Becoming a musician in Canada isn’t always easy, but for Murray McLauchlan, it was what he was meant to do.
The veteran artist is hitting the road again for a brand new tour after the release of his new album, Love Can’t Tell Time.
He will be hitting the stage in Oshawa on Friday, Feb. 21 at the Regent Theatre, 50 King St. E., at 7:30 p.m.
McLauchlan was born in Scotland, and moved to Toronto when he was a child in April 1953.
“The world was a very different place, transoceanic airline travel was in its infancy if existing at all,” he explains. “We came on an ocean liner called the Samaria… and we came to Quebec City, and we took what they used to call a boat train to Toronto.”
He says when his family first arrived in Toronto they lived in a boarding house until his father could find them something larger.
“But I was a little kid so it was all just a big adventure,” he recalls. “I remember the boat trip across the Atlantic because we went through a gale for about four days and that was really interesting. Everybody was sick except me I think.”
The singer-songwriter, now 71, has been playing music since he was a child, noting he was heavily influenced by his older brother, who would often bring records into the house which he had never heard before.
“[My brother] is the best brother a guy could have. He brought home all of these amazing records, and I’m talking about the very first Johnny Cash Sun Records album, Ray Charles… you name it, he brought it home, it was just terrific,” says McLauchlan.
His brother then brought home a guitar one day and told McLauchlan not to touch it.
“Off I went. I was about 12-years-old then, and I started learning songs,” he says.
He was also influenced by his father, who he deems was a very talented singer, and notes he received an offer to audition with a theatrical company.
McLauchlan eventually started to perform around Toronto in his late teens, and says he was “going broke and starving to death.”
“By that point I had been really fortunate and Tom Rush had recorded two of my songs on his first Columbia Records album, and Tom was well known for discovering writers… so I went down to New York, and I looked up Tom and did a publishing deal,” he explains.
He then spent the year of 1969 living in New York, and then received a fortuitous call from Bernie Finkelstein, who was starting a record company in Toronto.
Finkelstein asked if McLauchlan wanted to come up and collaborate.
“I said yeah, absolutely,” he says. “I had sort of established a little bit of action in New York, but I was really keen to make a record, and I was just 20-years-old, and I thought if I didn’t do it at that point, my life was over and I would never get to do it.”
After coming back to Canada from New York, he was surprised to discover he suddenly had a lot more credibility.
“Suddenly I was getting invited to parties like I was someone important,” he quips. “[Moving to New York] gave me a sort of jaundice looked at how things worked, and it probably sowed the seeds of a kind of cultural nationalism that grew in me that ultimately resulted in songs like ‘Down by the Henry Moore’.”
He then moved back to Toronto and the rest is history, as he has now released 19 albums, won 11 Juno Awards, and has seen hits such as “Farmer’s Song”, “Down by the Henry Moore”, “Whispering Rain” and more.
Outside of music, McLauchlan has developed a love of flying, even going so far as to have his own television special called Floating Over Canada, where he flew a Cessna 185 around the country.
He says as he was born in the United Kingdom not too long after the Second World War had reached its climax, some of his heroes were those who had flown in the war.
“Our heroes were spitfire pilots, mosquito pilots, and Lancaster pilots. Airplanes were part of the heroic background of growing up in [the UK],” he explains. “Of course when we did move to Canada, the house that my father found was quite close to Downsview Airbase.”
He says he and his friends would ride their bikes down to the fences at the airbase, and would watch F-86 Sabre jets and CF-100s come in.
“Of course I saw the Avro Arrow fly from my school yard,” he said.
He admits to engineering the show in order to do the flight across Canada.
“What I really wanted to do was fly a lumpy old plane around Canada, and find a way to pay for it,” he says.
However, he admits the show ultimately turned out to be interesting, noting the flight was “fantastic.”
“One of the things that really sticks in my mind is just how much of Canada doesn’t really have anybody in it,” he says. “The other thing that sticks in my mind is that I started to go to places like flying down the Athabasca River in [British Columbia].”
He notes he noticed how much of an impact the logging industry was having on the environment around the country.
“As far as you could see there were straight lines and such where the trucks had gone in, and you could see all these piles [of trees], fires and wood smoke where they were burning off the brush and such. It was kind of depressing,” he says.
He notes events such as this have had an impact on him as writer.
“Writers are like sponges really, so whatever I experience and whatever marks me in some way, is always going to [effect my writing],” he explains.
McLaughlan is married to Denise Donlan, who he has two children with, a son and a daughter.
“She’s so accomplished that she makes me look like an absolute punter,” he says.
When they met, she was an on-air presenter on a show called “Rock Flash” on CityTV.
“Then eventually she became a producer of specials and all kinds of other stuff,” he says. “She was part of the establishment of [MuchMusic], and used that to champion all kinds of causes from reading and literacy. She engineered putting the very first float for MuchMusic in the [Pride] parade.”
Because of this, McLauchlan says their children received threats, but notes his wife is “very brave.”
She then left MuchMusic and became the president of Sony Records of Canada, going on to work with Canadian icons such as Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion and more.
“Right now she’s up to her knees with another project that I’d have to shoot you if I told you about it, because I don’t even know that much about it myself, but it’s really big,” he jokes.
Tickets to McLauchlan’s show at the Regent Theatre cost $48 each, and can be purchased at regenttheatre.ca