Winnipeg-born Craig Bjerring, or the solo "stream of consciousness" known as oldseed, is making a stop in Calgary this month. Armed with an acoustic guitar, the dynamic folk master has been performing as oldseed for twenty-some years, and has released two records and three ten-inch vinyl ep records to date. Having moved from Canada to Germany five years ago, oldseed has flourished in the independent music scene in Europe. Performing over 300 shows over a two-year period, oldseed is well-connected within the European music world. Having recently moved to the larger city of Kassel, Germany, Bjerring is making a visit to Canada for 10 shows en route to his sister's wedding. The Gauntlet caught him for his first-ever Skype interview to discuss his upcoming tour in Canada, how he conceives of himself as "the travelling artist" and how imagination unleashes the potential for any space to be worthy of a great show.
The Gauntlet: You are originally from Winnipeg. Does where you are from have anything with what you do now?
oldseed: Yeah, of course, short answer. Long answer is maybe- where do you draw the line and stop saying where you are from? Where does that end? I'm also from tonight and I'm from last week. I spent a lot of time in Winnipeg. I was there for a big chunk of my life and I learned a lot about myself- about performing, singing, songwriting. Where you're from certainly defines who you are, but I don't think that where you're from is necessarily defined by a place.
G: You've toured all over Europe, so how did you find yourself in Germany?
O: Well, I first came to Europe when I was actually doing music for . . . a large theatre group and then I just kept coming back more and more every year. And I started doing my solo project as well. So while I was touring with the group, I would pick up a show here and there as oldseed and it just gradually shifted until I quit doing the theatre. I then met my wife in Germany five years ago and since then, I've been here. We've been married for about a year and a half now.
G: What is your take on the traveling artist and what that entails?
O: Perspective is a real problem in art. I think people don't take enough steps back to really see what the whole picture is. There is something funny that always happens here in Germany, where my friends, they're very modest here, and they're always like, 'There is no good German music.' And then I say to them, 'It was kind of finished by the Germans.' It's all just been copies of that ever since Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. They never look at it that way; they look at it in terms of pop music, which is a limited view. It's not about what happened five years ago, but what happened 500 years ago.
G: When you perform, do you prefer a smaller or larger crowd?
O: Absolutely smaller. I began playing as oldseed because I was sick of having to format a full band and get the band together and carry all our guitars around and I was like, 'Oh, I can just carry an acoustic guitar around.' Easier. [Also], one of the joys of playing solo is that you don't have to write out a set list.
G: If you could pick one of your favourite places you have performed, where would that be?
O: There are so many. I played twice in this place in Finland. It's super cool because it's not a really big town, maybe two hundred thousand people- Joensuu. This hotel, with a bar attached to it, it's like . . . the place where all the folk singers back in the day played and it's really nice because it's so out of the way and the furthest north I've ever been in Finland. The people there were so welcoming. So much of the show has to do with how the people are. You can play in Carnegie Hall but if everyone's talking, who cares, right? Another place I can think of is
. . . in Holland. This has happened a couple of times- went back to friend's place and we walk into his apartment building and there's this glorious marble staircase. It's all marble with statues all over the top and shit and they just have bikes stored there and I'm like, 'Dude, you have to put on a show here.' And then he starts doing these shows there called the 'Glorious Staircase Shows' and it's awesome because I play unplugged and we put cushions on the stairs and everyone sits on the stairs. . . the echo is magnificent. . . In music, if you've got a cool thing, it's like 'share the wealth' with other people. It feels so good to meet up with someone later and be like, 'Oh man, I met so-and-so in such-and-such a place and we had such a great time' and I'm like, 'I know, me too!'
You can catch oldseed with Calgary's own unique brand of alternative soul in the form of Dojo Workhorse at the Ironwood Stage and Grill November 8. Doors open at 8 p.m.