There’s laughter in the background as Bruce Guthro talks to me via cell phone. He has put together an amazing touring band for his theatre tour of Ontario and the Maritimes. In fact, they’re all with him in the van as they head to the next gig in Ontario and I can make out the voices of Matt Foulds and Doris Mason. Working with people like this, he says is what it’s all about. Along with Foulds and Mason, the other musicians Bruce is speaking of are Dave McKeough, Lisa MacIsaac, and Cory Keeping. Guthro’s name and voice are getting around and the dates in Ontario have been going great. So is the sale of merchandise, namely, Guthro’s EMI release, Of Your Son. Perhaps it’s because of the hour long television special Bruce Guthro-Solo aired earlier this year on CBC, or his single “Walk This Road” that was a national number one hit on radio and on CMT, that people are coming to see him. And of course, he’s on the go to be seen. His tour of Canada will take him to Newfoundland for two weeks, then to Vancouver to take part in Tom Jackson’s annual charity event, The Huron Carole. Then there’s the show for his home crowd in Cape Breton that sold out so quickly that another date had to be added. Guthro sounds genuinely awed as he talks about that.
“I just can’t believe how supportive people are. It’s really humbling, and I’m just glad we had that extra night to be able to give them.”
And when Bruce Guthro, solo artist, finishes his Canadian dates, then Bruce Guthro, lead singer for the band Runrig, heads to Scotland, not to return until December 23rd. Just how Bruce came to sing with this 25-year-old Scottish band is a story that could only have happened in Canada. The son of Runrig’s manager was driving a team of huskies through western Canada and after hearing Bruce’s songs, he suggested that Guthro audition for Runrig. At that time they had listened to 400 demo tapes and when Bruce Guthro auditioned they had no need to listen to any other submissions.
Guthro fits in well with Runrig’s musical style, even singing some of the songs in Gaelic. But this was not unusual for Bruce. Crossing the pond did not inspire him to sing in Gaelic. He had sung in the Celtic language before; touring with Natalie MacMaster, for instance, offered him the opportunity to do so. Runrig’s original frontman had left to pursue a career in politics, and at the Colston Hall in Bristol, Guthro stepped into his shoes, and onto the stage. The next day the Bath Chronicle raved about Bruce’s performance.
“…Canadian-born singer Bruce Guthro was introduced as their new braveheart and was a sensation. …Guthro’s haunting voice echoed round that auditorium and the audience was in raptures. It was hard to believe he is not a Scotsman especially when singing Chi Mi’n Geamhrada and Siol Ghoraida.”
His work overseas as part of this band will remain completely separate, maintains Guthro.
“They only need me 3 or 4 months of the year, and during that time I will focus completely on Runrig and do whatever it is they want me to do. For the rest of the year I will be Bruce Guthro doing Bruce Guthro’s music. I think it’s possible to have two separate careers. There’s room for both comfortably and both are just as important to me right now. If they weren’t I wouldn’t be doing it.”
What comes across when talking to Bruce, besides the fact that he’s a really nice guy, is his humility. Considering all the exposure that he’s received in this year alone, it would be understandable if he had a bit of a swollen head, but the fact is he’s centered and level headed. When I suggest this, Guthro laughs.
“Growing up in my family makes it very hard to have any kind of a big ego. There were so many of us that the minute you stepped out of line, there was always someone to knock you right back into place.”
I am reminded of a story I recently heard about Bruce’s mom. When someone remarked to her, “you must be very proud of your son” she replied, “Which one? I’m proud of all my kids.”
Family ties and connections are important to this singer/songwriter. On this tour, one of the band members is an old friend and player from Bruce Guthro and Small Town Heroes. Cory Keeping played with Bruce for four or five years as one of the “Heroes” and says that even though the former band leader is now getting a lot of international attention, he’s “still the same old Bruce to me.”
Being on the road together is a great way to reminisce, says Keeping. “It’s a nice way to settle in, y’know. We’ll be driving along and something will spark an old time, and it’s like ‘hey remember that time when we were all crammed in that old cube van and…’ Different places remind us of different people and times that we had and it’s nice to go through and laugh about it all again.”
His sense of humour is one of the ways Bruce Guthro has remained the same, according to Cory Keeping, and another is in his songwriting.
“He always had goals, ones he set for himself, and he never gave up on them. He spends a lot of time writing, and likes to focus on originals. Bruce was never scared to put his own tunes out there.”
And he’s not afraid of the hard work it takes to keep doing what he’s doing. It’s obvious just by the time he’s putting in on the road. I ask him if he ever just gets tired.
“Sometimes it’s like being out to sea for weeks at a time. You come home, you rest, and then you want to go back out again. I don’t allow myself to grow tired; if I feel it happening, I just stop. I mean there are worse jobs out there, and I never let myself forget that.”
As the van draws nearer their destination, Bruce Guthro becomes pensive.
“I look at it like this: if what you ask for your whole life finally comes along, are you going to complain?”