Success in the music business is a funny thing. When Blue Rodeo was performing in the mid-1980s, the band felt as though they had achieved success because they managed to fill the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Of course they had but, in the three decades since, the definition of success has been a constantly changing thing; and this has helped make them into the iconic band they are today.
“The early days of the Horseshoe, when we were filling the room were so exciting,” laughs band co-founder and singer, Jim Cuddy. “Then I would go to my job at five in the morning and all these guys would be kidding me about how bad my band was. We didn’t even know what success was.”
Cuddy and co-founder Jim Keelor began their musical partnership in 1978, which led to the formation of Blue Rodeo in 1985. Along the way, they forged their own path. In the era of hair-band rock and leather tights, they followed a passion for alternative country. The harder they stood their ground, the more they found success. Soon, block-long line-ups gave Blue Rodeo the opportunity to tour and record with radio and video airplay not far behind.
With hits like Try, Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, Diamond Mine, Lost Together and Til I Am Myself Again, Blue Rodeo re-wrote the book for what was possible for an independent Canadian band. It is no understatement to say that acts like Tragically Hip, Jeff Healy Band and Barenaked Ladies owe much of their early success to the example of Blue Rodeo.
Their successes continue. Blue Rodeo was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2012, received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2014 and has sold in excess of four million records so far. Their 15th studio album of original music, “1000 Arms,” was released last year. Fans understand that much of the band’s sound comes from the different personalities of Cuddy and Keelor and how they fit together. There are two definite and distinct songwriting voices in the band.
“Greg and I have this strange symbiosis which sometimes is contrasting and sometimes it’s marrying,” Cuddy says. “We write in isolation. We don’t know what the other one is writing, but it seemed like we came with a much more energetic record this time than we have for some time.”
For Keelor and Cuddy, gone are the days of late night gigs and 5 a.m. work shifts. They have been replaced by a lifetime of music.
“Success seemed really real when we were entertaining people in The Horseshoe,” Cuddy says. “That was the top of the heap for us. When you look back, you realize that it has just been this beautiful dream.”
Blue Rodeo brings more than three decades of music to the Rose Theatre, in Brampton, for a performance on Feb. 21.