Music Interview: Buck 65 ain’t no holla back girl

By Stephanie Shewchuk

Although typically classified as a hip-hop artist, Buck 65’s music encompasses a diverse range of styles and can veer in nearly any direction. Set to perform at this year’s Calgary Folk Festival, the former Eastern Canadian and current Parisian, credits his small town upbringing for his wide range of influences.

“I grew up in a small town where we didn’t even have a high school,” he explains. “In a bigger place, you normally become part of a clique, with music being a big part of what defines it. I just didn’t have that.”

Better known as Richard Terfry to residents of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, the name Buck 65 was minted after a friend began comparing him to a ’65 Buick. After the pursuit of a career in baseball, Terfry decided to experiment with music and quickly became known for his unique melange of sound, grounded in hip-hop but relying on many other styles of music, particularly folk.

“Folk music is very important to what I do, it’s just as important as hip-hop, if not more,” says Terfry. “I think there’s definitely an audience who exists [at the Folk Fest] and I’m at a place where I want to go reach new people.”

Terfry’s eagerness to defy being typified resulted in his new album, Secret House Against the World. The album is filled with the eclecticism and tight rhymes characteristic of his previous work but also sets off in its own unique direction, amassing ever more musical territory under the Buck 65 moniker. The album also saw Terfry step out of his insular role and open up the doors to collaborate with a wide range of artists, most notably Chicago post-rock pioneers Tortoise.

“I was very conscious that my new album was more melodic and employed more classical elements, like strings and pianos, than the others,” remarks Terfry. “It’s different too because I collaborated with other musicians that I don’t know personally. The first day we started recording with Tortoise, I was like, will you autograph my copy of TNT? I felt strangely vulnerable, but I like working when I’m afraid. A little discomfort is good for you.”

Though, he admits many people might write him off solely as a hip-hop artist, there are common threads in his music nearly everyone can identify with. He aims to convert those who may never have heard of him or who have previously written off hip-hop.

“All of us know what it feels like to get sick, be heartbroken, or to have trouble with money,” Terfry says. “Having a fleet of vehicles or a large jewelry collection, I can’t relate to that. But certain ideas seem to translate over musical genres and given a chance, with an open mind, you can get anyone on board. I get really jealous of people like Bjork and Radiohead who defy categorization, and who are just really adventurous in their music.”

While aspiring to the staggering level of the likes of Bjork and Radiohead should be enough to keep any artist busy for the rest of their life, Buck 65 also wants to spend some time focusing on other projects, possibly dabbling in film scores and books. For now his first priority remains challenging himself and expanding his experience, which he will have several opportunities to do with his multiple appearances at the upcoming Calgary Folk Festival.

“If there’s a new audience to play to, I want to, I want to make it work,” enthuses Terfry. “Nothing really scares me.”

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