Canadian singer/songwriter Stephen Fearing is a musician who defies categorization. Drawing on numerous musical influences including contemporary acoustic, traditional folk, Celtic, country, blues, gospel, and jazz, and remaining open to the ideas of the myriad musicians around him, he creates music that crosses genres with ease.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, he spent much of his youth in Dublin and near Cork. Although he was not particularly influenced by Irish music the incredible variation on the British pop charts, where in the span of a few songs, he could hear everything from ABBA to the Sex Pistols. Irish music did indeed seep into his consciousness, but he wasn’t entirely aware of it until he returned to North America. He broadened his musical base at that point, living for a few years in Minneapolis and then joining the vibrant music scene in Vancouver. He recorded three albums while living in Vancouver (Out to Sea, 1988, Blue Line, 1990, and Assassin’s Apprentice, 1993), all of which were nominated for JUNO awards (Canadian Grammy).
Fearing found a great deal of inspiration in the Vancouver music community, but didn’t find many opportunities to collaborate, as everyone was usually on the road touring. In 1994, he married and moved to Guelph, Ontario. The move placed him in closer proximity to a group of musicians and artists with whom he had had some contact over the years, and allowed him to collaborate with a much wider circle of musical friends, broaden his musical ideas and stretch artistically.
The most tangible expression of his relationship with these new friends was the development of the genre-crossing band Blackie & The Rodeo Kings--an ensemble that combined Fearing’s talents with those of two other exceptional Canadian artists: Toronto guitarist and producer Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson, a singer/songwriter with the rock band Junkhouse. Linden and Fearing decided to record the songs of William P. Bennett, one of Canada’s greatest unsung musical talents. The resulting album, High Or Hurtin’ (1996), received critical acclaim across Canada and was nominated as Best Roots & Traditional Group recording for the 1997 JUNOs. The project was such a success that Fearing has recently returned to the studio with his Blackie cohorts to record yet another set of tunes. Half covers and half originals, the resulting double-album is entitled Kings of Love (True North, 1999) and received stellar reviews as well as taking home the JUNO Award at this year’s ceremonies.
His first Red House album Industrial Lullaby (1998), was heavily influenced by the “Blackie” project. For Fearing, Industrial Lullaby’s character derives from a “loosening up” of what he describes as, “a mild fixation on technical perfection... I think I was just really opened up to the idea of experimenting and taking even more creative input from the people I was working with on this record.” As a result, Industrial Lullaby was far more collaborative than his earlier recordings, with many co-written songs, a rich blend of musical ideas, and striking variation in texture and tone.
In 2000, Fearing released So Many Miles on Red House, a live album that showcased his impeccable live show. Recorded on a cold winter’s night in a small, crowded Toronto club the record is a testament to his musical brilliance.