Serendipity greets Justin Rutledge

By Kate Marlow

The Canadian music circuit can, on occasion, be a small world after all. For Justin Rutledge, attending this year’s Folk Fest was a weird full-circle for him. Rutledge sat down with Gauntlet writer Kate Marlow and explained his past with singer-songwriter-activist Sarah Harmer, his experience at the festival and the new record he has on the go.

JR: I wrote for the paper in university. It’s funny, my first interview was with Sarah Harmer’s old band, the Weeping Tile, and I was about 18 and it was my first year of university and I got to interview Sarah. It was their first show at this place called Lee’s Palace in Toronto. I think it was the first time they played there and I think it was sold out and when I said to her, ‘Hey, I interviewed you in 1998 when you guys played at Lee’s Palace.’ I think she said she remembered it. I wouldn’t have.

G: What do you think of the Calgary Folk Festival this year?

JR: It’s great to play the 30th anniversary. It’s a pretty special year; the people who are playing here are hand-picked. Being chosen to be among one of the lucky few who get to play it is a real highlight, a real treat.

G: Is there anyone at the festival that you’re interested in working with?

JR: I did a workshop yesterday with Sarah Harmer and Steven Page and The Good Lovelies and it was great, and I just did one with the Tom Fun Orchestra which was great too. And later on I’m doing a workshop with Carolyn Mark and it’s always good playing with her because you never know what’s going to happen with Carolyn; it’s amazing. I love Alejandro Escovedo. I’m not on any workshops with him but I’m a big fan. It was great seeing Glen Campbell last night and Sarah Harmer. And I’m excited to see Mavis Staples tonight.

G: Do you prefer the festival atmosphere over performing at shows?

JR: In the summer it’s the festival circuit. Festivals and shows are such different beasts– I really enjoy festivals. I also really enjoy shows. I mean, you’re closer to the audience when you’re doing the festival circuit. You really get to know people. You get to meet a lot of people. I’ve met many, many musicians doing festivals the past few years that I otherwise wouldn’t have met just on the road. Some lasting relationships are forged. We’re starting our next record next month so I’ve been trying out a few new tunes here. The workshop stages are meant for that, you know? It’s good too because the audiences are pretty forgiving.

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