Change of locale cathartic for Gypsy Girl Kat Goldman

All it took was a midlife crisis, a therapist, some pills, and a dose of higher learning for Kat Goldman to pen the best songs of her career.

I meet Goldman, 41, at a Starbucks in north Toronto. Dressed in faded blue jeans and a loose tank top, the songwriter has just driven 13-hours from Cambridge, Mass. – where she calls home these days – accompanied by her Cockapoo Max.

Over the whir of grinding coffee beans, Goldman and I share some apricots (which she recently read help prevent lung cancer) and some candid conversation. We chat about her third CD Gypsy Girl and the journey documented in the disc’s 11 strong songs.

Gypsy Girl opens with the pensive “Just a Walk Tonight.” Goldman’s arresting voice grabs the listener from the first soulful notes. Backed by some rhythmic acoustic picking, the songwriter sings of a nighttime stroll through downtown Boston and the observations this outing with a friend conjures up. The rest of the songs showcase Goldman’s gift for turning phrases with ease; take this poignant one from the second cut, “Moving Pictures”: “If only I could stop the moving pictures/I would find my way home.”

Trying to find her way home — both figuratively and literally — is Gypsy Girl’s recurring theme. Flash back to 2009. That’s when this journey began. The songwriter was at a turning point. Tired of life in the Big Smoke, Goldman had lost her focus and her joie de vivre. Where to turn next she wasn’t sure; all she knew was that she needed to escape her hometown for a while.

“I had a life crisis,” Goldman recalls. “I was very unhappy with Toronto and the music scene here. I knew I needed a change. All I could feel was that I wanted to go somewhere else. Where I was going to run I wasn’t sure … that was the big question.”

Goldman felt a change of place would be good for her soul. She considered New York City, but quickly realized Manhattan’s madness would be too much to handle. So, the songwriter settled on the Greater Boston area since it was a familiar locale. (Goldman attended school and lived in Massachusetts in her early 20s.)

With the destination determined, the songwriter grabbed her Guild acoustic guitar, a bagful of clothes, and, along with her dog, she headed south. For the first summer, Goldman rented a place she found on craigslist, which turned out to be a cockroach-infested flat. After this summer-sublet to forget, she found a great place in Cambridge, Mass. where she now lives happily.

“I’m loving Boston,” Goldman comments. “It’s a slower pace than Toronto. Cambridge is very mellow. It’s been a great place for me to focus.”

With this newfound focus Goldman decided to give university a try again. “I was really taking a chance,” she admits. “I was 38 when I left home and had my roots planted in Toronto, so I really was starting my life all over again.”

The move to the U.S. was therapeutic in more ways than one. Goldman reveals that she started seeing a therapist once she was settled south of the border. During the course of these sessions her doctor diagnosed that the singer had a learning disability.

“It explained so many things,” Goldman says. “Why I had trouble reading for so many years and why I didn’t finish college the first time.”

The doctor prescribed a pill to help her focus. It’s obviously working. She’s getting straight As in school for the first time and it also fueled her muse.

“I used to have trouble completing songs … where to go next with an idea,” Goldman comments. “After the diagnosis, and taking my medication, suddenly it was like my brain was completing songs for me. It’s been very satisfying.”

While this wonder drug is not like those pills folk singers of yesteryear popped to get high and tap into a new creative dimension, Goldman’s daily dose has certainly helped take her songwriting to new heights.

Gypsy Girl was born in Toronto; here, the title cut, along with “Summersong,” were penned while she was mulling over where to run. The remainder of the creations came to fruition once she was settled in Beantown.

“World Away,” – one of the records best cuts – came to Goldman while she was walking in a snowstorm across the Charles River; it was inspired by a classic of American literature.

“We were reading The Scarlet Letter and I said to my professor, who was also a songwriter funny enough, ‘I have thrown this book against the wall seven times … I’m having so much trouble with the density of it,’ and my professor said, ‘why don’t you write a song about it.’”

Goldman says the common theme that runs throughout this song cycle was not planned. “It just evolved. Every song came to be about running, finding a home, coming to peace with where I was living … I don’t know if it was the change in scenery, or going back to school, but my confidence in songwriting just peaked. I had always been a little bit insecure about my songwriting not being at a high enough level, but with these songs I felt like I finally crystallized the process I was chasing after.”

As our candid coffee-shop conversation ends and Goldman heads off to visit her sister and niece around the corner, I wonder when we will next hear from this gypsy girl since Goldman admits she’s at a career crossroads.

“I’m a very reluctant musician at this point,” she concludes. “I hate performing … the joy has completely gone out of it for me. I feel like when I get on stage I’ve entered some kind of contest or I have to pass an examination. I’m extremely uncomfortable and don’t feel like I belong.

“Where I want to put my energy right now is in academia. Bob Dylan says ‘you’ve got to hoard your energy.’ I’m 41 and I want to protect my energy and make sure I’m channeling it in the right direction.”


First name Kalle. Last name Mattson. Notice the two L’s. Don’t confuse the musician with the trendy vegetable. He’s named after J.J. Cale, the late great songwriter, who penned such classics as “After Midnight” and “Call Me the Breeze.” Some tough musical shoes to fill. Then again, maybe that bar isn’t so hard to live up to when you’re already an old soul at 22. You’ve toured Europe, won a pair of Northern Ontario Music awards, and most importantly – thanks to your muse – you’ve learned to grieve.

This past February, Mattson released Someday the Moon Will be Gold. The singer-songwriter’s third album, it’s also his most personal. It’s a record he was unsure he could ever release. Grief got a grip on his muse and demanded he write these songs.

Mattson spoke to Words + Music prior to a showcase for the album at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern. One month since the album’s official release, he’s feeling comfortable with this song cycle about death. The response, from fans and critics alike, has been incredible.

“I felt like it was a risky move to put my life on display.”

“This record is a part of my soul,” Mattson explains. “It took me a really long time to want to make it. I felt like it was a risky move to put my life on display, so I sat on this record for a long time. I’ve learned that allowing that vulnerability is good. It’s cathartic in a weird way and people have responded to that.”

Five years ago, Mattson, then 16, lost his mom. Still too young to fully grasp this life-changing event, he turned to music for answers. Walking home from school, he listened to Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky. Hearing Jeff Tweedy sing about death comforted him; it made him feel he wasn’t alone. That seminal disc, along with Evening Hymns’ Spectral Dusk, inspired the songwriter to write and record the emotive songs that make up Someday the Moon Will be Gold.

In May 2011, Mattson’s grandmother passed away. He moved from Ottawa back to his childhood home in Sault Ste. Marie for the first time since his mother had died. The songs – such as “A Love Song to The City,” one of many poignant compositions, which he wrote in his living room in an afternoon – came fast.

“Looking back on it now, I grieved through this record and came out the other side,” he writes in a blog entry on his website. “I escaped into these songs, and in a lot of ways they seem like all I have left, but at least I have them.”


His video for “Water Falls” has earned more than 250,000 YouTube views, and for “Thick as Thieves,” more than a million.
Anchors (2011) received a pair of Northern Ontario Music Award wins, for Album of the Year (Group) & SOCAN Songwriter of the Year.
Mattson loves to bowl while on tour: “It’s a cheap way to have fun.”

Publisher: N/A
Discography: Whisper Bee (2009), Anchors (2011) Lives In Between (EP, 2012), Someday, The Moon Will be Gold (2014)
Member since 2009

Ames enjoying having son on the bag

OAKVILLE, Ontario — The job market for teens these days is tough, but Ryan Ames has a leg up on the competition. He gets to caddie for dad Stephen at the RBC Canadian Open this week.

Most weeks, Ames gets more enjoyment from his family than from his golf game. While the 49-year-old is confident he can still compete on the PGA TOUR, his on-course play this year has been lackluster. Ames, who was tied for low Canadian the last time the event was held at Glen Abbey – and is also the last of his countrymen to win on the TOUR – has missed making the cut the past three tournaments.

This week he hopes having his son looping will change that trend.

“That’s my enjoyment right now, and it’s a thrill,” said Ames in a media news conference on Tuesday. “He knows a lot about the game and sees a lot in my swing, which is nice.”

Catching up with the affable Ames on the back nine Thursday afternoon offered a glimpse to the camaraderie between father and son. The pair shared many laughs, despite making only one birdie and carding an opening round 74 (+2).

On the 13th hole, the teenage caddie did an admirable job raking the fairway bunker, getting kudos from both father and fans. Ames – always prone to a healthy dose of sarcasm – turned to a Canadian media member standing outside the ropes and deadpanned: “See how you do it!”

During a long wait on the next tee Ryan craved an ice cream. While his dad went to hit his tee shot, he satisfied this wish, buying a frozen treat from the ice-cream cart. A fan asked for his signature and whether if he liked caddying. Ryan replied, “Oh yeah!”

Ames’ wife Jodi, who was standing nearby, laughed at her son’s purchase. “What other caddie do you see eating a popsicle?”
Popsicles, good pay, and spending time with dad as a summer job is tough to beat.

For Gary Louris, it’s time to be a “Vagabond”

It only took 20 years, but Gary Louris finally meandered down that road that most songwriters seek and put out a solo record.

“I’ve been in a band for quite awhile, and it took up most of my time, and I felt like I had enough of my personal stuff expressed through The Jayhawks that I didn’t need to put out a solo record,” he says. “Now that that band isn’t together anymore, it was just time.”

As a founding member of The Jayhawks and their lead singer and guitarist on three of their critically acclaimed recordings “Sound of Lies,” “Smile” and “Rainy Day Music,” a member of the alt.-country super group Golden Smog, and a producer and mentor for other roots rockers such as Canadian psychedelic-country group The Sadies, Louris needs no introduction to those in the music industry.

“Vagabond,” released in mid-February on Rykodisc, is an introspective affair featuring 10 well-crafted and emotive songs. The low-fi acoustic recording allows the listener to focus on the lyrics and Louris’ most powerful instrument – his voice.

“I certainly was at a crossroads trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this record,” he explains. “I can be all over the board musically. I can be poppy, and I can play around with synthesizers and stuff like that, and I can make stuff that sounds more modern, or I can do the more organic, rootsy and traditional thing, which is what I felt like doing right now…that’s what felt most comfortable to me.”

“My voice being what it is, which is somewhat of a quiet instrument, I thought it would be best served by a quieter backdrop,” he continues. “That’s what lent itself to the more acoustic feel. I’ve always had a battle with that on stage with the guitar to get my voice heard. So. I thought let’s make something that is really about my voice, the guitar and the song, and I was a little more diligent on my lyrics this time, and I worked a little harder, kept coming up with more verses and more choruses.”

For the recording, 40-plus songs were whittled down to the 10 that make the disc.

“I’m never short on ideas,” Louris laughs. “They are not always good ideas, but I have a lot of ideas…some songs rose to the occasion and peeked their head out and became real winners and other songs I thought were going to be the heart and soul of the record, didn’t even make the record…it’s funny how that works.”

On the opening “True Blue”- one of these heart and soul songs that made the record – Louris sings softly in the chorus, “strip it down to what you can believe in.”

This search for meaning in life’s madness continues in the second track, “Omaha Nights” where the songwriter simply asks: “Will we find what we want/along this finite journey.”

This questioning sums up the spiritual path the songwriter trod for this solo introspective journey where Louris and the listener learn together that the questions is what matters, not the answer since the reason for our existence often can’t be found.

“You finally figure out that you are not going to find the answer…well maybe if you are a Tibetan monk, but I don’t know…most people don’t figure it out, and there are books and books to prove it,” he says. “There are people who have been here way before us and with greater minds than my own who have never really solved life’s questions. I figure it’s the old proverbial ‘it’s the journey, not the destination,’ but you still can’t help but be frustrated that you’ve been here so long and still you don’t have a clue as to why you are here and exactly what you are doing. Some of that frustration and mystery came out in the lyrics.”

Despite this spiritual searching, when it comes to the reasons for making music, Louris has realistic expectations for his art. He doesn’t have aspirations that any of his songs will be a top-40 hit, and he’s fine with that.

“That’s the beauty of not being a failure, but not being a huge success either,” he says. “I’m not chasing radio play or anything, so in certain ways I’m free. I don’t want to say I envy myself, but there is a certain freedom to not trying to do something that is going to fit in with some format.”

“Vagabonds” was recorded at Sage and Sound Studies in Los Angeles and engineered and co-produced by Thom Monahan, who has worked with J. Mascis and the Pernice Brothers.

Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes – an old amigo of Louris’ – produced the record.

“Chris brought a comfort level to the studio,” says Louris. “He’s somebody I trust who gives you his full attention…you know he is embracing it 110 per cent where some people you are just one project of many. For Chris, this was a sacred thing. He’s a big fan, he’s been my friend for a long time, and he’s not a yes man. He’s got a strong personality.”

“I knew he would handle it with care, and he did.”

“Vagabonds” was recorded live and has an organic vibe to it.

“I was trying to figure out the best way to make this record,” Louris explains. “I could have played with my studio wizardry and worked with my ProTools in my basement, which I know how to do, but I like the synergy and the weird cosmic energy that happens when people are in a room together and are playing together at the same time.”

“I’ve done it many ways, and some of my favorite records have been looped and sampled and done in crazy ways, but I still think the best thing for me and my kind of music is when you have people capturing a moment in time, live, in that room…it’s magical because it’s kind of that frozen moment from the past. Instead of ‘well the bass was done on Tuesday, and then someone came in and sat in the control room and played along, which is not very emotional, you look across the room, and you see somebody else bobbing their head getting into you, and then you feed off of that. That’s the greatest music.”

Justin Townes Earle: The Good Life

It must be hard living for an aspiring songwriter with a pedigree marked by the names “Townes”” and “Earle.”” It’’s no wonder it took this Southern son time to realise it’’s not his role to try to imitate these roots. After a misspent youth trying to find his voice in various bands, Earle rid himself of his self-destructive ways. Without these “high” expectations,” he focused on the songs. The result is a dazzling debut marked by loneliness and loss. Earle’’s voice is tender and shares more similarities with Hank Williams than his dad. By mining old-time country traditions and mixing in a sprinkling of acoustic blues, the 25-year-old hits all the right notes. “Lone Pine Hill”” is a haunting Civil War ballad that also resonates as a modern parable about the costs of war. On “Who Am I to Say,”” the sober songwriter confronts his past, quietly asking: “Who cares where you find comfort/I’’m no one to deny anybody what they need to take them through a night.”” Put this disc on and get lost in its powerful pull of storied songs sure to get you through the night. This is music from the side of Nashville that really matters.

The Good Life has a real old-timey feel to it. Was this intentional?
The way I write songs, that’’s just the way it comes out. I’’ve never had to try to make songs sound old. For me, it’’s just a sensibility, as far as songs go, and what I’’ve paid attention to in my life.

Is there a song on the new record that you are most proud of?
I love “Hard Living.”” I wrote it when I was 17-years-old and it’’s one that made it through all of these years.

How do you fit into Nashville?
I do my best not to fit into this town. The problem is they don’t make country music on Music Row anymore. It’s always been a singer-songwriter town, it’s just unfortunate the Music Row machine corrupts many of them and turns them into douche bags overnight by getting them to write crap for Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith, stuff like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”” There is a lot more to this town than the Row, but it’’s still a shark tank. People come here with high hopes and usually six months later you see them running out of town with their tail between their legs.

What was it like recording at House of David?
Working in House of David was amazing. I really like it a lot and plan to keep making records at that studio for a while. I think the whole thing was easy to do, as we brought the right songs, put them on the table, got the right musicians and we didn’t have to cull them too much. They got the idea how the songs represented themselves. We made this record really fast; it was the only thing that was kind of headache about it. We tracked, mixed and mastered this record in seven days. We did it in December and it’s coming out in March. We got with the right label, who said they could move it fast and we said we could make it fast, so we pulled about four 16-hour days in the studio tracking, mixing and mastering and then had a day or two off.

Some of the songs on The Good Life were written many years ago. Did that help when you entered the studio?
That definitely helped. Also, I’’m not a hands-off songwriter. When I’’m writing songs, I think in terms of more traditional country music and more traditional forms no matter what they are, whether it’’s blues or country music. [On] all those old country records, the steel parts answered the lyrics and the piano parts answered the steel and stuff like that, so I tend to have a pretty precise design of what everything is going to be as I’’m writing these songs. With the lyrics, there are certain notes and feels you get from spinning an instrument around in your head that can really help with the vibe of a song. Unfortunately for me, I’’m always thinking and sometimes that backs me into a corner. But when it came to making this record, it was a matter of everything coming together quick and right that created the vibe of this record.

Most of these songs, like “Hard Living,” are autobiographical in nature? Does that define your songwriting approach?
Most of my songs are, except for when it comes to story songs like “Long Pine Hill”” and “The Ghost of Virginia.”” Those were study songs, stories that I made up, but I’’m a big Civil War buff, so when it comes to story songs usually those are based on historic things, but not historical fact. When it comes to the regular songs, I try not to write about anything I don’’t know about. You’’ll never hear me write a song about ploughing a damn field because I ain’’t never ploughed no damn field and I’’m scared of cows, so there aren’’t going to be any farmhand songs coming out of me unless it’’s a story song where I’’m the narrator. That is one of the things that irritates the shit out of me about a lot of the old-time music being made these days. It’’s these kids that are younger or a few years older than me and they are writing this crap, these songs that are absolutely unreachable. You hear them usually what they are doing is cutting and pasting already written songs in the first place —they are writing songs about ploughing fields and the dustbowl, shit like that. You know what, write a song that has a ’98 Ford Taurus in it and that’’s where you are going to find your ground because that’’s what you know. Sometimes I stop myself from doing it. I’’m writing a murder ballad right now where I think for once the girl is going to get the guy. It is based in a mountain town, but it’’s based in modern times. The kid drives a ragged-ass 1982 Camaro and works at the Eastman Kodak factory in East Tennessee.

So, when writing these story songs, it’s more about reinterpreting and modernising age-old tales?
That’’s what Springsteen did to Woody Guthrie’’s music and that’’s what Dylan did to Woody Guthrie’’s music and that’’s what made them the writers that they were. They didn’’t sit down thinking they were writing the Great American folk song. As Dylan said in No Direction Home, he was not creating anything new, he was just working with existing forms and putting them into the words of the times.

That has to be toughest thing, putting your own stamp on the music, especially considering your name and the pedigree you’ve been given.
As far as the whole pedigree thing goes, I think everyone who interviews me goes, “you probably are going to hate this but I’m going to ask you a question about your dad and a question about Townes Van Zandt.”” That never bothers me because if my dad was terrible, I might have a problem with people bringing him up. I know people do and will and have in the past had big expectations of what I was going to be, but their expectations were more expecting me to show up with a bandana tied around my wrist with a beard and to sing with a gruff voice. It’’s more of a visual thing, what they are expecting. Where my dad came to a fork in the road and went pretty modern – —took old styles and modernised them -— I came to the same fork in the road and I turned the opposite direction and took it back. Musically, I’’m a lot more of a traditional musician and I think it surprises many people at first when I come out and do that. In my early years of writing, I really struggled with it, as when I was a teenager I was trying to write the great American folk song. I thought I had to live up to Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle and all the other people who came before me, like David Olney. I thought I had to live up to all these people. It was a really miserable existence feeling like I had something so big, such a towering thing to live up to and I think it was when I got over that, when I finally got cleaned up and I had glimpses of it —because I’’d written some of the songs before I got cleaned up —but it was after I got cleaned up that I said I’’m just going to let my songs do what they do. They are going to come out how they come out and I’’m going to go out and represent those songs the best that I can and not worry about the great American folk song, not worry about my last name or any other names tagged onto me, just give it hell.

Why do you think Canada has a love-in for traditional music?
Canada has the same grasp that Europe has for more traditional music. For some reason, there is only a line that divides the United States with Canada, but it’’s like when you cross that line into Canada the music that I make or my father makes or Townes makes or Guy Clark makes, that music is worth a whole lot more up in Canada with y’’all. It’’s one of those unexplainable things. Canadians and Europeans appreciate Southern American music more than anyone in America. I guess you’’ve got to be an import. We even have those dividing lines in the States, as I always do well in New York. I’’ve got a really thick Southern accent and I talk a lot on stage and I’’m pretty animated on stage and so it’’s almost like they are seeing something they have never seen before. I might as well be speaking in German.

Avett Brothers continue their fast pace

Scott Avett passes time at the Starheel in Charlottesville, Va., as his heavily touring band the Avett Brothers get ready to open up for Michelle Shocked that evening. The band is busy working on a few new songs, so this helps pass the time that Scott labels, ‘hurry up and wait.’ During this waiting period, the 27-year-old banjo picker is only too happy to talk about his band’s unique brand of mountain music.

“I always like talking to someone that is willing to listen.”

Upon a first listen, the simple, honest, back porch songs weave their spell on an unsuspecting listener. Soulful singing and two-part sibling harmonizing is combined with some hooting and a hollerin’ and some rhythmic pickin’. It occupies a space somewhere between bluegrass, alt.-country, juke-joint era jazz and folk. Groups such as The Band and early Uncle Tupelo share some of the Avett’s acoustic leanings.

The Avett Brothers, based out of Concord, N.C., near Charlotte, are currently touring throughout the U.S. promoting their fifth release – Mignonette recorded this past spring with 17 songs and more than 70 minutes.

The title was taken from Neil Hanson’s book The Custom of the Sea about an English yacht – the Mignonette – that sank in a storm in 1884 off the coast of Africa. Four survivors escaped in a small dinghy without food or water. After 19 days, the men killed and ate the weakest member of the crew. Five days later they were rescued and the Captain Tom Dudley – a man of honor – told the story of the cannibalistic act they had participated in to the Crown. His honesty got he and his surviving mates a charge of murder brought against them and a date with the Gallows Pole.

The Avett Brothers stumbled upon this story and found Dudley’s honesty an inspirational tale that helped shape their album. This broad concept of candor was then weaved into the thematic structure of many of the songs.

“When the concept came, it helped us to conclude it and put it all together,” says Scott, describing the album’s evolution. “We were really moved by that – a true story that was amazing – and felt it was really noble what he (Dudley) did, and we couldn’t really let go of that.”

“Swept Away (Sentimental Journey)” the hauntingly beautiful track that opens “Mignonette” features a duet with the Avett’s sister Bonnie.

“Bonnie had never recorded before, so it was something we knew would be as natural as you can get,” he says. “It wasn’t going to be someone jumping in there – a senior at it…she was definitely a freshman at it, but we knew that it would probably capture some of that, which would be great because she’s got a great voice.”

The lyrics to this song epitomize the Avett’s honest and simple approach to songwriting with words such as “Who cares about tomorrow/What more is tomorrow/ then another day.”

Making music for the Avetts is truly a family affair, and without brotherly love, this partnership wouldn’t have survived the rigors of the road. The two brothers (Scott on banjo and vocals and Seth on guitar and vocals) comprise two-thirds of the unorthodox power trio. Bob Crawford on standup bass joins them. The group originally started in 1998 as a side project to their then rock band, Nemo.

For “Mignonette,” their father Jim Avett also contributed his original recording of “Signs.” Seth’s wife Sarah also adds a violin on the latest of the “Pretty Girl” series of songs, “Pretty Girl at the Airport.”

“As far as working with family, Seth and I get along real well,” Scott says. “Early on we had taken some trips on our own – self-motivated panhandling trips across country where we would just play wherever we could. During those trips, our father had told us you are each other’s best friend and you are going to get irritated with each other and frustrated with each other. But, you can’t let that take over…there is a lot of bad out there, and you have to depend on each other.

“If we are going to start to argue, eventually we just shut up.”

Mignonette adds three new songs to the now five-song pretty girl canon – the aforementioned “Pretty Girl at the Airport,” “Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane” and “Letter to a Pretty Girl.”

Scott explains how this repeating group of songs came about. “There’s a story in that,” he says. “It started with a song that was going to be called ‘A Song for Robin,’ but in an attempt to disguise it for the sake of one of the fellas in the band in trouble with his girlfriend, we changed it to “Pretty Girl from Matthews.” In that change, we thought about it and were like well Jimmie Rogers did that with Blue Yodels and just numbered them and just did that over and over… the subject matter is endless.”

“They are not necessarily love songs…I don’t think really any of them are,” he continues. “They are just experience songs with the person in mind that we are writing about…that’s just where it’s just kind of carried on.

“I mean there are zillions of beautiful woman. So, the series may never end.”

Until more pretty girls are found, Scott reveals that a live record from 2004 shows has been recorded and needs mixing. Here, according to Scott is where the band’s sound is best appreciated. “Our live show is truly how people get it (our music) a lot of the times,” he says. “It’s much more raucous than the record…they can be similar to a hard rock show sometimes.” The band hopes to release this new offering in next six months.

“We don’t really know how much time we have in this life,” he philosophizes. “So, the way Seth and I go about it is by continuing to write, continuing to write and just try to put as much as we can. I got a feeling that before we know it, we’ll be old and we’ll be looking back, so we are going to get as much recording down as we can.”

PGA TOUR Canada players feeling pressure

“Pressure pushing down on me …”

This opening line from “Under Pressure,” the 1981 collaboration between David Bowie and Queen, sums up what the 132 golfers teeing it up this week at the TOUR Championship of Canada presented by Freedom 55 Financial are surely feeling.

After eight events in PGA TOUR Canada’s inaugural year, it all comes down to this. The squeeze is on. The butterflies in the player’s stomachs are beating their wings a wee bit faster. On the line: TOUR cards for 2014 for the top five on the Order of Merit, exemptions to the final stage of Q-school for Nos. 6-10 and a bye to the second stage of q-school stage for Nos. 11-20.

With less than $300 separating third through fifth on the Order of Merit — and $7,000 separating fifth from 10th — anything can happen this week at Sunningdale Golf & Country Club in London, Ontario.

Graham DeLaet, who currently ranks fifth in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup, played both PGA TOUR Canada and Tour. He knows the added incentive this week will be a huge motivator.

“When we were out there, it’s not that we didn’t want to play well because we did, and we wanted to make as much money as we could, but there was nothing to really play for other than the week-to-week cheques,” says DeLaet.

DeLaet’s good friend Joe Panzeri agrees. The 27-year-old from Idaho, who won the ATB Financial Classic in Calgary, Alberta earlier this summer, heads into the TOUR Championship of Canada holding the fifth spot on the Order of Merit with $39,312.73, just over $3,000 ahead of his next competitor.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot,” Panzeri says. “If someone told me at the beginning of the year that I would be where I am, I would have been happy to hear that. At the same time, this event is big. You could miss the top five by a couple hundred bucks, so each shot is a big deal.”

Whether Panzeri lives up to this added pressure this week and gets his Tour card or not, he’s happy with the progress he’s made on PGA TOUR Canada this season.

“I just told myself to work hard all year and not have any regrets at the end of the season,” he says. “I can’t control what anybody else does; I can just control what I do. My goal is to get back in the mix and try to get another win.”

Lucky for Mackenzie Hughes, the pressure is off. The 22-year-old from Dundas, Ont., who began the year with no PGA TOUR Canada status, locked up his Tour card with a victory last week at the Cape Breton Celtic Classic.

“To win on PGA TOUR Canada means so much,” said Hughes, a two-time Canadian Amateur champion. “It’s been a crazy year. If you told me at the start of the year after I missed those first few cuts that I’d be No. 1 on the Order of Merit heading to the TOUR Championship, I’d say ‘stop messing with me.’”

For others, there is no more time to mess around. Riley Wheeldon, who Hughes knocked out of first place, currently sits in second on the Order of Merit with $43,987.50. While he missed a few cuts late in the season, the 22-year-old from British Columbia started the year strong with a third-place finish in Victoria and later won his first PGA TOUR Canada event at The Syncrude Boreal Open.

The added pressure this season is something he’s definitely felt.

“It’s a pretty deep Tour now and anybody can win,” Wheeldon says. “With the added incentive of the Tour card, the Tour has definitely gotten stronger.

“Everyone has been playing with extra motivation since there is a lot more on the line. Obviously, coming down the stretch, there is more pressure on us than there was last season and pretty much any season I’ve played before. I’m just trying to get used to it and go out there and play the way I can … hopefully the results will take care of the card.”

Just outside the top five sits Nick Taylor. Like Wheeldon, he hails from British Columbia. While a victory has eluded the 25-year-old, he’s been the most consistent player this season on PGA TOUR Canada with five top-10s in eight events and only one missed cut. The increased competition, he says, has helped him take his game to another level.

“Look at the scores each week, there are some crazy low scores,” said Taylor, who sits seventh on the Order of Merit. “If you are not making birdies in any of the rounds you are getting lapped.”

Taylor hopes he’s the one who sets the pace for the field this week, not one the players that gets lapped.

“It will be really exciting,” he said. “Going into this tournament, a win could jump someone like me into the top five. That adds a lot of excitement. It will be fun to be a part of this.”

Snedeker pulls away for big victory at RBC Canadian Open

Sipping a bottle of Molson Canadian beer during the media press conference, Snedeker was all smiles. He talked about how much it meant for him — and his caddie — to win Canada’s National Open.

“I’m just ecstatic,” Snedeker said, reflecting on his sixth PGA TOUR victory. “This is a tournament I said early on in my career I wanted to win just because my caddie is from Canada and it’s his national open. It meant a lot to him and it meant a lot to me. It’s the third oldest tournament on TOUR and it’s got some great history to it, and now to put my name on that trophy it means a lot.”

After an eventful Saturday that featured a weather delay, the overnight leader Hunter Mahan withdrawing, and loads of low scores, normalcy returned to Glen Abbey on Sunday. Gusty winds — especially in the Abbey’s valley — made birdies elusive. Not that it mattered to Snedeker. He made four birdies to go along with two bogeys for a 2-under 70. That was good enough to notch his second victory of the season and sixth of his career.

“I hung in there really well and made the key putts I needed to and I was able to survive,” said Snedeker, the reigning FedExCup champion who, with the win, moves up one spot to No. 3 in the 2013 FedExCup standings. “That’s what today was all about.”

Snedeker is in great position to become the first FedExCup champion to qualify for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola to defend his title. The previous five FedExCup winners all fell short of a return trop to East Lake.

Thanks to a flawless 63 Saturday, Snedeker started the final round with the lead. And, he kept it. When questioned after the third round about the importance of this position, he said that was crucial.

“My last two wins on TOUR have been from in front, so I know how to handle it, know what to expect tomorrow,” he said Saturday. “Especially on a golf course like this, the lead doesn’t really mean a whole lot. It can change in a hole.”

Dustin Johnson found that out the hard way on Sunday. With one swing of his driver everything changed and Johnson’s chances to win his second tournament of the year were squashed. Even having his celebrity girlfriend Paulina Gretzky being police-escorted alongside him Sunday afternoon couldn’t alter fate.

After an eagle putt on 16 that narrowly missed, Johnson tapped in for birdie to temporarily tie Snedeker — who was playing two holes back. Then, the unthinkable happened. The 29-year-old stepped to the tee on the 436-yard par-4 17th and opted to use driver instead of a fairway wood. The result: Johnson sailed his tee shot out-of-bounds right — his first wayward drive of the day. His second swing wasn’t a whole lot better. His ball landed in the bunker on the left side of the fairway.

Facing a steep lip, Johnson took two swings to get onto the green, followed by two putts to make a triple bogey. He bounced back with a birdie on 18 to finish in a four-way tie for second.

“I was playing really well,” Johnson said when asked about his choice to pull out the big stick on 17. “I was really confident and swinging the driver really good … it’s a driver hole for me, but I just blocked it a little bit and made a poor swing.”

Snedeker said he never knew of Johnson’s troubles.

“I had no clue,” he said. “I don’t look at leaderboards because you can’t control anything anybody else is doing. My whole goal today was to go out there and shoot as low as I possibly could … and that’s what I did.”

By the time he strolled down the 18th fairway, Snedeker felt like the tension was out of the air. “I felt like I had a chance and a pretty cushioned lead to get it done.”

A Priceless Pilgrimmage: Masters Memories

One pimento cheese sandwich: $1.50. A no-name domestic draft in a plastic Masters cup: $3. A pair of kids’ T-shirts from the souvenir shop: $48. One patron pass to stroll the rolling fairways of Augusta National Golf Club the day before the first round of the 2013 Masters: priceless.

On Wednesday, April 10, I visited the hallowed Georgia golf grounds for the first time. It was a pinch-me moment from the time my pass arrived in the mail until I boarded my return flight from Charlotte, North Carolina back to Toronto.

Many Canadians make this same pilgrimage each April. Some drive; some fly. Some come with buddies; others with wives. Some rent a house in the Augusta area. Others stay 60 miles away across the state line. No matter where they rest their heads, or from where they come, all make the journey for the same reason: to experience what makes the home that Bobby Jones built so special.

The 2013 Masters was extra special for Canuck golf fans as it marked a major milestone. Flash back 10 years: Mike Weir – the loveable lefty from Bright’s Grove, Ont. – became the first Canadian to win the green jacket in a moment the nation will never forget.

Weir played the back nine alone on Wednesday afternoon, trying to work out the kinks with his caddie. After searching for him all day, I met a group of Canadians near the 17th tee who had been following his practice round. Like me, the four friends from our nation’s capital were making their inaugural trip to Augusta. Tax season was not going to stop these accountants from creating their own Masters memories. Two are retired while the others still practice with the Carleton Place accounting firm of Nephin Winter and Bingley.

How did they get tickets? “It’s a long Story,” laughed Bob Winter. The short version: his wife’s dentist won four day passes in the Masters lottery last year. Somehow, after asking around, Winter and his three number-crunching colleagues were the lucky recipients of the tickets.

From meetings like these to watching the par-3 contest, my Masters experience was magical. There are too many memories to cite them all, but here are a few more highlights of this whirlwind trip.

On Tuesday evening I attended Canada Night at the house Golf Canada rents near Augusta National each year. Grilled steaks and casual conversation were the order of the evening. I met many golf industry executives and fellow members of the media Lorne Rubenstein and Bob Weeks. Rube, a mentor of mine and friend, kindly introduced me to newly-inducted Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Jim Nelford and others in attendance such as USGA Executive Director Mike Davis and Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday morning I was seated aboard a media shuttle inside Augusta National’s gates being whisked to the press building. While waiting for the Golf Writers Association of America’s AGM, I perused a golf magazine in the green arm chairs. Gerry Dee – the star and producer of the award-winning CBC TV show Mr. D – walked by. We shared a few words. The Canadian comedian is also a part-time sports journalist for The Score.

Flash ahead to 3 p.m. that afternoon. As my dream day at Augusta came to a close, I spotted Weir under the big old oak tree – the famed spot where media gather to catch players for impromptu interviews. In the shade of this mighty oak I chatted with Kevin and Mary Bennett of Seaforth, Ont., who drove 15 straight hours to attend their fifth Masters. Kevin’s brother Steve is a longtime friend of Weir’s.

All these Canadians came to Georgia in April for the chance to be a patron for a day. To see the tree on No. 10 where 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson hit his miraculous snap-hook in last year’s playoff. To see the magnolias, azaleas and dogwoods in full bloom. To see how green and pristine Augusta National really is. To sit awhile at Amen Corner and eat a pimento sandwich. Like me, they came to witness, up close, what makes this golf tournament a “tradition unlike any other.” Let me tell you, the experience is priceless.

Rhythm of the road: running celebrity Luke Doucet

You’d expect that Canadian indie musician Luke Doucet would log serious mileage on a cross-continent tour. But how about 100K per week on his legs?It’s all part of staying happy, says the five-time marathoner.

Luke Doucet has an insatiable appetite to achieve. Whether it’s honing his guitar chops or improving his last running times, the songwriter is driven by a passion for perfection. Currently in the midst of a North American tour with Whitehorse (the duo he plays in with wife Melissa McClelland), the musician is a relatively new runner. He started running three and a half years ago. At the end of his first week of running every day, he ran a half-marathon. Since then he’s completed five marathons and three half-marathons. In April, he was scheduled to compete in the Boston Marathon for the first time.

When the songwriter and I connected, he and McClelland had just crossed into the U.S., driving to Minneapolis, Minn., where Whitehorse was playing a gig the next night. Running is therapeutic, Doucet says. “It’s the most enjoyable part of my day,” he says. “Melissa will tell you that I never come home from a run in a worse mood than when I left. I’m always a nicer person – a happier person. It sounds like something that would be hard to squeeze in when you are on tour, but it’s actually become an essential part of my mental health.”

How does the musician squeeze in these training sessions, logging between 90k and 100k per week, with long runs up to 33k?

“I get a lot of help,” Doucet says. “We arrive in a new city in time to load in. In the hour it takes for the road crew to load the gear into the venue and set up before sound check, I can go for a good run.”

Doucet admits this rush to squeeze in a run is a blessing in disguise. “I’m usually conscious of the fact that I have to be back for sound check in 45 minutes,” he adds. “As a result, I tend to run fast because I’m trying to keep up with my schedule.

While Doucet does not listen to music during a run, it does inspire his writing. “I run quiet, but as a result, I write a lot of music when I’m running because it’s a very rhythmic thing. You’re breathing in time with the pace of your feet, so, in effect, your whole body is dancing,” he says. “I find running is a very musical experience.”

Songs such as “Devil’s Got a Gun,” from the latest Whitehorse record, The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss, was a product of running. “I had the guitar hook in my head for literally years before Melissa and I actually sat down and put words and chords together,” he reveals. “Our last record, Emerald Isle, which is about running to some degree, was also written during one of my runs.”

Last fall, in between Whitehorse gigs, Doucet ran both the Philadelphia Marathon and the Atlantic City Half-Marathon. In Atlantic City, he surprised himself with a personal best of 1:21, good for second place in the 30–39 category. “At about the eight-mile mark, my Nike+ watch started showing consistent declines in my average pace,” he recalls. “I freaked out because I felt like I was really pushing. So I pushed harder until about Mile 11 when I realized my watch had lost the satellite. Then I really panicked because all of a sudden I was running blind. I had no idea what kind of time I was running, so I pushed even harder. I had no idea I was anywhere near the front until they announced the winners.”

Doucet closes our conversation by crediting running coach Tania Jones who helped him train for several marathons in the past two years. “I suffer from a couple of problems. As a new runner and someone who approaches things ambitiously, I run the risk of injuring myself by being cocky,” he concludes. “Having somebody like Tania in my corner has been really wonderful.”