts out of the seven to make one recording where they’re in tune the whole time and it’s all in time or they like it for whatever reason. They stick things together. I never do that. Or people record and they’ll sing the song and they’ll be like ‘I just messed up the last part’ and the song technician will punch them in, play the song, and they re-record the last part. I don’t punch in, I don’t comp. I do the entire vocal take the entire song. If there are some impurities, I want it. I want that performance to be genuine.”
As part of the One Man Band Festival, Shotgun Jimmie plays with the Lonesome Organist and the Molly Gene One Whoaman Band at Casa del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent) on May 17. $13.15.
Shotgun Jimmie MC’s the Sappy Forever book launch at La Vitrola (4602 St. Laurent) on May 16. Guests include Michael Feuerstack, Alden Penner, Misha Power, Cat Pontoon, Lucas Hicks, and Ian Roy. $10/8.