Texas roots musician Shakey Graves is a Canadaphile.
This was the first country Graves (born Alejandro Rose-Garcia) visited outside the U.S., and consequently “Canadian history, folklore and culture are fascinating to me,” said the 28-year-old Austin resident.
“It’s far more interesting than American history … All we have is Daniel Boone,” Graves added — whereas Canada has a wealth of frontier-men and women who had to learn to survive in the wilderness.
“You guys had the French-English wars, and all kinds of things …” said Graves, who opens for City and Colour on June 6, at the Centrium.
His own family “lived in Texas when it was still Mexico,” said the singer/songwriter.
Graves grew up in a musical home. “My parents had a band in the ’80s,” he recalled, and tunes by Neil Young, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Talking Heads and R.E.M. tunes were regularly played around the house.
His own tastes encompassed everything from Led Zeppelin and David Bowie to music from the Smithsonian Folkways Collection, which includes Delta Blues music, early Canadian log-driving songs, Appalachian bluegrass tunes and African spirituals.
“Like a lot of young people, I was drawn away from (commercial) music and back to the roots of where all music comes from,” said Graves.
Although described as a blues, folk and rock performer, he doesn’t see much distinction between the genres. For instance, he said “country (music) was a bad word when I was growing up” — a cheesy mix of Saccharine songs and half-gallon cowboy hats. “But it could be argued that punk is just sped-up country, or that country music is slowed down polka music.”
Graves said the root of all music springs from folkloric traditions, whether traditional Irish jigs, German oom-pah tunes, Spanish flamenco or Senegalese drum beats.
Since starting out in 2007, Graves has put out two full-length albums, as well as variety of limited-edition EPs, such as Nobody’s Fool and West of Calgary (a live recording of his concert at the Banff Centre). These can only be downloaded from his website on a pay-what-you-can basis for a 72-hour period each year, starting on Feb. 9 — which was declared Shakey Graves Day in his native Austin, Texas.
It’s the singer’s way of keeping things interesting and not flooding the Internet with his tunes. He explained, “If they’re harder to find, it makes people do more exploring …”
His latest release, And the War Came, includes the quirky, ear-wormish tune Dearly Departed, and was made in reaction to his first release. Roll the Bones, from 2011, was about the quest for love and adventure. And the War Came, from 2014, is about being careful what you wish for, said Graves, who ended up torn between the demands of romantic relationships and his professional need for touring.
“When everything hits at once, then what do you do?” said the now-married singer, who’s “sorted it all out — for now.”
Graves, who started out as a one-man band, was “flattered’ to win the 2015 Best Emerging Artist Award from the Americana Music Awards. “It’s like winning the label “Most Likely to Succeed” at prom … I hope I do emerge … I’ve certainly been putting in a lot of hard work,” he said, with a chuckle.
When he comes to Red Deer, he will be backed by a band. “I’m really excited,” said Graves, who feels Canadian audiences “are definitely more appreciative, maybe because I’m not up there all the time, so I don’t get taken for granted …”
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show are $20 to $60 from Ticketmaster.