Murray Atkinson

Murray Atkinson

Murray Atkinson busy writing, teaching, performing

The Ladysmith musician is playing an acoustic show June 3 in Nanaimo, which has inspired him to think about making an acoustic album.

What would Murray Atkinson tell his teenage self as he started pursuing music more seriously?

“I would slap myself,” laughs the musician, who is carving out a career for himself playing guitar with the Odds, releasing his own music, teaching and writing songs.

After slapping himself, Atkinson, who grew up in Ladysmith and moved back here two years ago, says he would tell his younger self to keep an open mind and pay attention.

“I think when I was a teenager, I was probably pretty close-minded, this is what I wanted to do and this is what I was going to do,” he said. “People, who were usually older and more experienced, I think they could see I was really into what I was doing, so they wanted to offer advice. But sometimes when you’re that into something, you don’t want to hear what it is other people have to say.

“I joined my first bands when I was 18 and was doing gigs, and there were some older, more experienced and schooled guys who would say ‘you’re doing really great man, but you should listen to the blues a little more, listen to the blues and get some R&B in your playing.’ I was playing hard rock, and I was like ‘why do I have to listen to the blues when I’m playing hard rock?’ but as I learned later on in life myself, there are very good reasons for listening to those other kinds of music and getting that bag together, as musicians call it.”

Be open to exploring other types of music is one message Atkinson tries to share with his students when he teaches.

Atkinson is a classically trained pianist, and he’s been teaching piano and guitar since college. He will record his students during their lesson and send them an mp3, and he says that’s a great teaching tool, but it can also open up a new world of possibilities to students when they see how easy recording themselves on the computer can be.

“There’s lots of reasons to learn to play a musical instrument, but in my opinion, the best thing you can do with learning a musical instrument is find a way to be creative yourself on it,” he said. “If you’re going to get into writing songs and stuff, if you can do it while you’re young, that’s fantastic, so I try to encourage that if possible. Kids, if they have the tools at their disposal, they’ll pour that energy into it, and if you’re going to pour your energy into something as a teenager, why not be recording music and writing music.”

Growing up in Ladysmith, Atkinson was surrounded by a musical family, and he learned piano and guitar. He played in the band Playground in the mid-1990s and moved to Vancouver in 1998. While in Vancouver, Atkinson struck up a relationship with ex-members of the Odds, and when the band reunited in 2006, he was asked to help out on guitar. He became a full member of the band and has been performing with them ever since.

Atkinson was the Platinum Award Winner in the CFOX Vancouver Seeds contest in 2007, and he released an album called Salt March under the band name Swan. More recently, he won the Rock/Alt category of the 2012 USA Songwriting Competition in late December.

Atkinson says playing with the Odds has been “a life-changing event, for sure.”

“I’ve been in lots of bands where you have great players but sometimes as people, you don’t want to hang out with them, but the Odds, they’re world-class musicians and also world-class people,” he said.

Playing with the Odds has also given Atkinson some unique opportunities that he likes to call “life experience gigs.”

“I have done more different kinds of gigs with them than with any other band,” he said.

These include two trips across Canada performing on the Christmas Holiday Train, playing at Vancouver Canucks playoff games and performing on Caribbean cruises headlined by the Barenaked Ladies.

Atkinson says he had decided music was going to be his “thing” by the time he was a teenager, although he didn’t know exactly in what capacity that would be. Then he went to music college, and things really started to change as he immersed himself in the musician culture and got more serious about writing songs and recording.

“I don’t ever think I thought of music as a career; it was always something I loved to do, so for me — it was always more about following a passion than creating a career,” he said.

Atkinson will be performing close to home Monday, June 3 as part of the On the Dock concert series at the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island, and he says he loves playing solo acoustic shows like this.

“It’s a different kind of energy and it’s a different kind of vibe, and it’s also a lot more intimate,” he said. “It’s scary for some people I guess to do that, but you can really get inside the sound of it because you can really hear exactly what it is you’re doing. Being that close to the actual sound of it creates its own drive and energy that you kind of feed off of while you’re playing.”

Atkinson is currently working on a followup to Salt March. He’s been writing songs in that hard rock vein and also in different genres. Atkinson and Odds singer-guitarist Craig Northey have started up a writing partnership, and they’ve been writing country music and looking for placements for those songs.

“I’m always writing music in different styles, so I’ve been trying to find placements through online services for those different styles of music because a lot of it is stuff I don’t think I would ever release as an artist, but I want to find a home for it,” said Atkinson. “I’ve also been working on the hard rock material because I just can’t stop.”

Atkinson is also thinking of recording an acoustic album, a concept that has come out of creating acoustic versions of his songs for the Dinghy Dock Pub show.

Atkinson would like to do a School of Rock summer music camp in Ladysmith this year and is currently scouting locations to find a suitable space.

Atkinson will perform June 3 at the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island in Nanaimo at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Dinghy Dock Pub, from the artists or online.

For information about Atkinson’s lessons or the potential School of Rock this summer, contact Atkinson at 250-924-8502 or murrayatkinson@hotmail.com.

Just Posted

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

Most Read