By Jesse Keith
Have you ever been pigeon-holed? Has anyone ever tried to make you stand in shoes that weren’t yours? Have you ever tried to make yourself something you’re not?
Well, in a recent interview with the Gauntlet, Shuyler Jansen, vocalist and guitar player for the veteran Alberta band Old Reliable, refused to wear the hat I gave him. He just wasn’t having anything to do with my line of questioning.
Jansen’s answers all stressed one thing: independence. Jansen’s his own man, Old Reliable’s their own band and they make the music they want because it’s what they’re into. And damn it they like it.
When asked about Old Reliable’s traditional country sound, Jansen refused to fit into that slot.
"The lyrical and melodic content of our songs is true to the traditional form of folk, country, bluegrass, blues and Rïœ|B," he said. "Other than that our backdrop is undefined. Someone like Billy Joe Shaver or Willie Nelson was born with ‘that’ sound. We just sound like us."
When pressed further about Old Reliable’s musical traditions, all Jansen had to say was "I traditionally don’t answer more than one question about tradition."
I asked Jansen if Old Reliable was trying to carry on the chain of country and roots music at a time when those more traditional forms of music seem to be disappearing into the popular mainstream, but in Jansen’s opinion these musical forms aren’t going anywhere, they’re just not in the spotlight.
"Genuine country music can be compared with the state of jazz," he said. "Good jazz or country has never gone away, it just slips in and out of fashion. The people that love jazz or whatever genre will seek out the art during its most unpopular moments. The important thing is to carry on the quest for good songwriting, singing, soul and melody.
"The mainstream is lacking all of these currently."
Old Reliable doesn’t make music to carry on a tradition, and they don’t make music for the money either. When asked about the financial difficulties faced by an Alberta band and the stresses of trying to make music while you still have jobs outside of the band, Jansen said it’s about the music, not the money.
"True musical minds–musicians, fans of music, etc.–will usually stray away from the [idea of getting rich]," he said. "If one thinks that Celtic music is lucrative and one decides to start a Celtic band, by the time one gets their shit together the lucrative market has crashed and burned. I think following trends is the death of music.
"Have you ever watched Wired on A-Channel? [That’s] a perfect example. All the bands sound like whatever band was popular three years ago. [Old Reliable] has been cool and uncool in the 10 years we have been a band. We make music because having someone loathe us is as gratifying as having someone love us."
Old Reliable isn’t in it for the tradition, they’re not after money (at least not a whole lot of it) and they certainly don’t care about being trendy. On the eve of the release of their fourth album, Old Reliable’s goals and hopes are fairly simple. Where do they want to go?
"Into the hands of every willing, intelligent ear that has the ability to purchase our albums and feel the emotion," Jansen says. "And also to Europe."
He also said he wouldn’t mind being able to purchase a "fine vehicle" one day.
I may not be able to classify Old Reliable’s music as traditional country anymore, but I do classify it as damn good. So if you’re planning on sitting BSD out this year, you might want to check them out.
Old Reliable is plays T.A. Vern’s (207 12 Ave. S.W) on Fri., Apr. 16.