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July 18, 2024

Summer news!

Grant Lawrence Summer 2024 newsletter: goodbye Big Buck$, hello Cliffhanger… movie and book reccos… and lots of summer shows with great guests like Neil Osborne from 54-40! Hannah Georgas! Dawn Pemberton! Matthew Barber and more!

Hello World of Friends!

Greetings from Desolation Sound, summer of 2024 edition.

Bon voyage Big Buck$, ahoy Cliffhanger

As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, our dearly beloved old speedboat Big Buck$ took its last ride across Desolation Sound in August of last year. If you’ve read my first book “Adventures in Solitude” (thanks), you might remember that when our family purchased Big Buck$, a 1985 blue and white Hourston speedboat, it appeared so used, so faded, so beat up, and so old… back then… when our cabin neighbour Handy Candy saw it, she exclaimed “that’s your ‘new’ boat? Wow… I guess you better call it Big Buck$ to mark such an impressive purchase!”

And so Big Buck$ was christened, and for the next several decades, that beat up blue boat took us everywhere, from Savary Island to Prideaux Haven, Isabel Bay to the Curme Islands, Refuge Cove to the Homfray Channel, and countless trips to and from the cabin and the Okeover government wharf in all manner of weather, creating adventures and memories with every voyage. In the early days, passers by at the Refuge Cove dock would echo Handy Candy’s sentiments, referring to Big Bucks as “a true beater.” But after that first book came out, Big Buck$ surprisingly became somewhat of a celebrity vessel, getting us recognized in even the most remote corners of the Sound.

Her finest hour was probably in the spring of 2020, when Big Buck$ was the first-responder boat to rescue a drowning man in Malaspina Inlet. Thank goodness for her low gunwales, which helped me hoist a gasping dude much larger than myself up and into Big Buck$ (full story in “Return to Solitude”… plug). But the big knock on Big Buck$ was that… her hull was fibreglass in an extremely rocky ocean environment, and she was slowly falling apart. In one particular rainstorm, the boat’s singular windshield wiper was flip-flapping away when it flapped right off, never to be seen again… or replaced. The running lights stopped working sometime in the 90s. And in the last couple of years, when you looked down under the dashboard and through to the inside of the bow, you could see shafts of sunlight poking through the hull. Not good. When speeding up, I would do it oh so gradually, fearing that the sheer torque of the 90 horsepower engine would rip the transom right off the stern. Many cabin neighbours suggested it was time. We resisted. I resisted. We loved Big Buck$ like a family member, and we kept Big Buck$ for so long, that by the end, those passers by on the Refuge Cove dock were now referring to Big Buck$ as… “vintage.”

But it was last summer, during one particularly rough ride through a wicked southeasterly blow up in Okeover Arm that changed my perspective. That trip was so jarring, so spine altering that I remember thinking that

  1.  I could cancel my upcoming chiropractor appointment.
  2. It actually felt like Big Buck$ might split in half right down the middle like America’s politics.

As the waves pounded, I asked myself, “am I putting family nostalgia over family safety?” There was also another weird thing happening. My family was getting bigger but… Big Buck$ was staying the same size. The kids weren’t babies anymore – and neither were their friends. And now there was a family dog. But… Big Buck$ held out to the end. She never did split like the Democrats, nor did she ever even once break down.

She was sold in March – motor, boat, and trailer – to a rather tight-lipped man in Powell River who did not announce his intentions so I know not what has become of Big Buck$, though many this summer have asked. She may be collecting leaves in some backyard, but I’d like to hope that Big Buck$ is riding the waves somewhere as the sun sets over the Salish Sea, providing a new family with the same kind of countless adventures and memories that she provided for us.

Enter Cliffhanger, a 21’ foot, Hewescraft “Pro V” ocean boat, made for the waves, with a walk-through windshield, lots of comfortable seating for family and friends, working windshield wiperS and lights, and a big shiny outboard motor that doesn’t sound like a garburator with a fork stuck in it. Named for both the literary device and what we do with the boat at cliffside swimming spots in Desolation Sound, Cliffhanger is safe, sturdy, and most importantly aluminium. But… does it have character? Man, do we miss the rough and ramshackle Beachcombers charm of Big Buck$, which my kids used to loudly claim was “the fastest boat in the inlet.” She never was, but she seemed like it to them. Cliffhanger may be bigger and safer, but it sure has a lot to live up to.

Summer reading: The Wager

Keeping with the nautical theme, the summer book that I am currently ripping through is “The Wager: A tale of shipwreck, murder, and mutiny” by David Grann. I’m a sucker for a sea-faring adventure in far-off ports of call, and just like the subtitle suggests, this one has it all. 

David Grann has most recently found fame as the author of “Killers of the Flower Moon” that became the hit Martin Scorcese movie from last year. He’s an in-depth, well-researched non-fiction writer who knows how to take real life stories and turn them into page turners. The Wager is primarily based on highly detailed journals kept by shipwrecked English navy sailors circa 1741. I’m loving it. Hope you do too.

Summer movie: Singin’ In The Rain

Huge congratulations to everyone at the historic and legendary Patricia Theatre in Powell River BC (the largest town closest to Desolation Sound) on their grand reopening and restoration of this beautiful cinema that dates back to 1913.

That makes it the longest continuously operating movie theatre in all of Canada!! It’s so old that Nancy “The Cougar Lady” Crowther saw her first movie here in 1939! (“The Adventures of Robin Hood”.) Last month they replaced all of their seats (we snagged a couple of the old ones for our cabin) , refurbished the lobby, the main curtain, the aisles and the peacock murals… and it all looks and sounds really awesome.

For the grand reopening this month, they screened “Singin’ in the Rain” from 1952- which somehow I’ve never seen before. I was blown away by the awesome wardrobe, the choreography, the sheer athleticism of the actors, and the humour. It’s hilarious. My ten year old son was also laughing – a lot – which he didn’t expect to (he was hoping for “Planet of the Apes”). After the movie I told him that he was laughing at jokes written and choreographed SEVENTY-TWO YEARS ago. Funny is funny!! And Gene Kelly’s megawatt smile?! Wow. What a movie star.

Single-screen theatres are magical, special places… and the Patricia is one of the best.

Summer writing:

My next kids’ picture book called “Adventures in Desolation Sound” will be released on Harbour Publishing at the end of the summer. It features illustrations from Ginger Ngo, and is a kids-eye-view of what it was like for my sister and I to be dragged reluctantly to the cabin.  In 2024, many parents feel they are fighting a losing battle with screens. Well… guess what? In 1984, my sister and I were also addicted to a screen: it was called the television set. To get us away from endless daily re-runs of “The Love Boat”, “The Brady Bunch”, and “Three’s Company” et al, our dad would take us out to the wilderness. The book features our first meetings with real-life characters like the aforementioned Cougar Lady and Russell the Hermit. Expect to see the book at my shows in August and beyond, and at good bookstores everywhere.

Summer Shows:

Here’s my Stories and Songs summer tour… including my first-ever shows in Ontario… and two new shows announced in Fort Langely and Sechelt with one of my musical heroes.. Neil Osborne from 54-40!

Mon July 22, Laughing Oyster, Okeover BC, w/ Sarah Jane Scouten, Jill Barber, and Ashleigh Ball – SOLD OUT (waiting list)

Wed July 24, Hacienda Pascalito, Savary Island BC, w/ Sarah Jane Scouten, Jill Barber, and Ashleigh Ball – LIMITED TIX 

Thu July 25, Refuge Cove Dockside Gallery, Refuge Cove BC, w/ Sarah Jane Scouten, Jill Barber, and Ashleigh Ball – SOLD OUT (waiting list)

Fri – Sun Aug 16-18, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC 

Sat Aug 24, Opera House, Gravenhurst, Ontario (w/ Jill and Matthew Barber, Clerel, Hannah Georgas, Miranda Mulholland)

Sat Aug 31, Barbers at the Base, Sergeants’ Mess Hall, Picton, Ontario (Jill Barber, Matthew Barber, Grant Lawrence)

Fri Sep 27, Chief Sepass Theatre, Fort Langley BC (w/ 54-40’s Neil Osborne, Dawn Pemberton, Lindi Ortega)

Sat Sep 28, Raven’s Cry Theatre, Sechelt BC (w/ 54-40’s Neil Osborne, Dawn Pemberton, Lindi Ortega)

Tickets for all shows.

Happy summer, happy life, and I hope to see you soon.

All the best from the watery west,

Grant Lawrence

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May 15, 2024

Desolation Sound Summer Tour 2024

We are thrilled to announce that for the first time ever, we have patched together a Stories and Songs tour for the Desolation Sound region of BC for three exclusive dates this July. And two of the shows are boat-access only!

Join me, won’t you, for a series of very special events, to hear stories from “Adventures in Solitude” and “Return to Solitude” where they actually occurred, told directly from me, in intimate, outdoor settings. And who knows what real-life characters may be in the audience or making special guest appearances.

Songs will be performed between stories from special musical guests Ashleigh Ball (from Hey Ocean), Sarah Jane Scouten (direct from Scotland), and Grant’s wife, the award-winning Jill Barber.

Tickets are limited! Get yours now here! Hope to see you in July!

Mon July 22, Laughing Oyster, Okeover, 7pm
Wed July 24, Hacienda Pascalito, Savary Island, 7pm
Thu July 25, Dockside Kitchen and Gallery, Refuge Cove, 3pm

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April 22, 2024

Grant Lawrence spring news: New kids book! Completed audio book! Kid rock band! Joel Plaskett recap! And shows, shows, shows!

Hello world of friends!

Happy spring! Hope this finds you nestled under a pink bouquet of “cherry blossoms that are as graceful as a Japanese poem” (a direct spring-time quote from my beloved Desolation Sound neighbour Angela). 

Joel Plaskett wows at Stories and Songs Shows

The highlight of 2024 so far has been the series of my touring “Stories and Songs” shows that featured my ol’ pal Joel Plaskett from Halifax, who I have known since his days in his 1990s rock band Thrush Hermit. In a word he was fantastic, and the audiences loved him.

Joel and I have had many adventures stretching over decades (above is a shot of Thrush Hermit playing with the Smugglers in Halifax in 1999).

One time, years later in Halifax, I asked Joel to show me the REAL Ashtray Rock, which was the title of his successful, award-winning concept album of 2007 about young love and drunk teenagers. He agreed, and together we made our way through the woods behind the Clayton Park neighbourhood of Halifax until we found it… 

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but out here in BC, when you say “rock” – and you mean the mineral variety – it’s usually something BIG… like Siwash Rock off of Stanley Park, or Bromley Rock outside of Princeton, or Ripple Rock off of Campbell River, that was so big and hazardous to boats, that they had to blow it up. 

Ashtray Rock wasn’t that big at all… maybe about the size of your average lumpy loveseat… nor to my eye did it really resemble an ashtray, but there were some empty beer cans strewn about, which meant a new generation was still sneaking off to party there, which warmed my heart. And I love a good rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage no matter what the size of the prize.

A few years after that, Joel and I crossed paths again, this time way up north at a cultural festival in Iqaluit, Nunavut, a first for both of us, where we were able to get out onto the open, windswept, treeless tundra. Now THAT was epic.

And so this year, Joel and I were able to complete our twenty-five-year trifecta of adventures from coast to coast to coast with fantastic shows in Sidney, Galiano Island, and Maple Ridge. Thank you very much if you were in attendance at these special shows, and thank you to Joel for making it happen, and to all the other excellent performers: Lindsay Bryan, Rob Nesbitt and Andrew Molloy, Ashleigh Ball, Imogen Moon, and my lovely wife Jill Barber, who pulled off a drop-dead stunning duet with Joel on his old favourite “Happen Now” in Maple Ridge.

New shows for 2024 are listed below… including three coming up this weekend with the incredible Lindi Ortega, Jay Malinowski, and Stephanie Cadman in Oliver, Lake Country, and Kamloops!

Release date for new book: Adventures in Desolation Sound (for kids!)

Well, it’s official… ace illustrator Ginger Ngo and I have been working hard while putting the finishing touches on the illustrated children’s version of my first book Adventures in Solitude

It’s called Adventures in Desolation Sound and takes place when my sister and I were little kids, experiencing Desolation Sound for the first time, and meeting real-life legends like “Cougar” Nancy Crowther and Russell the Hermit

The book features plenty of beautiful illustrations of many of the flora and fauna of the Sound, both above and below the surface, as well as lots of hilarious interpretations of my sister and me navigating those early years in the wilderness.

I’m very proud of the “kid treatment” we’ve given the book, which will be released by my long-time publisher Harbour Publishing (celebrating 50 years this year!) on Saturday September 7, 2024. I’ll have information on signed pre-orders soon. 

Jill Barber

My lovely wife Jill has already had a busy year, logging many touring miles. She performed all over the East Coast USA in January, as well as trips to the Juno Awards in Halifax, and the Folk Music Awards in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where she won the trophy for Producer of the Year for her acclaimed album Homemaker

This one is special because Homemaker was both a return to Jill’s original folk roots sound, and a record that she grappled with, eventually taking on the producer’s role, so that the sound in her head was the sound she was hearing on the record. And, well… here you go:

Jill shares this award with her friend, bassist, and engineer-turned-co-producer Erik Nielsen

Jill will be performing at several music festivals this summer – and we’ll collaborate on a couple of shows as well. Please check out the dates below.

Blue Jay Valley debut 7” EP out now!

Yes, that’s right, our 10-year-old son Josh Lawrence and his kid rock band Blue Jay Valley have their very own 7” vinyl record out, a four song EP of all-original rock songs written by the members, who are 9 and 10 years old. Their record release party was a sold-out smash in East Vancouver, and they have another all ages outdoor show planned for June. If you’re around East Van you should come! And bring the kids! In the meantime, you can check out the Blue Jay Valley bandcamp page if you’d like to listen to or order the record on sky blue vinyl. They ROCK.

Shows! Shows! Shows!

Grant Lawrence and Friends: an evening of stories and songs


Mon July 22, Laughing Oyster, Okeover BC, w/ Sarah Jane Scouten, Jill Barber, and Ashleigh Ball

Wed July 24, Hacienda Pascalito, Savary Island BC, w/ Sarah Jane Scouten, Jill Barber, and Ashleigh Ball

Thu July 25, Refuge Cove Dockside Gallery, Refuge Cove BC, w/ Sarah Jane Scouten, Jill Barber, and Ashleigh Ball

Sun Aug 18, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC (Harbour Publishing 50th anniversary celebration)

Sat Aug 24, Opera House, Gravenhurst, Ontario w/ Jill and Matthew Barber, Clerel, Hannah Georgas, Miranda Mulholland

Sat Aug 31, Barbers at the Base, Sergeants’ Mess Hall, Picton, Ontario (Jill Barber, Matthew Barber, Grant Lawrence)

(More shows to be announced coming up in Langley, Sechelt, Powell River, and West Vancouver in the fall of 2024 and spring of 2025).

Jill Barber

Sun June 16, Francos de Montreal

Sun, Mon June 23, 24, Toronto International Jazz Festival

Fri Aug 2, Kaslo Jazz Festival, Kaslo BC

Sun Aug 18, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC

Sat Aug 24, Opera House, Gravenhurst, Ontario (w/ Grant Lawrence)

Sat Aug 31, Barbers at the Base, Sergeants’ Mess Hall, Picton, Ontario (Jill Barber, Matthew Barber, Grant Lawrence)

Tickets to all shows.

Dirty Windshields Audiobook

And one more thing… If you need something to listen to while doing the dishes or driving to work, at long last, I have FINALLY finished my audiobook-podcast for my rock ‘n’ roll memoir Dirty Windshields – the best and the worst of the Smugglers tour diaries. This turned out to be a rather epic and time-consuming project that took, uh… years, because… it’s not just an audiobook. I took it upon myself to mix in much of the Smugglers catalogue throughout the stories, in chronological order, plus music from friends’ bands, which makes this a deeper and more contextualised listen that takes you through the indie rock glory years of the 80s, 90s and 2000s, as if you were actually there. Or maybe you were. The project turned out to be an amazing way to reconnect with Smugglers fans and friends from around the world… all three of them … (just kidding) … and I hope you get a chance to listen to it as well. (Above is a picture of the Smugglers being interviewed in a fountain in Auckland, New Zealand.)

More listening:

A couple of respected pals recently interviewed me on their respective podcasts, where I talk about anything and everything.

Terry David Mulligan’s Mulligan Stew (the legendary media personality and I talk about me going over to his house to pick up free promo records when I was a teenager… the Stories and Songs show… Desolation Sound… books and more.)

Salad Days with Dave Ullrich (great to connect with the former Inbreds drummer about our meeting in the heady 1990s Canadian music scene and all that followed… including some never-told early Smugglers stories).

So… what are you up to these days? Will our paths cross somewhere?

Happy spring, happy life, and I hope to see you soon.

All the best from the west,

Grant Lawrence

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