At least someone on the Sunshine Coast has had a taste of summer. Local blues-roots singer-songwriter and guitarist Joël Fafard is just back from a two-week solo tour in the seasonal warmth of New Zealand. He’s playing a private gig in Vancouver this weekend, so he should be in fine performing shape when he hits the stage for his show at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons next Saturday, March 14. Then it’s off to wintry New Brunswick for a few shows, followed by two weeks of performances in Europe.
Fafard may be well known locally for strapping on his vintage Telecaster in his singer-guitarist role with The Georgia Fats, a scorching blues trio that includes Boyd Norman on bass and Barry Taylor on drums. But he also tours regularly as a lone player, taking his acoustic Yanuziello resonator guitar along for the solo swings. “It has enough growl for the slide playing and it still has a sweet enough sound to play pretty when I need to,” Fafard said.
The mutual love affair with New Zealand started in 1994, when his then-girlfriend, now wife Megan Mansbridge was studying art there and arranged a tour for him. “She went to visit a guy at the Christchurch Folk Club and played him a demo tape of mine and he just started writing phone numbers down for her, and contacted a few clubs himself,” Fafard told Coast Reporter at his Roberts Creek home.
“She put together ten or 12 shows for me and let me know, ‘Hey I’ve got these gigs lined up for you if you want to come and visit.’” He did and has been going back ever since. Other things worked out, too – he and Mansbridge now have three sons together.
Germany and the Netherlands also provide regular tour folk- and blues-club stops for Fafard, and on this outing, he’s venturing into new territory. “This tour will be my first show in Belgium so I’m hoping to break that open now, too. Like in the Netherlands, I got one show there two tours ago, next time I had ten.”
With three instrumental albums under his belt, and five others with guitar and vocals, Fafard has plenty of material to draw from for his shows. He’s always writing new material. “I have handfuls of new songs that I’m trying to decide how to work into the sets,” he said when asked if he’s ready to do more recording. “But I have an album’s worth to start testing on this tour.”
When he’s not on the road or in the studio, Fafard and his wife manage an online art gallery, jvgallery.ca, that sells sculptures by his late father, Order-of-Canada-winning Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard, and also paintings by Mansbridge and Vancouver artist Duane Murrin. “[The website] is something I can work on wherever I am. It’s extra income and it also allows me to be home a little longer than I would be otherwise,” Fafard said.
Tickets for his March 14 show are $20 at Gibsons Florist, MELOmania, Strait Music and online at www.share-there.com, $25 at the door, if any remain.