Corin Raymond believes in the small time. And, as he sings in the fine-pickin’ song “Stealin’ My Heart Away,” on his latest disc There Will Always Be a Small Time, he “likes his music deep.” Despite his affinity for the small time, the Toronto-based songwriter plays big-time music. And, he writes even bigger-sounding songs.
Raymond sports his trademark felt fedora and tired eyes from a life of insomnia. Over dinner on the patio at the Rivoli in Toronto, we chat about the small time, a shared passion for music, the lack of a music industry, and his fine new record, There Will Always Be a Small Time.
The Toronto roots artist describes his concept of the small time in more detail.
“It doesn’t mean amateur,” he explains. “There is nothing unworthy about the small time. The small time is my way of describing the life we are living today in the current conditions with a lack of a music industry. I’ve said this before; I don’t know what the music business is … I’ve never seen it. I make a full-time living as a songwriter and I don’t know what the music business is.
“The small time is a rich world and it’s a world that requires digging,” he adds. “The small time is not going to be piped in over the speakers at my convenience store. You have to connect the dots. The people who love it are going to connect the dots.”
Raymond captures this with some fine wordplay in the title cut when he croons: “There will always be a good time/ when the nine-to-fivers go to bed/ there will always be a grapevine/ where everybody brings a friend/ there will always be a small time/ just come and see us now and then.”
Raymond grew up in Northern Ontario, learning to appreciate the small time from his dad, who raised him after his mother died. His father was a librarian, high-school teacher and book seller. The pair lived in northern Ontario, north of Ear Falls, near Red Lake.
“He exposed me to a lot of culture when I was growing up,” Raymond recalls. “He taught me to love books, theatre and film.”
With There Will Always Be a Small Time, Raymond offers a dozen songs that fit into what he dubs the “classic folk idiom.”
“My songs are all … maybe four chords,” he concludes. “Most of the songs are three-chord songs. Anybody who plays guitar on their porch can learn these songs and that’s what they are designed for. They are designed to be played, enjoyed, make people laugh and feel good. They are designed to make people sing. They are joyful things, these songs. I don’t think there is anything pretentious about any of them.
“I believe they are folk music in that sense. For me, the small time is about real communities. It’s about places where people get together and experience music and where music brings them and binds them together. It’s not the music that is going to change the world, but it changes our world, my world and your world. The only advantage of the big time for me is that I could reach more small-timers. If I could get enough small times happening, maybe we could all be a big-time together.”