The tunes on Rodney DeCroo’s latest album, Campfires On the Moon, can be considered his Songs of Experience.
After all, there was little innocence in DeCroo’s childhood. And his new release reflects on this.
With a Vietnam War soldier father who drank too much and was prone to violence, and a mother who escaped into evangelical religion, it was a time of extremes for the sensitive boy.
“My difficulty was that my personality was founded on trauma,” said DeCroo, who performs on Monday at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.
“All my instincts (swing) the wrong way.”
Stupid Boy in an Ugly Town, a deceptively upbeat song, is the most autobiographical of the 10 new tracks on the album. The title, taken from a stage play DeCroo wrote and performed in B.C., sums up how he felt about himself while growing up in Pittsburgh, Pa., a blue-collar steel town that had fallen on hard times.
“I had no self-esteem,” recalled the Vancouver-based singer.
But he doesn’t want to come across as a victim any more than he desires to paint his parents as villains of his story. “There’s no time for self-pity and no place for blame,” DeCroo added, since his mom and dad had their own difficulties — including his American father getting drafted at age 19 to a brutal war that offered no counselling for returning soldiers.
He now knows his dad, who escaped to Canada to avoid redeployment in Vietnam, had PTSD and effectively passed it down through his erratic behaviour.
DeCroo understands why he experiences flashbacks during stressful episodes in his life, since he began seeing a counsellor who specializes in dealing with police officers, firefighters, soldiers and other people who have been through emotional trauma.
“When adults are angry, they direct their anger at others, but a child directs anger inward, thinking there’s got to be something wrong with me,” said the singer, whose Stupid Boy song deals with the fact he’s learned to become a more self-accepting person now.
Other songs on the album are no less autobiographical, but the poetic lyrics are less direct, so listeners can assign their own meaning to the tunes, said DeCroo.
Tear All Lovers Down is about the need to overcome cynicism and White Circle is about transcending problems. Other intimate songs deal with regret, loss, aging, memory, love, death and art — the whole shebang.
DeCroo — who’s received a lot of acclaim and attention for this, his first new album in five years, including a cover story in the Georgia Straight — believes his life is getting easier as his coping skills improve. “I just take it one day at a time. …”
He hopes listeners will fill in his sparsely-worded tunes with their own details, and take comfort from the fact that most of life’s difficulties can be overcome with some help and persistence.
The cover for his 7:30 p.m. show is $10.