Grant Lawrence has never met Malakwa’s Audrey Stremick in person, but he is intimately familiar with one of her adventures.
The author, musician, former Word on the Lake Festival guest speaker and CBC Radio personality expects to finally meet Stremick when his Grant Lawrence and Friends tour stops at Salmon Arm’s Song Sparrow Hall on Saturday, June 17.
The show will be a mix of storytelling, courtesy of Lawrence, and live music provided by ROOTSandBLUES veteran Danny Michel, Ashleigh Ball of Hey Ocean, and Dustin Bentall, whose father, Barney, played Song Sparrow last year.
On his story set list for June 17, Lawrence has at least a couple of true tales with a Shuswap connection – both from his latest book, Return to Solitude: More Desolation Sound Adventures with the Cougar Lady, Russell the Hermit, the Spaghetti Bandit, and Others. One of the stories will involve the late Russell Letawsky, aka Russell the Hermit, and the harrowing journey he and then partner, Stremick, shared in 1977 when they hiked over the Coast Mountain Range from an area near Pemberton Meadows to the Malaspina Inlet where Stremick’s sister Linda had a homestead.
“I will be sharing photos from that trek that almost killed them both – It was supposed to be a two-week hike and it lasted for over a month…,” said Lawrence, who interviewed Letawsky and Stremick for the book but only ever met the former.
“I’ve interviewed her, like, 20 times over the course of doing a CBC radio series about it and also writing about her in my latest book… but I’ve never met Audrey and I’m really excited to do that,” added Lawrence.
Lawrence said the show is inspired by the late great Stuart McLean and his Vinyl Cafe shows. Lawrence, a longtime fan of McLean, recalled receiving invaluable advice while visiting McLean at his home Kitchener, Ont.
“He had my wife (Jill Barber) and I over to give me advice on how to become an author,” said Lawrence.
“He served crumpets with blueberries and I thought, ‘Wow, that is such a Vinyl Cafe-type of food to serve me,’ and I don’t think I’d even had crumpets before.
“But he gave me some really great advice and it’s advice that I’ve stuck with for many years and that’s just, tell your story, be honest with yourself, don’t try to be anybody you’re not and have fun with the audience.
“The audience is there to have a good time so give that audience the good time.”
For his musical accompaniment on the tour, Lawrence selected a cast of musicians he has come to love through his job at CBC. Each musician, Ball, Bentall and Michel, brings their own musical style and stories to the stage.
“I just think there’s an incredible alchemy that happens – I tell a story and it’s complemented by a musician coming up and playing a song,” said Lawrence. “That song…might not have anything to do with the story, but there’s just something that’s pleasing to the brain, that kind of variety style approach. And I’m a guy that doesn’t like to be bored, so I like a lot of variety.
“I like a couple songs, a story, a couple songs, story, and keep the show moving for everybody. Keep it early, it’s a 7:30 p.m. start time so everyone can get home – I don’t like to be out late. So basically the show caters to what I like, what I want out of a show. And I hope that other people do as well.”
In addition to Stremick, Lawrence said he may also see at the June 17 show some of the Hillcrest Elementary students involved in the school’s 2022 CBC Canadian Music Class Challenge (hosted by Lawrence) entry, a video cover of Sloan’s The Rest of My Life.
For tickets, visit songsparrowhall.ca. For more information about Lawrence, visit grantlawrence.ca.
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