One toe into Roots and Blues Festival waters and Peter North is liking the groove.
North, an Edmontonian with 30 years of experience in the music scene, and a number of awards for his efforts, takes over as artistic director of the popular summer festival.
Starting the process of wrapping up obligations in Edmonton, North will be in Salmon Arm several days a month until spring and full time from May through August.
He has high praise for outgoing artistic director Hugo Rampen, who has already booked a substantial number of performers for the Aug. 15 to 17 festival.
“I think it’s a really smart idea; I get to see the festival without the onus of organizing the whole thing,” he says. “I feel real blessed to get this gig. I am just really thrilled and honoured, I know there’s a number of capable people for the job.”
North was also thrilled with the reception he has received since he made his first appearance at the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society’s Jan. 29th AGM.
He says moving to B.C. has long been on his agenda and getting the artistic director job with Roots and Blues is allowing pieces of that puzzle to fall into place.
In terms of putting his own stamp on the festival, North says, he definitely envisions a substantial blues component, as is reflected in the festival’s name.
“From what I’ve seen of Hugo’s lineups, they’re really impressive – a great tapestry,” says North, noting he is interested in adding an acoustic-alt-country, bluegrass side. “That’s an area seems to be going through a renaissance and I have a lot of contacts there.”
The policy of bringing in older generation blues masters before they either retire or die is something he would like to continue.
North also approves of and intends to continue Rampen’s innovative program of workshops that have musicians who have never met each other, let alone played together, jamming on one stage.
“I very much like collaboration – it can produce some spectacular musical alchemy,” he says, noting Rampen has booked performers that will perform well. “It can be a high point because it’s a one-time thing, you’ll never hear it again.”
And North is quick to point out the festival has to appeal to a wide range of age groups and cultural preferences.
“It has to be a melting pot, especially when you have 35 to 40 acts – you need touchstones to all sorts of cultures, and you need to keep the youth involved,” he says, noting he is inspired by the hunt and that there are a lot of great Canadian acts.
North says he is thrilled to join an organization with such a great reputation, particularly since artistic director jobs are hard to come by.
“I spoke to so many musicians who had played the festival and all had high praise,” he says. “A couple of friends who are artistic directors emailed or phoned to say ‘this is the job for you, you’re the guy.’”
North’s extensive musical background includes experience as a journalist in print, radio and television and as a promoter of live music on a number of fronts.
He has been a columnist for 22 years with major dailies and his work has appeared in many national and regional magazines. North has also written the liner notes for more than three dozen albums including the recent Grammy nominated world/blues disc Slide To Freedom from Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt.
North’s television experience includes a six-year run co-producing the weekly and nationally broadcast roots music show Country Beat on CBC.
He has 12 years of experience with Radio CKUA, Canada’s oldest listener-supported radio station that has 17 transmitters across Alberta, is heard online across the world and is supported to the tune of $5 million a year.
North’s work has been recognized nationally: he was named Music Journalist of the Year in 1996 at the annual Canadian Music Industry Awards, and Media Person of the Year six years in a row, awarded by the Western Canadian Music Association.
After years of booking artists in concert and club venues around Edmonton he continues to stay active on that front. He organizes the annual acoustic blues series Front Porch Roots Revue.