Like a bright ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, Valdy bounces onto the stage and the magic begins.
The Canadian icon has just finished the annual Contenders Tour of the B.C. Interior he performs with Gary Fjellgaard, Blu Hopkins and Kelly Hopkins.
As always, the tour played to packed houses filled with vocally appreciative audiences.
So imagine the loud cheers and applause Valdy received when he announced he had just been signed to Roots and Blues 2019 during a sold-out, Nov. 8 concert at Carlin Hall.
“I was just thrilled, that was a response I didn’t expect to get, but it was wonderful,” he says. “It’s good to get some old geezers in there (the festival).”
Roots and Blues artistic director Peter North says the admiration is mutual and he has signed Valdy not just to perform but to MC the main stage on Sunday night of the 2019 music festival in Salmon Arm.
“I just think he’ll make a great MC; he’s always so outgoing, personable, intelligent and a Canadian folk icon – how could you go wrong with Valdy?” says North, calling the artist one of the most underrated guitar players on the music scene. “He’s a great interpreter of other people’s songs, he gives you context, historical and otherwise; he’s educational and entertaining at the same time.”
Valdy had been studying piano for five years and barely into high school, he says, when he saw Canadian guitarist Bob Graham play guitar.
“It made me envious because he could take an instrument and transform a room with it; it was a very foxy instrument and I liked it better than the piano,” he says, happily reporting that he acquired the Martin D-28 1951 model when Graham got a new guitar.
“I began playing in hootenannies; we got together and made music. We weren’t very good but we were learning,” he says.
“I consider myself a student of the instrument, I don’t stretch too much, but that’s why I like workshops – someone will sling you into another orbit.”
A member of the Order of Canada since 2012, Valdy travels the world as a solo performer. As much as he is thrilled to continue to draw large audiences, performing as part of the Contenders tour every year gives him a sense of stability.
“It’s an anchor in my year and I like that because as a folk singer always getting work in Manitoba, Australia or elsewhere,” I like having an anchor in the year,” he says. “It makes a big difference psychologically, it’s predictable and it’s nice to have those in the year.”
He says he and Fjellgaard are still having fun doing the Contenders tour organized by Armstrong promoter Ken Smedley. But he believes the show needs to be refreshed to keep it from getting stale and predictable.
“Blu and Kelly (Hopkins) are the new grease for the wheel and we like each other and we play well together.”
On the 2018 Contenders tour, the couple were included with Valdy and Fjellgaard in two numbers and Valdy would like to broaden the collaboration for future tours.
A member of the Saltspring Folk Club for more than 20 years, Valdy keeps his guitar and voice active on home turf in the six shows the club offers between September and May.
The shows are always a Monday night “because it’s the slowest night in the hood,” he explains, noting the final show of the 2018-19 season will wrap with the April 22 Gumboot Gala.
“Sometimes I feel old, but not older,” Valdy laughs as he is being interviewed while walking his three dogs, including Moondance Blue, the latest and young canine addition he descries as 100 pounds of spring. “I think learning keeps us young – a new language, travelling, new music, training a dog.”
Valdy has recorded several albums, including collaborations with Fjellgaard as the Contenders, information about which is available online at Valdy.com.
The popular musician and vocalist will perform with the Victoria Jazz Orchestra next spring and is interested in doing a jazz album.