Bill Bourne is bringing his down-home, roots-based music to the Spitfire Lounge of the Army, Navy and Airforce Club Nov. 18. (Alun Brighton photo)

Downhome roots take Vernon’s Spitfire Lounge

Multiple Juno Award-winning musician Bill Bourne set to play with the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society

Paul Tessier

For The Morning Star

Roots-music troubadour and multiple Juno Award-winner Bill Bourne grew up with music.

“I remember so many times falling asleep upstairs in our farmhouse,” Bourne said. “I’d be in my bed in and I could hear the music downstairs. That memory is still very comforting to me. That’s something I’ll always remember.”

He’ll be playing some of that down-home, roots-based music live for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Spitfire Lounge of the Army, Navy and Airforce Club.

Bourne grew up in a very musical family on a farm near Red Deer, Alta, and fondly remembers lots of music in the house.

“My mom and dad had a band when I was a little kid. They were pretty busy of course with the farming, but they’d always somehow find time to play music. Weekends would come along — especially in the winter months — people would come over and pretty soon there’d be all this music. As kids, it was kind of cool because we got to do stuff they wouldn’t let us do normally, because they were busy playing music,” Bourne said with a hearty laugh.

At the age of 11, his uncle dropped off his clarinet.

“I put that thing together and started playing it immediately. I loved it but then a couple of years later, I started hanging out with some guys at school who wanted to start a band. The clarinet didn’t work with guitars. They said, ‘That’s crazy. What’s with this clarinet? Get that thing out of here.’ That sort of put a damper on the clarinet playing so I started playing guitar.”

He then naturally gravitated the songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. He played in bands throughout high school and got his ticket as a licensed diesel mechanic. He was working as a mechanic for about a year when he got into the music business.

“I quit my job, took my guitar and went to see a booking agent and auditioned,” he said. “They put me to work right away, playing in bars in northern Alberta.”

It proved to be a quick learning experience.

“When all of a sudden your living depends on your music — you learn a lot in a hurry,” Bourne said. “It ends up being really good for your playing.”

The booking agent wanted him to know 50 top 40 country songs and get a Rhythm Ace or electronic drummer.

“I never did get a Rhythm Ace,” he said. “I made a pact with myself when I quit my job as a mechanic that I was only going to play music that I really wanted to play. I wasn’t going to let anybody tell me what to play. I’m glad I made that pact with myself because that way I was able to pursue the music that I liked best. I sort of understood from the very beginning that the greatest asset you have as an artist is your own uniqueness.”

It was around then that he started writing songs — a process he finds to be both an art and spiritual in nature.

“As a songwriter, I can sit down and write lyrics all day,” Bourne said. “But every once in a while, all of a sudden, something seems to take over my body and a song will come up that blows everything else away. That to me is art. You can premeditate to a certain degree what you’re going to write about but when this phenomenon — this sort of inspired moment occurs — that’s what really gets my attention.

“So, as an artist, if you’re fortunate enough to have those inspired moments occur and you manage to capture them, what happens is that there’s a uniqueness that comes out — a unique perspective. There’s a real potency to those moments,” he said. “Without those songs, it’s much more difficult to be unique. But to me, sometimes I feel like I can’t really claim authorship to those songs because it’s like it came from another place.”

Over the years, he’s been nominated for eight Juno Awards and has won three Junos, including Best Roots Recording in 1991 for Dance and Celebrate.

He’s collaborated with all sorts of folks, including the Tannahill Weavers and Alan McLeod, Shannon Johnson, Wykham Porteous, Madagascar Slim and others. Along the way, he’s noticed a common thread running through the themes of most great songwriters.

“The message is consistently about universal love,” Bourne said. “Those inspired moments, which give life to those inspired songs, almost always have that underlying, powerful message.”

Although the message on Saturday, Nov. 18 might be about universal love and other themes, expect his show to be joyous and even raucous.

“My music is essentially based on dance rhythms. Lately, I’ve taken to playing some blues on banjo, which I’m really getting into. I also play the stomp-box a lot because I like to play music that’s uptempo and very danceable. If people want to get up, shake a leg and sing along, that’s definitely fine by me.”

Bill Bourne will be performing many of his inspired songs for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Spitfire Lounge of the Army, Navy and Airforce Club. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available through The Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.tickerseller.ca, the Bean Scene Coffee House and at the door if available.

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