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Devin Cuddy follows in his father's musical footsteps

Photography by Aaron Cobb Image by: Photography by Aaron Cobb Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Devin Cuddy follows in his father's musical footsteps

For Devin Cuddy, being a talented musician was a birthright. As the son of country-rock legend Jim Cuddy, frontman of Blue Rodeo, he has been surrounded by music his whole life. Born at the same time that Blue Rodeo was recording its debut album, Devin spent much of his early years going to his dad's shows with his younger brother and sister. By age 12, he was taking piano lessons to learn the basics of music.

But that doesn't mean Devin was born with his dad's love of song. Sure, he and his siblings enjoyed going to shows, but for many years the highlight was hanging out on the tour bus or playing games at the festivals.

It was only later that he realized the people he'd been hanging out with were amazing musicians, like the guys of Great Big Sea. And those piano lessons? "We were learning how to play music. We just didn't like it," says Devin. His dad put the kids through classes with the promise that, "You'll never meet anyone who regrets having taken piano lessons." They didn't buy it at the time, but Devin is certainly in agreement now.

A different sound than Blue Rodeo
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter and pianist has just finished touring his first album, Volume One, and in March he attended his first Juno Awards as a nominee (for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year), right alongside his dad (nominated in the Group of the Year category).

But Devin didn't entirely follow in his father's footsteps, and he certainly didn't set out to emulate his sound. After years of paying little attention to music, Devin came across a record from a legend: Louis Armstrong. At 15 years old, he fell in love with the sound of 1950s New Orleans jazz. "That was when I found something to pull me into the whole world," says Devin. Around the same time, his family acquired his great grandmother's 1901 Heintzman upright piano, and Devin would spend his days playing it. He wrote his first blues song at the age of 18 (it was about his girlfriend at the time), and enrolled at Toronto's York University for jazz piano.

Though his blues style has evolved slightly, with old-school country influences added to the mix, he has largely stuck to the music that first spoke to him. It's a sound nothing like his dad's—and not much like any other modern-day artist you're liable to hear on the radio. While Jim is known for playing guitar in a rustic country-rock style and for crooning big ballads, Devin plays the piano while belting out story songs with a timeless jazzy sound. (Devin admits he is a terrible guitar player.)

Strengthening the father/son bond
Though their sounds are quite distinct, their music has brought them together. Earlier this year, Devin and his band toured with Blue Rodeo for the first time. "It was very special to tour with my dad," says Devin, who admits that the experience gave him a new appreciation for the man and his music. "I've played music more with my dad in the past five years than I have in my entire life. And the tour was kind of a culmination of all that."

Devin knows that his dad has helped him immensely and afforded him a lot of great opportunities. But having a rock-star father can lead to insecurities, too. "He said to me at one point, ‘Don't worry. You deserve this. You guys sound good.' And that kind of eased my nerves," recalls Devin.

These days, Devin can no longer imagine a life without music: He lives in the same building as his record label (housed above a bar where he plays regularly) and the Devin Cuddy Band is getting ready to release its second album. As for his dad, he couldn't be happier. "My dad always encouraged all of us, no matter what. He didn't want to push us into anything, but I think—now more than ever—he's really thrilled that I'm coming into his world."

Shot on location at The Great Hall in Toronto.

Check out why we think Jim Cuddy is an awesome dad.
                                           
This story was originally titled "Not Quite His Father's Footsteps" in the June 2014 issue.
           
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Devin Cuddy follows in his father's musical footsteps

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