Afie Jurvanen is a big believer in happy accidents. He abides by the philosophy that nothing too good comes from trying too hard, and he's managed to ride this laidback wave from the basements of Barrie, Ontario, to some of the music world's biggest stages as a touring guitarist for Feist.
Jurvanen, who's also played support roles for Jason Collett and Howie Beck, has now stepped out on his own. Adopting the stage name Bahamas, he released his debut, Pink Strat, last July and has been touring his collection of spare, simple love songs ever since. Just over a month after playing at In the Dead of Winter, he returns to Halifax March 3 as the opening act for Wilco's sold-out show at the Forum.
Jurvanen says he's "thrilled" to be joining Wilco for its week-long jaunt through eastern Canada. The former sideman relishes this kind of opportunity to win fans over with his own material. "In one band or another I've been touring for a lot of years now, and this is the first time that I've actively said no to other people's music and said, 'No, I'm going to put out my record and get in my car and go play shows,'" says Jurvanen after his IDOW sound check at St. Patrick's Church. "I've been pretty busy since the record came out and I couldn't be happier."
Jurvanen certainly comes across as relaxed and easygoing, qualities that also apply to the tunes on Pink Strat---a record he says emerged almost by accident from a cottage recording session with friends. "We weren't really going for anything, and when we listened to everything at the end of the session we were like, cool, it's a record," he says. "We didn't really mean to make one."
But he did, and now he can't imagine doing it any other way. "I think the recordings that I'm the most fond of are the ones that are spontaneous and you can hear that in the record," he says. "I've been a part of lots of records, and the ones that are hyper-arranged and really thought out are a lot of times over-thought and over-produced."
Jurvanen's disdain for calculation is also reflected in his unusual moniker. He chose Bahamas after recording Pink Strat because it seemed the best fit for the breezy, island-flavoured twang on the album. "It's funny, because now that there's the 'Bahamas sound,' I think I might be writing a bit more to cater to that. But it really could have been pretty far from that."
Material for a second album has already been recorded, but Jurvanen says a release date is still a ways off. He promises that the new songs are rawer, although he's still trying to keep the guitar wizardry in check. "Generally I'm pretty good at holding back and just kind of hanging out with the guitar," he says. "But when I'm left to my own devices it can get a little dangerous when I cross the 13th fret."
Jurvanen tends to enter this danger zone more often in a live setting. His distinctive banter includes self-congratulation after particularly juicy riffs and self-aware references to his signature sound. "The music isn't for laughs---it's serious---but when I'm performing there's an element of fun in there," he explains. "I just like it when people are engaged."
With his talent and wit, Jurvanen makes audience engagement look easy. Even if it's not quite accidental.
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