Driving through Montreal on a wet, grey afternoon in a Grand Caravan with John Carroll and a few friends seemed somehow relevant to the performance we’d just seen.
In an impressively cramped and wildly decorated antique shop called Rétro Ville on Notre-Dame St. in St. Henri, Carroll had just told a foreboding tale that sounded a lot like a mutiny done up in his characteristically heavy, warbling ragged blues.
While patiently, albeit somewhat confusedly, navigating along Atwater Avenue headed back north toward the Mile End, Carroll explained his new song, “The Captain is Lying.”
“It ended up for me being a sort of nautical misadventure coupled with a scathing political critique,” said Carroll, in his slow, vaguely sarcastic way of speaking.
“I guess it’s a critique of governments that perpetually tell untruths, saying one thing and doing the other, and the people who follow them and don’t ask enough questions and who end up in situations that might not be in their best interest because they trusted an untrustworthy government.”
Now in his early 40’s and with a musical career that stretches over 20 years, we ask Carroll about staying relevant for himself, and how after so many years an artist continues to reinvent what they do. He says he doesn’t quite see it that way.
“I try to write the best songs that I can write, and they end up being the way that they are,” said Carroll. “I feel like taking responsibility for guiding everything would be a little bit inaccurate in my case. I do the best I can and settle with what I’m comfortable with.
“I try to write songs and become a better musician.”
Carroll’s music has taken him around the world, and most recently to a stage at Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Despite the years of playing, and the success he’s had, he says that the music scene and the bars, whether packed or empty, haven’t jaded him.
“I still have great experiences playing where someone will come up to me and it’s apparent that they’ve been genuinely moved by something that’s occurred in my performance,” he said. “To me that’s very gratifying.
“That’s why I listen to music—I like to be moved.”
John Carroll will play Friday, Sept. 20 at le Cagibi with local folk duo, Salton Sea. Check the Facebook event for more info.