Steven Page was recognizable for more than 20 years as the frontman for Canada’s rock band, the Barenaked Ladies, recently inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Now he is out on his own, paving a successful solo career. He just released his fifth solo album, Discipline, which is an insightful and confident breakthrough of evolution. Page accepts who he is and what he stands for, delivering music that highlights just that. He continues to head in a direction that we’ve never seen him before, and it’s safe to say we’re grateful to have sat down with him ahead of his Ottawa show to discuss where he is at in this stage of his career.
You’ve been making music for many years. How did you get your start?
I never thought I was good enough at anything. I started singing when I was 18 with Ed Robertson, and that changed everything. When we started writing and harmonizing together, it showed me what I was capable of, and made me fall in love with music.
Your 5th solo album just came out in the fall and is the sequel to Heal Thyself, Pt. I. What’s the story behind splitting the album up?
It was a lot of material, and I felt there was too much for my audience to digest in one bite. And, selfishly, I split it into two halves because there are no guarantees that a new record is not just going to disappear in a week. I thought splitting it up would compliment each other.
The new album brings your dark humour to political discourse, personal experience, and has differences in terms of language. You’ve called it the most forceful musical statement of your solo career. What kind of feel were you going for with Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II?
The first record, Heal Thyself, Pt. I: Instinct, is about questions of self. It looks at the value of being a musician and being able to call yourself that. The second half, Discipline, is all about accepting and stating who you are. It’s honest and insightful, really stating where you’ve come from. It’s not just standard rock and roll.
You use your voice for more than just music by expressing powerful opinions through song, especially in your lead single White Noise. How does music help you to speak out on political issues?
I like to leave a lot of grey areas by not necessarily being concise. In doing that, it leaves room to grow and change my mind about the meaning in songs. I’m not always picking a side. I’m admitting that I’m open to not knowing. It’s a lot like parenting… I don’t always know the answer; I know things based on my own experience, but I can’t give a concrete answer. In my music, I like to leave that grey area for interpretation.
Your tour kicks off May 1st at the NAC in Ottawa. What can fans expect from this show and what is your favourite part about touring?
The tour is with the Steven Page Trio, so I’m up there alongside Craig Northey and Kevin Fox. I’ll be on guitar and piano. It’s a lot of fun working together with the three of us. It’s not stressful at all, it’s just effortless. We’re grown ups, doing what we love, and the shows are truly the best part.
Any favourite things to do when you come to Ottawa? Favourite memories from spending time in the city?
Ottawa has kind of been home base. I remember in 1990 when we would play at Cafe Deluxe in the market and then we’d drive overnight to Toronto to do a show the next day. And of course doing the Tom Green radio shows way back was always a great time. I have so many memories in Ottawa and I’m still in and out of that airport very frequently.
What is your favourite song off Discipline to play live?
This has actually surprised me but Feelgood Summer has been so great. It’s very optimistic and I think fans have really been loving it. Another fun one has been Looking for the Light.
The Barenaked Ladies were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame last year, and got together for a show at the Juno Awards of 2018. What was it like playing with the guys again?
It was totally natural. There was a great energy in the room, and it was like no time had passed. There was that sense of anxiety, wondering if we would have that same connection. But we did, with lots of laughing, and it was fun.
You and Ed Roberston got together in 1988, and quickly became Canadian icons. What was a career highlight during your time with the band?
I mean of course there’s those benchmarks, like playing at Madison Square Garden and those major highlights of reaching success in your career. But for me, it was winning over those small audiences with the spirit of the band. We had so many great highlights but seeing that change in energy in an audience when you’ve really captured them was what I remember best.
What’s something your fans would be surprised to learn about you? Any hidden talents or hobbies?
I think my fans know this, but I love to cook. I also think this is no surprise but I’m afraid of most animals and the outdoors.
After your tour winds down at the end of May, then what’s next for you in 2019?
I’ll be working on new music, doing a US tour in June and then preparing for summer festivals.