“Homeboy’s Triumphant Return”: Interview with John Michael Lind
Regina-raised roots musician John Michael Lind returns to the city for series of shows
In the week before his set of homecoming shows at The Revival Music Room, Bushwakker, and Bar Willow Eatery, I sat down with musician – and former Carillon employee – John Michael Lind, who commonly goes by the moniker “JML.” Born and raised in Regina, Lind was brought to British Columbia for a job, and has been performing across Western Canada.
I asked what brought him back to play, and he tells me it’s been a long time coming. “I’ve had a couple tours planned out [that didn’t happen,]” he says – one that was cancelled because of injury, and one because of the pandemic. Lind is excited to re-immerse himself in the music culture he was raised in and play some shows where old friends and family live. “People in Regina don’t know me as a musician,” he says. “I didn’t play music when I lived in Regina aside from kitchen jams and Cathedral parties… it’ll be fun to show that side of myself to all the old crowd.”
As someone raised by generations of farmers, I was extremely moved by the title track of Lind’s album, Out on the Land. When asked if the song was written recently, in response to the tough times farmers are having this year, Lind says he was inspired by “seeing the plight of the family farm,” but that the song was actually written in the 80s. In fact, it was the first song he had ever written.
“I’m not a farm kid,” Lind says. “I’m a city boy. But y’know, if you’re paying attention, even back then you could see the way the family farm was going.” Though the struggle wasn’t his own, he was moved by his friends who farm, the people he met during his travels of Saskatchewan, and what he could observe from the outside looking in.
When asked about what inspires him, Lind says that “like so many singer songwriters, heartbreak” is a big inspiration. Song writing is “cathartic” for him and says he “finds emotion easy to deal with” in his craft. Conversely, he also says that “his relationship with his new partner” has been influential to the majority of the songs of his new album.
Some of his muses are a little more unconventional, though. “I’ve got a bunch of songs about trains,” he says with a chuckle. “I love trains. So, they inspire me too… It’s the romanticism of it all. Being on the road, being on a train, travelling somewhere new, those things kinda thrill me. I’ve got a lot of road songs.”
Lind grew up with, and is obviously influenced by, the “folk music of the early 60s,” which his parents listened to. They’d drive along in the family Beetle, singing along to Tom Dooley, The Kingston trio, and artists like that. He says Neil Young is one of his biggest inspirations, and the particular resonance of his guitar is the sound of the 60s for him. As he got older, he was very into the music of Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, and John Prine.
Of course, I had to ask him about working on the Carillon – which he says was a “lot of fun” but also a “major panic” every Wednesday doing layout. He tells me that old issues of the Carillon were made “manually on light tables with wax and rollers.” The process involved multiple steps, Exacto knives, local photo printers, and hot wax. The now archaic process of putting together a newspaper manually is probably old news (pardon the pun) for most, but for someone new to the industry, like me, this is fascinating knowledge!
Lind’s former position as ads manager was a fairly new experience for him. He had sales experience from working in a stereo shop but had no experience doing layout and now had to make and design his ads manually. He tells me that to sell ads, he just “wandered around town cold-calling, knocking on doors, to try and sell some ads and keep the paper going.” When I remarked on how different that is from the email culture of today, Lind says, “as a musician, and booking gigs, it’s still personal contact by phone call [that works better…] People still want human contact.”
And at the end of the day, that’s what Lind is about. He had a lot to say about how art has moved him, and while explaining why certain pieces and people touch him, he says: “Let me put it this way: Van Gogh. [He] is my favourite artist… I’ve seen some of his work [in person] and it’s just devastatingly beautiful.” Though Van Gogh depicts simplistic subject matter, Lind says its “absolutely hopeless” and perhaps “trivial,” but it affects him “to the depths of [his] soul.” According to Lind, his writing is less about what’s going on in the world, and more about what needs to be expressed. “A song can be light-hearted,” he says, “but if it’s coming from your soul and coming from your heart, I think other people will get that. And I think the point is about that connection, human connection, not so much about telling the news.”
When I note the interesting jump between being a performer and his honours BA in Anthropology, Lind say that he went to university to get a better job after experiencing what he calls “early onset parenthood.” He didn’t know what he wanted to do yet and was just sampling classes here and there. He took Anthropology 100 just because it fit into his timetable. The class, apparently, “just opened [his] eyes that anthropology is just the study of humanity,” which is “a passion of his.” According to him, his “whole life has just been trying to understand my world, and who we are, and what we do in a big picture way.”
Lind says people often remark that he doesn’t use his studies. But this is certainly not true, as one can see from how Lind thrives from connecting with people. “I use it every day,” he says. “I’m just not employed [in the field.]” Office culture is not for him, as someone who loves to be moving, travelling, and meeting people; “Music fits that,” he says.
When asked about his future, Lind says there’s just “more touring,” and that he’ll “tour his way home.” In November, he will be touring Vancouver Island and recording an album in the new year in his home studio. His long-term vision is touring festivals, and he means that literally. Lind confides in me that the catalyst for becoming a performer was a vision, “an incredibly vivid dream […] of himself playing onstage at a long outdoor festival. It was so real, and it is still so real today. That is what sustains me and drives me, and what I’m working towards.” He volunteered for years with the Regina Folk Festival, and even recorded the twelfth annual festival and turned it into a studio album. “I’ve got festivals in my blood,” he says emphatically.
JML will be rocking the stage at the Revival Music Room on August 31 at 9:30 ($10 cover charge); serenading the patio diners at Bar Willow Restaurant on September 2 at 8:30 (no cover); doing what he does best at the Manitou Music Festival at Watrous on September 5; and bringing down the house at Bushwakker on September 8 at 8:00 p.m.