On Dreams, Radio, and the Road: An Interview With Devin Cuddy

It was early 2016 when we first discovered the music of Devin Cuddy, and immediately fell for his fun and lively interpretation of New Orleans ragtime and blues.  Seeking out both his debut “Volume One” and sophomore “Kitchen Knife” albums, we quickly added Devin to our growing list of artists that we really wanted to see performing live.  Attending a concert just a few months later, we had the good fortune in learning that Devin Cuddy was added to the show as a ‘very last minute’ announced opening artist.  Finally, we had the pleasure to see and hear some of this great music on a wonderful summer evening under the stars.

Fast forward to the fall of 2016, and Devin would be announced as the opening act for Blue Rodeo during their short tour of the Eastern US to promote the “1000 Arms” album south of the border. Team GDW attended the opening show at The Ardmore Music Hall here in PA, and may very well have been the first fans to welcome Devin Cuddy to our home state (Devin was unloading his gear from the tour bus at the time). With our front row seats, we were up close and personal with Devin all evening on this, his first-ever performance in the US, and enjoyed his entertaining set that included an early rendition of his current single “Radio.”

Fast forward once more to the summer of 2017, and we caught up with Devin at The Sawdust City Music Festival, where we were treated once again to “Radio” and another new track, “Maggie’s Hardware Store.”  Devin mentioned to us at that time that he was ready to return to the studio, but his plans were unconfirmed and could not offer any indication of how soon this was likely to be.

The good news is that the wait is finally over, as Devin has just released an EP titled “Amy’s Dream.”  With three original tunes and two cover versions, Cuddy has some wonderful new material to share, and offers something a little different to his trademark bluesy, old ragtime sound.  A little more rock n roll, a little more country, and a little more “Radio” friendly; these five tracks open a new chapter in Devin’s musical journey.

Devin Cuddy

Team GDW recently caught up with Devin Cuddy in Hamilton, ON, during the “Constellation” tour with brother Sam Polley, family friend Barney Bentall, and The Jim Cuddy Band.  After a night of great music, we were able to chat for a while with both brothers, and are grateful that Devin welcomed the opportunity to discuss the new material with us.

We are naturally thrilled to finally hear your third and most recent release, “Amy’s Dream.”  After two full length albums, what prompted the decision to go with an EP this time around?

I had some new material I had been working on and recording, but a full length record was not going to be ready in time for the Constellation tour. I wanted to have something new to take out on the road with me, so we decided to release a few of the songs we had been working on and one we recorded just for the EP. This will be a lead up to a full length we are hoping to release in the fall.

You have selected “Radio” as the lead single from this EP, although you’ve been plugging this one for quite a while now.  Can you describe the story behind “Radio” for any of our readers who may be unfamiliar with your music?

I indeed have had this song mostly written for some time, but it takes time to record and put it out. It’s a song I wrote about various friends I have in the music industry who felt they had hit a wall, or were getting burned out from the lifestyle. The travel and attention can wear some people out, and I amalgamated various conversations with fellow musicians into this song. It isn’t about any one in particular and not about me. I always say after playing it, “This song is not about me, I’d love to be on the radio, please tell your friends.” My own kind of disclaimer – ha!

Two of the five new tracks are cover versions.  What was it about Jack Marks’ “Maggie’s Hardware Store” and Luke Doucet’s “One Too Many” that connected with you?

Jack Marks has been a friend of mine for sometime now. I used to play piano in his band, where I first heard the song. It has a very powerful story behind it (his to tell) and I was always drawn to the song. I started playing it with my band right from the start and people were always asking about it. It became a very popular part of our set and so it was time to record it.

Luke has been a friend of the family for many years and I always love all the music he makes. I really liked his record “Broken (and other rogue states)” and when I heard “One Too Many” I thought it would make a great country song. We would play it in our bar sets years ago and I thought we’d bring it back to have that represented on the EP.

You have been sharing all three of these new tracks during your segments on the Jim Cuddy Band Constellation Tour.  How fun has it been taking the new music to new cities and new fans alike?

It’s been great sharing the tunes across the country. It has been a while since I have done a full cross-Canada tour and a while since I have had new music to share, so I could not be happier.

What can you tell us about the title track, “Amy’s Dream?”  Any stories that you would like to share?

As with many of my songs, “Amy’s Dream” is just a story I made up. It’s based on a feeling many people have, I think, when they feel depressed and seek relief in a day dream. I think it is something many people can relate to. I have been asked before if Amy is a person in my life; she is not, just another composite of many people.

When whittling down to the five tracks for the EP, were there songs that wound up on the cutting room floor that you really would have liked to include?  If so, what can you tell us about these tracks?

There were some songs left behind, but most will be on the upcoming full length. Lyrically they are similar to the EP, with a variety of themes and musically they vary as well. I have left very few songs on the cutting room floor over the years. If I do, I try and revamp them and have them appear on other records. Anything I scrap usually does not make it to the studio.

We always love to hear you perform the currently unreleased track “Bleeding Kansas.”  How did a Toronto musician discover an affiliation to Kansas and its Civil War history as inspiration for a tune?

“Bleeding Kansas” will be on our full length in the fall. We have already recorded it, and it may even become the title track if I get my way. I have always loved history and was watching (for a second time) the Ken Burns civil war documentary a while back. When I heard the mention of Bleeding Kansas, I took to Wikipedia to learn more. It was a song that wrote itself, as the story is very interesting with some fun terms, which I adopted in the song. The history is tight in that song. I can’t wait for a history teacher to proof read it.

Once the Constellation tour wraps up, what is up next for Devin Cuddy this year?

Once the tour is wrapped up I will take some time to finish recording our full length, play some summer shows and ramp up for a release and Devin Cuddy Band tour in the fall.

On a separate topic, but something that has the internet abuzz – whose idea was it for the “Growing Up Cuddy” You Tube series?  And any interesting revelations ahead in future segments?

The You Tube series came from my dad’s label, Warner Music Canada. At first it was just a conversation and Sam and I didn’t know how they were going to cut it up. There will be some fun segments I imagine if they use everything we talked about, but you’ll have to wait and see.

~ M

Photo credit: Max Power Photography

Visit Devin Cuddy’s website.

Buy “Amy’s Dream” online.

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