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Looking back and moving forward

by Archives April 1, 2008

This spring, five-time Juno award-winning Canadian star David Usher celebrates his 10th year as an established and enormously successful solo artist. It’s already been 14 years since the singer-songwriter made his debut leading his former rock band Moist into stardom.
Since then, Usher has had 10 singles dominate the no. 1 spot on Canadian radio, and has topped the charts in over 15 countries around the world.
Across Canada and abroad, David Usher has clearly established a strapping fan base and garnered the music industry’s respect.
Always a crowd-pleaser, David Usher sat down to talk about his solo career in retrospect.

David Usher, this spring marks the tenth anniversary of your solo career.
Really? I didn’t realize that. It’s funny I was online blogging and asking people what they want to hear at shows. So I went through my solo records and listed the songs. I was shocked by how many songs there are.

A lot of hits too. Did you ever imagine that you would be this successful as a solo artist?
It’s the strangest thing. I’ll keep making records forever, but I always think I may be making the last record that people might be interested in listening to. No, I never thought that I would be making records this far into it and that people would still be listening.
It’s very modest of you to assume so, but you must have some idea.
Not really. I focus on the record that I’m making at that time. It’s hard for me to predict where I’m going to be after that album. I think about the next period of time in terms of months, maybe a year. I had no grand scheme of how it would roll out. It all just started out as five guys in a little band called Moist.

Do you recall the very first time that you were recognized in public by a fan?
I do! It was when the first single broke and the video for “Push” had become big on television. I was walking down the street in Montreal and a group of kids passed by, we locked eyes and they screamed. They scared the hell out of me!

Good old Montreal. Why is this city so special to you? You’ve lived here, moved away and now you’re back.
There is something special about Montreal and you can feel it in the air. Having lived in a lot of places, I can say that this city is different. I feel like I’m living in a Hemmingway novel, like A Moveable Feast, a world you don’t expect to exist, but you can find it in a place like Montreal. When I lived in New York I got a certain energy from it in my chest. New York is exciting, but it rattles me at the same time. The energy in Montreal grounds me more and allows me to access different parts of my brain.
You’ve collaborated with so many different Canadian musicians – so many that I nearly forgot that back in 1997 you played a role in Sarah MacLachlan’s video “Building a Mystery.”
I was in the video! Yes that’s me the “beautiful f—ed up man.” It was fun.

Is there one Canadian artist that would you love to collaborate with?
Leonard Cohen! I’ve met him, but I’d love to work with him. It’s a well-known fact that I’m a huge Cohen fan. If the possibility ever arose, I’d love to, but I don’t think Leonard is working with many people these days.

A listener would say your music has evolved. Do you agree as a writer?
My writing is always a reflection of my headspace at that time. I think there are similar ideas in the lyrics, but it’s not all doom and gloom anymore. I don’t want to rewrite myself, so I did move off of certain ideas for sure. My lyrics have shifted. My music was a bit darker and I was purely writing from an internal place. These days I tend to write about the world around me. I’ve become concerned with the way the world is working and going to work. An idea of being a good human is trying to develop yourself and be interested and interesting. You can only do that by experiencing different things. I want to have a world view. I want to be interesting.

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