Tim Readman grew up with traditional English and Scottish folk songs.
He now makes his living performing those songs and his own originals, and he’ll share them with local music fans Nov. 7 at In The Beantime Café.
“I think for me, I grew up in a part of England that has a very, very, very strong tradition of music and history, up in the northeastern part of England, very close to the Scottish border,” said Readman, who now lives in Vancouver.
Readman grew up near World Heritage Sites like Durham Cathedral and the Roman Wall.
“It’s very rich in history, so there’s a tradition of a lot of ballads celebrating battles, kings and queens,” he noted.
Readman says that region was very heavily industrialized in the late 1800s, and it was the birthplace of the steam engine. It had a lot of coal deposits that were very rich, explained Readman.
“As a result, there’s another tradition of very many working songs, especially about coal,” he said. “I guess I grew up not really thinking about it as folk music but being aware of it around me. I grew up in a family of music. You would sing songs that you just grew up knowing because you always sang them.”
Readman recalls that in the late 1960s in England, there was a group of musicians who started to get really interested in combining traditional folk music with rock music.
“That really turned my crank because as a teenager, I was really into rock music,” he said. “Folk music had quite a big revival in the 1950s and 1960s, and as a result, a lot of folk music clubs opened in England. One of my oldest sisters started going to folk music clubs in a nearby town and persuaded the landlord of a pub in our village to start a folk club there. It meant a lot to me.
“I could walk two minutes and be in that environment. If you got up to do two songs, you could get in for free and see the main act. I got to see a lot of the people who were in the English folk scene. That got me playing, and it grew from there.”
Readman moved to Canada in 1987, and he started feeling nostalgic when he came to a new country and got back into playing folk music in his 20s.
He finds that people in Canada enjoy the traditional music.
“I think the songs have lasted for hundreds of years because they are great songs,” he said. “Part of that is the music, the melody and tunes are great tunes, very well-known tunes that you can sing along with. The stories resonate because they have universal themes. People are interested in stories about everyday life and trying to make a living, horror stories about murders and war, princesses and princes … No matter where you are in the world, people connect to them, sometimes to the music, sometimes to the words.”
When Readman comes to Ladysmith, he will be performing with fiddle player Jennie Bice, who played with him when he was last here in April.
They’ve been performing together for 15 years.
“We’ve done tons and tons of gigs and recordings since then. Jennie has played on my projects and I’ve played on hers,” said Readman. “We have played together for so long now that we have a very large repertoire; we can play for hours on end without running out of songs.”
Bice is a classically-trained musician, and Readman says she also has a really good ear and can hear something and play it right away, which makes for a really fun live show.
“One of my favourite things to do live is play something she doesn’t know,” he said, noting Bice can always pick it up really quickly. “It’s fun. She’s really into it and really flexible. I play a lot of different styles of music … it doesn’t matter what I play, she can do it. She sings as well and has a great sense of humour.”
Readman says the audience is always a big part of his show.
“I think one of the things is playing to an audience who actually want to come and listen to the music is really fun,” he said. ‘There are a lot of jokes that are part of that. Sometimes, the songs are in dialect and can be hard to follow. You can explain things, tell the stories, and people are really interested in it. You have the opportunity to share a lot of laughs with them; it’s more interactive.”
Readman’s Ladysmith show is one of several dates he’s playing on Vancouver Island, including Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Mill Bay.
“What we’re finding as we play on the Island is each time we play, we get offered another opportunity to play somewhere else,” he said. “We’ve been back and forth several times in the last couple of months. I did play quite a lot on the Island in the 1990s; I played in various folk festivals and at various folk clubs in Nanaimo, Victoria and Duncan. Recently, there’s been the opportunity to come back and play more often, and I joke with people that I have more shows on Vancouver Island than I do in Vancouver now.”
Readman and Bice perform Friday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at In The Beantime Café at 18 High St. in Ladysmith. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets are $10 for the show or $25 for dinner and the show. For more information, call 250-245-2305.
To learn more about Readman, visit http://timreadman.com.