by James Stefanuk
The Scene Unseen

The Scene Unseen | April 29, 2016 | On The Road Again

The East Coast is cold in April, a biting, nasty cold that gets into your proverbial bones. I’m on a solo tour across the East Coast while my drummer honeymoons in the South Pacific; there couldn’t possibly be a more polarized situational juxtaposition. He lives on “Gilligan’s Island,” and I live in a Ford van in Moncton.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. Cold nights and weeks alone does a lot to chisel your spirit. There are sometimes rooms and couches from friends you meet along the way, and boy do you appreciate those. The East Coasters are incredibly generous, and usually like to make sure you’re getting drunk along with them. The liquor keeps the chills away.

Honestly I probably picked a bad time to tour Eastern Canada. But I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much about myself otherwise. I am going to try and make this as candid and real as possible, or what’s the point in writing it?


When you are touring by yourself you live like a street person. You shower and shave in Starbucks sinks, you wake up frozen at 4:00 a.m., and sometimes you even piss in a water bottle so as not to freak out the neighbourhood. You become a bit of a prisoner in this mobile home, and it is extremely humbling. Suddenly you understand the difficulty of people on the streets, how they are treated like outcasts and the simple request of “can I use your washroom?” can be denied.

I feel incredibly grateful to be that one step up from homeless; I have a van, therefore a roof over my head. I have respect and admiration from people I meet and perform for, and they sometimes give me money and buy me drinks. My dignity is intact, but I feel much more humble and maybe more importantly, so much more compassionate. I’ve always felt “bad” for the homeless, but never really understood how simple acts of nature can be difficult and even degrading when you’re on the street. The cold sucks too; you never get to sleep the night through. Never.

Sound like Hell? Not at all. The chance to perform for new people leaves me with no regrets, and the character-building is just a happy bonus. The scenery is nice. Missing the people back home is nice too; I know I’ve got a warm snuggly home waiting for me when I get back; and a big, hot, electric music scene. Just like living in a van makes you appreciate a house, playing acoustic café gigs makes you appreciate the big downtown club gigs. I can’t wait to rip Toronto’s stages apart when I get back.

Bar Audience

Sometimes you have to go without to appreciate it. I am deprived of my family, my bandmates, my friends and fans, and almost all of the basic comforts of life. Eating granola bars and liquid yogurt is the only way to ensure I actually get home with some money to pay bills.

This is the scene all across Canada. Almost every band worth their salt does this… it’s part of that mystical phrase called “paying your dues.” Luckily when you pay, you get a lot out of it. Your skin gets thicker, but your heart gets bigger. You learn to truly internalize criticism and use it for positive change.

It’s a long and lonely road here, and that is truly part of what makes Canadian music so special. It is almost always intelligent, poetic and paints a picture. I am honoured to be a part of it.

“Gonna travel, gonna travel wild and free – I’m gonna pack my bags because this great big world is calling me.” ~ Elvis Presley “Harem Holiday”

– James Stefanuk

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