Time: 9:30 p.m.
Jay Aymar: Everything you need to know about a traveling singer
Fact: You need a bio.
Why? So people who are thinking of hiring you know what they are buying. So that media people can find out all about you. So you can have something up on your website. So your fans know who you are and where you’ve come from so they can get a handle on your music.
Start at the beginning: Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario — the youngest of eight kids. Aymar is an Acadian French name; Dad was born in Nova Scotia in 1921, and moved to the Soo after serving during the Second World War. Mom was a nurse, half Irish and half French and spent her entire life in Sault Ste. Marie. We were raised ‘Irish’ culturally — hence the storytelling tradition in my songs. Add to that a gigantic extended close knit family and you have a lot of grist for the songwriting mill!
First musical influences: My oldest brother had an amazing record collection. When Madonna was big in the ’80s, I was reciting Bob Dylan lyrics.
First guitar: I was 16, and dad found one in the city dump. Beaten to hell, but I was hooked. Took lessons for a year, until my teacher suggested I just learn to play by ear. Alas, I still can’t read music.
University: Yup, I have an English Lit BA from Carleton University — where I first became drunk on language and humourous storytellers like Mark Twain and Stephen Leacock. At the same time, like-minded musical storytellers like John Prine, Tom T. Hall, Steve Goodman and others suggested ways to tell stories in songs.
How to make a living: Get a sales job. I lived in the corporate sales world for a long time. Selling wine was great as the winery supported my music — let me play across Ontario in every whistle-stop bar you could imagine. Giving up that safety net of a steady pay cheque was daunting at first, but "I have to admit...it’s getting better, it’s getting better all the time!"
Worst experience: Four months singing the "great American songbook" on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Sure, I got to see parts of Europe, but it really damaged my psyche. I quit, knowing that taking the gig in the first place was the worst decision I'd ever made.
Making records: Back in 1993 I answered a casting call for new Ontario artists, and my songs were chosen for a five-song demo. Since then, I’ve made five CDs. The most recent ones are Halfway Home and Passing Through; you can read what you like into the titles. These records have been souvenirs for people who’ve heard me at gigs, and they’re calling cards for people in the business of hiring artists like me.
Playing live is my life: I figure I ’ve played at least three shows a week — from cafes and pubs to theatres and folk clubs — for the last 25 years. That comes out to about 11,250 hours on stage. That guy who said you had to spend 10,000 hours to get good at what you do was probably right.
The songs I write: I’ve finished about 80 over the years, and am always working on new ones. Most of them tell stories. One of my favourite ones, about Don Cherry, was covered by Ian Tyson; he called me on my 40th birthday to tell me he was going to record it. Happy Birthday to me!
The state of my life right now: Well, three years ago I finally left my last sales job and hit the musical trail for good. That's where I am right now. It ain’t easy — hard to build a relationship out here. But I’m sleeping better, and I’ve a better idea of who I am and why I do this. You build a fan base, one person at a time, and you explore a Canada that most people will never discover (they often fly right over the place). You meet fascinating people, and every one of ’em has a story to tell, even if they can’t write it down. That’s my job.
Future plans: I want to go back to Europe (but not on a cruise ship). I want to explore the United States the same way I’ve explored Canada. I want to write more songs. I want to have full houses every single night I play, instead of most of them. And I’d like to make a good
A few more words from my publicist:
You’ll never find Jay Aymar in a martini bar. Give him a beer and a toasted western, talk about inexpensive hotels, waitresses at truck stops, and the small towns that dot this country from St. John's to Vancouver Island, and you’ll find a man you’ll want to be friends with for the rest of your life.
Jay Aymar’s an ordinary guy, with an extraordinary talent. He’s constantly writing a song, and that’s a gift most folk are not blessed with. And, three or four days every week, he’s standing in front of people playing those songs and telling those stories.
Could be in a bar on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, or a hotel in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, or someone’s living room in Morden, Manitoba. Could be at a festival in British Columbia, or a coffee house in New Brunswick, or a tavern in Tobermory.
Wherever you discover him, you know one thing right off: This man's the real deal. No pretension, no airs, no showbiz bullshit. Plain as a Tim Horton’s double-double and as straight at the highway between Regina and Calgary.
Play his CDs on your next long drive, or late at night with a close friend. And you’ll know the most basic fact about Jay Aymar: Without exception, he tells the truth.
— Richard Flohil
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