On June 5, local seniors were treated to a show by Canadian country star Gary Fjellgaard.
Fjellgaard was accompanied by the musical duo Saskia and Darrel for the well-attended show at the Kozy Korner.
After the show, Fjellgaard sat down with the Express in his motor home to talk about life on the road as a musician.
Touring around the country, Fjellgaard has certainly got his money’s worth out of the motor home.
“This is a well-used motor-home,” said Fjellgaard. “It has a lot of miles on it now.”
Fjellgaard, who turns 75 this fall, has been touring and making a living with music for over 40 years now, but his love of music is much older.
He first started playing around the age of six when his mother ordered a Lone Ranger guitar for his brother. His brother had no interest in the instrument, so Fjellgaard picked it up and started teaching himself to play.
It would be over 10 years before Fjellgaard actually bought his own guitar for the first time, but by then his love of guitar playing had taken firm roots.
Fjellgaard said he fell in love with the sound of stringed instruments like the guitar, the fiddle and the mandolin. He said he liked how the music brought people together and was easy for just about anyone to pick up.
“I think it was the simplicity of it.”
Fjellgaard added he formed his style of music with influences from artists like Wilf Carter. Writing songs about Fjellgaard’s own lifestyle that others could relate to was something that he enjoyed, he said.
Like many musicians from his generation, Fjellgaard has never had any formal musical training.
He taught himself to play by listening to the radio and watching others play. In fact, Fjellgaard said that, to this day, he cannot read music.
While Fjellgaard said it is unfortunate he never had a formal musical education, he also said his music may have taken a different direction if he had.
“But then that would have taken away maybe from what I’ve written. I might not have written the songs I have written.”
As it is, inspiration for Fjellgaard’s music comes from his own life. He said he writes about his “cowboy lifestyle” growing up on the prairies of east central Saskatchewan, traveling around the country and his relationship with his wife, Lynn, with whom he will be celebrating 57 years of marriage with this summer.
Genes may have something to do with Fjellgaard’s musical talent. His father, a Norwegian immigrant, was a classically-trained musician.
However, Fjellgaard never knew his father, as he died when Fjellgaard was a baby. Still, it seems the musical talent was passed on somehow.
“I guess it was in my blood,” said Fjellgaard.
Fjellgaard added that he visited his family in Norway some 40 years after his dad had died and was told by relatives (musicians all) that he was like a reincarnation of his father, in both looks and musical skill.
Before making a living as a musician, Fjellgaard held many other jobs.
He left Saskatchewan at the age of 15 to get a job in British Columbia at his uncle’s sawmill. While working at the sawmill, Fjellgaard also got his industrial ticket to work as a professional logger, got his scaling license and completed a number of other pursuits to make him a kind of “jack of all trades.”
During the whole time though, he continued with the guitar, playing for dances on weekends to make a couple extra bucks.
Desire was not the only thing that led Fjellgaard to begin playing music more and more. When he began to experience back problems and needed several surgeries, playing guitar was something he could do that did not interfere with his back.
“It just slowly became a full-time thing out of necessity more than anything I guess,” said Fjellgaard.
“I just slowly evolved into a full-time musician.”
Fjellgaard also credited the CRTC with launching his career. He said that if the CRTC had never made it mandatory for Canadian radio stations to play Canadian content, he might never have been successful.
Indeed, his career has been successful. He said that playing some of the country music festivals, like the Craven Country Jamboree and Big Valley Jamboree was a lot of fun especially in the early days of the festivals.
Fjellgaard also got to play on Parliament Hill on Canada Day for two years in a row. He said being able to do that was exciting yet incredibly nerve-wracking.
“It was so chancy,” said Fjellgaard. “There was so many things that could screw up and I was so nail-bitingly nervous.”
While Fjellgaard enjoyed playing the larger shows, he said he prefers smaller ones. He said he is more comfortable in front of smaller audiences.
“I was more of an introvert,” said Fjellgaard.
“The small (shows) you had a degree of control over but the big ones you were at the mercy of whatever was set up.”
Another highlight Fjellgaard mentioned was being inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
He said it was quite an experience and has glad to be inducted by his friend and fellow musician, Valdy.