Alberta bred star talks cows and cabin fever

corb-lund-qa-tb Corb Lund and his band, The Hurtin’ Albertans have became a folk and country Canadian staple after their 2005 release of the album, “Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer” which featured fan favourites like, “Truck Got Stuck” and “All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards.”

 Lund has become known for his old-school storytelling lyrics and the many regional tunes that talk about the picturesque Rocky Mountains or affordable-living in the Saskatchewan prairies. He is not afraid to talk about Alberta’s big business oil sands and depletion of wildlife as well as land quality, and has somehow found the perfect straddling point between city slicker and rural rancher.

On Aug. 15 Lund and his band will release their latest full-length album, “Cabin Fever,” in which a press release says the Alberta cowboy “wrote most of the twelve track album whilst hunkered down in a remote cabin an hour outside Edmonton.”

The Calgary Journal spoke with Mr. Lund over the phone to talk about the latest album and Lund’s Calgary connection.

Editor’s note: some answers have been edited for length.

Writing songs in this isolated cabin, was it intentional to go there explicitly to write a record, or did you just happen to be in this isolated place when the words came to you?

It just happened. I went through a really rough breakup and we had some pretty bad health problems in my family, so I had a rough couple of years. I was spending a lot of time out there just dealing with things.

That’s what (the title Cabin Fever) is about —holing up in a place by yourself.

Cabin Fever features a song called “Cows Around” that talks about the downside to having bovine in a really funny way, what’s the story behind this fun tune?

The story is about any of us that have dads or western guys, cowboys or whatever that just cannot bear to not have cows around. It’s a pain in the butt to have them, and you lose money on them but you just got to have them around. It’s kind of a joke among cow people. I mean, really, they’re called cowboys for a reason. The whole western culture is based on cattle, and any of us country kids know dads or uncles that probably should have gotten rid of the cows years ago but just like to have a few around.

Is the cabin still around?

Yep. Me and an uncle of mine, (whose one of my favourite relatives who passed away a couple of years ago); he and I and my ex girlfriend put it together. He was a log builder. It’s quite beautiful.

Where have you been living lately?

I live in Edmonton and my family lives in Taber. I’m actually going to move to Calgary pretty quick here because my folks are getting older and I want to be closer to them.

What are your thoughts on Calgary? Do you have any special connection to the city?

Oh yeah, sure. Stampede is completely wrapped up with my family. We’ve always come up here and it was the highlight of the summer. My grandfather and my mom were both Stampede rodeo champs. My dad and both of my uncles competed and I actually did too, years ago when I was a kid.

It’s funny to me that Toronto and Calgary have being yipping at each other for years — we’re sort of viewed as the backward cousins, and we elect a really progressive, young, ethnic mayor and they elect that redneck, Ford! Every time I go to Toronto I gloat about that.

I really like Calgary. The whole point of moving here is to be close to the action. I love Edmonton, I’ve been there for 20 years but it’s like a big small-town.

If this next album were to take over the planet and you became the biggest country star in the world, would you relocate to the States?

No, I’d build a mansion on Scotsman’s Hill. Both sides of my family have been in Alberta for over a hundred years raising cattle.

I can see myself having a place in Austin for a few months in the winter, but I would never completely leave Alberta. It’s too tied up in my family.

How important is it for you to stay connected with your fans?

It’s pretty important. The biggest connection I feel is with an audience when I’m playing a show. A lot of people make a record and then tour to support the record, but for me, my whole life I’ve making records so that I could tour. My whole reason for getting into music has been so that I could play live. The communication that goes on between you and an audience when you are playing is quite cool.

I feel bad for (other kinds of artists) painters, or poets because they don’t really get to have that (audience connection). The best they can hope for is glowing reviews or heartfelt letters that people send them, or occasionally they can do a reading. But I get to do my art in real-time and I get an hour and a half’s worth of feedback every time. It’s great.

I’ve also been doing a lot more social networking. I’ve been tweeting and I do a blog every week, so that helps too. I use Facebook and Twitter a lot, and I try to reply to people but I don’t have a lot of time to do a whole lot of interaction. It’s mostly a one-way communication.

What’s your favourite setting to play shows in?

Hmm. 400 people in a 300 seat bar. Bars are awesome. I like it when people are crammed in and four feet away from you.

Playing for (tens of thousands) of people is fun in its own way, and theatres are nice because you can hear all the words and people have comfortable seating, but for sheer on-the-ice fun, crowded, sweaty beer-joints are the best.

My old band, The Smalls, used to play the Republik bar (in Calgary) all the time. That was a great bar.

What is your biggest hope for Cabin Fever?

Well, we’ve been chipping away in the States for quite awhile. We have regional followings in Texas, Montana and Wyoming. But we need to expand our (following).

I hope for international (success) because I love touring other countries. I’d like our American stuff to pick up. We do quite well in England and Australia, and I’d like to tour Europe more.

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