Origin stories: Greg MacPherson singer-songwriter

An affinity for song and safety

Singer-songwriter Greg MacPherson has moved 41 times in his life, but Winnipeg keeps calling him home. (Supplied photo)

Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Greg MacPherson has moved a lot in his life – a total of 41 times. His father was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and was transferred to Winnipeg in 1986, where MacPherson lives today.

Although he has resided in various cities as an adult, MacPherson always returns to Winnipeg. This locale is where the Canadian singer-songwriter got his start.

“I always felt compelled to play, and I fell in love with the guitar when I was a teenager. I was always writing little tunes. There’s the sense that you’re creating something that is kind of magical,” he says.

While attending Westwood Collegiate in Winnipeg, he belonged to bands he considered terrible. In university, he met people from the opposite end of the city in Transcona who shared his musical interests.

“We hit it off, and we still play together, actually. We started a band called The Apartments when I was about 20,” MacPherson says.

He discovered the possibility of songwriting from his Apartments bandmates, Jared Ozuk and Dan Martins.

“They were quite talented songwriters, and I learned a lot from them. I’d never taken (songwriting) that seriously, but they could just write songs so easily. It suddenly dawned on me that I could, too,” MacPherson says.

He wrote songs for The Apartments and then started playing solo.

“I just started writing so many songs, and I just couldn’t keep up with all of them. I just wanted to play them, so I played solo,” he says.

His songwriting talent was recognized in 2010 when his sixth recorded album, Mr. Invitation, was long-listed for a Polaris Prize. The award is based on artistic merit and not on record sales.

Music is MacPherson’s primary pursuit. While dwelling in Toronto, he worked as a professional musician. He toured, put out albums, had record labels and basically made a living playing music.

After relocating to Winnipeg, MacPherson took on a variety of jobs to supplement his music-related income.

“I’ve always augmented (music) with other work. I started working as a commercial painter. I’m pretty handy,” he says.

He subsequently landed a job with the City of Winnipeg interviewing landlords for an energy-efficiency project.

Through that work initiative, he was approached to be a safety and wellbeing coordinator for the city. MacPherson has an inclination toward community work, specifically for providing refuge and security.

“I think it’s something to do with my personality. I have this proclivity for safety. I’m very sensitive to things as an artist, I suppose,” he says.

He brings that community wellness aspect with a social-justice lens to his musical projects.

As a member of Figure Walking, MacPherson released the band’s first single, entitled “Victorious,” in 2017. Deemed a rock justice tune inspired by Winnipeg’s political landscape, the song intentionally promotes allyship with those experiencing poverty, racism and inequity.

In 2011, MacPherson co-founded Disintegration Records with producer and engineer Cam Loeppky.

“We founded Disintegration to give great local artists a platform and vehicle through which to release important music. Not all of the artists have social or political messages in their music. I certainly do,” MacPherson says.

Published in Volume 77, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 6, 2022)

Related Reads