Winnipeg singer-songwriter Rob Waddell remembers his very first time playing to an audience. It was a two-song performance some five-and-a-half years ago during an open mic night at what was then the Academy.
“I was shaking - my knees were literally quaking,” the 41-year-old recalls. “I can remember feeling so ill-prepared. ... Now to get up and do two songs, the only problem with that is it’s not enough time. I want to do 10 songs.”
Since then, Waddell’s released two albums - 2009’s The Mirror Made Me Do It and 2011’s Letters Unsent.
You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of Waddell before, though. Promoting his brand of roots music hasn’t been a top priority in the past, so when he speaks to The Uniter for this article, he reveals that it’s his first-ever interview.
But Waddell is hoping to garner more attention with his third album, Everything Is From Now On, which he’ll release with a show at the Park Theatre on Saturday, March 30.
He believes it contains his strongest material to date - specifically, the song Hipster’s Lament (A Manifesto), in which Waddell wrestles with his station in life as an affluent North American.
“We’ve got everything we could ever want and we’re slaves to the pleasures of the world,” says Waddell, an estimator for an insulation company who buys and sells antique furniture on the side.
“I have a real desire to create equity around me, but I just take for the most part. We want to be comfortable, but it leaves us ill-prepared for life. When shit goes down - when your friend takes their own life, or your partner leaves you, or you leave your partner, or your child dies, or whatever - your iPhone is not going to help you. And all those self-help books you read may or may not help you.
“What’s going to help you is community - healthy community. I hope I’m promoting that.”
Waddell wants to connect with listeners because he knows the impact music can have on someone’s life. He began writing his own songs in 2007 as a way to process the end of a long-term relationship, as well as his then-recent move to Winnipeg after living in Brandon for 15 years.
He describes the time he began songwriting as a lonely period of reflection. Because he was new to the city, he didn’t know a lot of people, so he would sit and write songs.
“Through the music (I wrote) - and through friends - I learned it was OK to express sadness and anger, and that it was a positive thing to talk about it. And that others could relate to that - they could listen to it and put it over top of their scenario and find comfort in it,” he says.
“‘Cause in my songs, I try not to leave (the listener) in a sad spot. I try to leave them at a place of moving forward.”
Waddell says that when he sits down to write a song, his goal is simple.
“I want to change the world,” he says.
“The odds are against it, but it won’t happen at all if I don’t try.”
Published in Volume 67, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 21, 2013)