Steven Page getting pre-tour jitters
On the eve of his first cross-Canada tour in support of his latest solo album, Page One, onetime Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page admitted to feeling his nerves.
“I’m a little on edge,” Page, 40, told QMI Agency in Toronto before a dress rehearsal for friends and family prior to his first cross-Canada solo tour of theatres that begins Tuesday night in Regina.
“I haven’t done this in a long time. It’s been three and a half years since I’ve been on a tour bus.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that Page, one of the co-founders of the Toronto pop-rock group in 1989, split from Barenaked Ladies last year following a tumultuous period that included getting busted for cocaine and divorcing his wife.
Still, Page previously toured Ontario for three weeks earlier this year with the Art of Time Ensemble, with whom he recorded the covers album, A Singer Must Die, so it’s not like he hasn’t tested the waters since making headlines.
“I don’t know why I’m nervous,” he said, chowing down in a Little Italy restaurant. “It usually happens that one day at the beginning of a project I get a little bit wound up and then I’m fine. I know once I’m on the bus and I’m on the bunk, I’ll start to let go.”
This time Page is touring in support of his first studio album of original material since splitting from the Ladies, which came out in mid-October. The first song on the record is tellingly called A New Shore.
“I don’t want to write diary entries but at the same time you want to write songs that are emotionally honest and when I made this record I thought, ‘Do I want to go out on the road for two years and sing depressing songs about how s–ty things were?'” said Page. “There’s a couple that are there but in general it’s like, ‘Where am I now?’ And ‘What have I learned from it?’ And, ‘What do I want?’ And I would rather sing about that. I don’t want to go out on the road or work and feel like it’s sucking my soul out. It’s got to be fufilling.”
The Barenaked Ladies’ new album, All In Good Time, had a first single called You Run Away, which dealt with Page’s departure and he wasn’t entirely comfortable hearing it.
“I’d be at the store and it’d be on the radio blasting, it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s a little finger-pointy isn’t it?'” said Page. “The thing about anger in songs, especially in BNL songs we’ve done, any ones that we did that were kind of finger-pointy, they always bothered me. I didn’t want to go there. I think I talked to Kevin (BNL keyboardist Hearn) a little bit about it. I think it made him a little bit uncomfortable as well.”
When asked if he could have conceived of starting his music career over again after several decades in the business, Page said it was not out of the realm of possibilities.
“You can’t take anything for granted and I never did,” said Page, who divides his time between Toronto and Syracuse, N.Y., where he bought a place with his American girlfriend Christine Benedicto (a former BNL fan he met online) and her two kids.
“I was always the guy in the (Ladies), that even though I might have been the front person, we’d be going into a gig and I’d be the guy stopped and asked for I.D. I don’t know what the deal was but I was always like, ‘No respect.’ I was like the Rodney Dangerfield (of the group).
“There’s a certain level of starting all over again and that’s both exciting and daunting. There’s no guarantee I’m going to be able to make a living as a musician. I’ve never had a job beyond this. I don’t want to get a job. I want to make music.”
Page has already lived through mid-life crisis
Steven Page turned 40 this year, but let’s face it, he’s already had his mid-life crisis.
A separation (and later divorce) in 2007, a drug bust in 2008 and splitting from one of Canada’s best known bands in 2009 — in this case, the Barenaked Ladies — which he co-founded 20 years ago, just about covers it, right?
“I wasn’t thinking about 40 at all,” said Page. “I kind of felt like I was born 40 in a way. I think after I turned 40, I went, ‘Oh, my God. I’ve got a new record. I’m kind of making a new start. And I’m 40.’ If I was 30, I might have an easier go of it. But do I have to pretend I’m 30 now in order to get played on the radio? I used to get very defensive about a so-called ‘mid-life crisis.’ And I think, ‘No, ’cause it’s not me. I’m not a cliche. But yeah, I think you get to a point in your life and you go, ‘Am I on the path that I wanted to be on?'”
Needless to say, Page says it’s been humbling all the way around.
“I’ve learned to give myself permission to fail which I never did before,” said Page, an admitted perfectionist. “The lesson you learn is how to train yourself to roll with the punches.”
Page can’t see rejoining Ladies
Both Steven Page and his former band, the Barenaked Ladies, are currently touring and performing the group’s beloved songs at the same time.
“The songs kind of belong to both of us so it makes sense to me but I don’t know how common it is with other bands when they split,” said Page, who just released his first post-BNL album of original material, Page One, in mid-October.
“As far as the emotional ownership I think we both feel like they’re our songs.” Page, who deferred having a Toronto date in November after Barenaked Ladies scheuled a Nov. 26 show at Massey Hall, said he would have preferred the group continue on without him under a new name but said he’s trying not to take it too personally.
“It’s hard sometimes to think, it’d be easy to say, ‘Well, that’s Barenaked Ladies. It doesn’t matter if he’s there or not,'” he said.
Page, who hopes to have a large club show in Toronto in January or February, actually said there’s been more communication with his Ladies bandmates given the passage of time since their 2009 split.
“I saw (band-co-founder) Ed (Robertson) and (drummer) Tyler (Stewart) at the Bell Gala a little while ago and it was a little bit weird but I thought, ‘Like why make it strange?’ Just remind them that I’m the guy that they were best friends with for 20 years. And it was good. It was nice. It was nice to be able to connect that way. But, I think as Ed was saying to me, like ‘Does it really matter? Are we past that? Do we need to have a relationship really?’
“But because they were guys that I was so close to for so long, I don’t want them to be angry at me or hate me or misunderstand me. I think the other way around too. I can’t imagine myself ever rejoining the band but if there’s stuff to do together, sure, I’d be fine with that. I think we both just want to wait until we re-establish ourselves.”
Steven Page getting pre-tour jitters