Bahamas Discusses His Solo Tour + Gratitude for the Grind
October 15, 2021 @ 1:00pm
On October 12, beloved Canadien artist Bahamas, best known for the intoxicatingly soulful and folksy “Lost in the Light,” returned to D.C.’s iconic 9:30 Club, with a plan to play familiar favorites and introduce fans (new and old) to music from his latest album: “Sad Hunk.” Ahead of his performance, we caught up with him to discuss the experience of performing live again, touring solo, his eclectic musical palette and more.
District Fray: Are you excited to return to the 9:30 Club?
Bahamas: For sure. The hospitality there is on point. They really put a lot of effort in and it’s a great room to see a show and a great room to play a show.
How long have you been touring this year?
Bahamas: [I’ve been] touring for about two weeks. I didn’t do anything for the last 18 months. It was a lot of work to get to this point [and] be able to do this tour. It’s been going great. People are so happy to be out, together again and seeing music. I think there’s a lot of goodwill. As a performer, that’s a nice position to be in.
[Playing music] really doesn’t work unless the crowd’s there; nobody laughs at my jokes if I’m all alone. I’ve missed it as a performer and I can really tell that people have missed it too. There’s a lot of people that still don’t feel comfortable going out, but that’s okay too. [Though], there are a lot of people who do want to go out. It feels strangely normal.
As a Canadian artist, what do you enjoy most about touring in the States?
Bahamas: I’m very fortunate to have toured all over the place. I’ve toured in Asia and Australia, all over Europe and obviously Canada. But touring in America is the bulk of what I do. It’s such a big country and there’s a lot of people. Canada is a very big country, but there’s only 35 million people. There might be 20 gigs from coast to coast and that’s it. [In the states], there might be 20 gigs on the Eastern Seaboard, all within two hours of each other. It’s a privilege. I really do love this country. I’ve met wonderful people. It’s such a diverse country in every way: geographically, ideologically and culturally. I don’t think I would have known that if it wasn’t for music. I wouldn’t have gone to Charleston, West Virginia, Boise, Idaho, Santa Fe, New Mexico, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles or smaller towns. That’s part of touring life for me. It’s not just about playing. It’s about experiencing something different from the way I live.
Do you feel like you’re in a different play creatively since the pandemic began?
Bahamas: I certainly didn’t stop [being creative]. I put out an album a year ago and I was working on this live to tape project for a whole year, which was a fun thing too. It’s a lifestyle, being an artist. It is not something that you turn on and off. It’s my whole life. I don’t go to work in an office, I write songs, and that’s the thing I enjoy the most. And in order to do that you have to be open to doing it whenever [an] idea might come. Sometimes it comes at a pretty inopportune time [and] you have to excuse yourself from the supper table and go write something down. I’m always moving forward. I’m always working on new songs and new ideas. And for me, in some ways, having a break was actually a very good thing. I hadn’t played a single show on this album, so the last two weeks, [I’ve been] reacquainting myself with this music.
Where are you finding inspiration? What artists are you listening to in your free time?
Bahamas: It’s pretty diverse. Lately I’ve been listening to Hiss Golden Messenger. He had an album out last year that I really like. And I really like hip-hop. Jay Cole’s newest record was amazing. I’ve listened to that about a million times, and [I listen to] a lot of Kanye West records. I [also] like Neil Young and Bob Dylan and the classics.
Pop music has really been dominated by hip-hop for so long now, because they’re able to sing about the relevant things. They’re able to sing about the life that we’re all living. They sing about technology, Phones, emails and DM’s. Lyrically, I’m always drawn to things pushing the boundaries. And it certainly seems artists like Jay Cole and others are able to tap into something.
At the same time, I’ll sit down and listen to Tony Rice play acoustic guitar. I really don’t discriminate when it comes to music. It’s about equality and we’re so fortunate to live in an age where there’s an embarrassment of riches. There’s so much good music coming out all the time. And as a fan, that’s amazing. As a musician, it’s intimidating and inspiring, because it forces you to really be critical of your own work and try and make it the best it can be.
For anyone who sees you on this tour, what should they expect?
Bahamas: I’m solo on this tour and when you play solo you have a lot of flexibility. I’ve made a setlist but I can’t say I really stay true to it. As soon as I get up there and start making decisions, [I start] changing things around, even within a song. You can extend sections and you can go to a lot of different places — that’s been really fun on this tour. And I feel like I can tell more stories about the songs and talk a little bit more with the audience. That’s a pretty luxurious position to be in as a performer. You can really take people on a dynamic ride within the space of a show that’s an hour or an hour and a half. I’m grateful that the fans that I’ve built up [aren’t] tied to any one song. For me that means I can play songs from my first album and I can play new songs. I can play unreleased songs. I can do whatever I want. And that makes the shows exciting and interesting.
A lot of artists are in a space where they perpetually have to play what’s popular and what’s hitting on the airwaves. What does it mean to you, as a seasoned artist, to be able to stay close to your creative roots?
Bahamas: It’s everything. I’m never interested in shortcuts. I like the grind. I like things that take time. You gotta earn it. I’d love to have a song on the radio, but that’s never been my thing. That never happened for me. I’m 10 plus years and five albums into it, and that gives me a big vault of material to draw from. I wouldn’t do it any other way, frankly. And I hope to keep doing it for as long as I can.
To learn more about Bahamas, visit bahamasmusic.net or follow him on Instagram @bahamasmusic.
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