Canadian singer-songwriter Jeremy Fisher first hit the road back in 2001 on his bike on his “One Less Tourbus” tour, riding from Seattle to Halifax over the course of six months on the back of his debut album Back Porch Spirituals. The tour garnered him some record label attention and Let It Shine was released in 2004. Over the past 19 years, Fisher has released eight albums, and been nominated for three Juno’s. He has self-produced and animated many of his own music videos, most notably “Cigarette”, which has over two million views on YouTube, and the highly ambitious “Uh Oh”, which nearly “broke” him. Fisher’s next venture into music has been in the children’s genre, in which he released Highway to Spell as Jeremy Fisher Jr. in 2018. He’s currently working on a new multi-platform television show for children, called Jeremy and Tunebug, which is nearing production.
When you started and released Let it Shine on Sony, it was 2004 — 15 years ago. Was that still in the heyday of when record labels were throwing money around and living well because of it?
That’s a complicated question. It was a different era in terms of budgets for things, but as far as my lifestyle went, I was still living in a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver from 2004-08 and most of the money that I made, I spent on touring and traveling. Yes, I did get a major label ‘deal’ at that time, and there was tour support and money for albums and I suppose it gave me the ability to go out and just do this full time. But, it wasn’t like I signed a major label deal and here’s your episode of Cribs. It was definitely the tail end of that era, but it was a different era. It laid the groundwork for me and I’ve been able to sustain a career in no small part to the help of those deals in the early days.
So I was going through all your music videos last night, and I was really enjoying myself watching you grow over the years not only as a musician, but as an animator too. The change from “Cigarette” to “Uh-Oh” is quite substantial.
Well, “Uh-Oh” might have been my last venture into animation because it nearly broke me. But it was definitely something that was born out of a desire to create. Its all very crude and more concept based than a refined process, but it was a lot of fun to work on. I made that “Cigarette” video for a whole week of my life when I had time to do something like that. But “Uh-Oh” was a full week of my life just making the figures that were in the video. I had to learn how to shoot and light a green screen and edit the background stuff in and it was a much bigger undertaking. I’m working on a kids TV show which will be fully animated, and I have a big team of people making this with me, I’m looking forward to working with professionals.
Yeah! Jeremy and Tunebug. Is the TV show built upon the work that you’ve done before – blending music and animation?
Well, it totally progresses in that way. There’s a learning curve that I got through in video production and I did videos with other people and learned the basics of screen writing. All of those skills are certainly serving me now as I use the vocabulary I’ve developed and I would say that getting into this world is kind of a natural progression. I’m so thankful that I’m not bogged down in the weeds that stunted from me doing anymore work since that Uh-Oh video. I was doing stuff so far out of my skill-set that I wasn’t happy with the process. I love the animation but I don’t love doing animation any more.
So, can you explain the concept of Jeremy and Tunebug? Am I right to understand its going to be a show, with an interactive website and an educational phone/tablet App?
It’s evolving. It’s really rooted in music education. We’re trying to help kids take their ideas and emotions and express them through song. Its about establishing a good relationship and seeing music as play rather than work. It’s been about a year in development and we’re getting really close to shooting our pilot episode. I have big ambitions for the online component, and the games we can play, and it all just seems so big and ever-changing. We’re very much focused on making it nourishing for the kids that are entertained by it, and making music a part of their lives the same way music has been a part of mine.
So, is this the next chapter in your musical career, or do you see yourself bouncing between kids and ‘adult’ music?
For the foreseeable future, this is where I’m focusing my energy. You know what’s crazy? About six or seven years ago I watched my audience go through a change. I had my audience that was plus or minus 10 years my age. Then six years ago everyone my age or younger just fell off. My audience became 15-20-30 years older than me. It was noticeable and it was fast. Then I started making kids music and my younger audience started bringing their kids to my shows. In this strange way, even though the music is focused on the kids, I am focused on my kids, and all my fans are focused on their kids. I’m all about creating something that is great for the whole family, something the family can put on a road trip with the kids and be enjoyable folk songs that are fun and have little bits in there just for the adults. Maybe for some families the best I can do is not be annoying. In a way, while I go on this path, I’m still trying to entertain these people, it’s just that a lot of our lives have changed.
To finish things off, I just want to know how you feel looking back at this line from your EPK (Electronic Press Kit) from 2007 where you say “I don’t have lofty goals of making lots of money, but I know I’ll be making music, but I don’t know how I’ll be making my living.”?
I don’t even remember saying that but I do believe that I did. I feel gratitude that I keep showing up and working hard. I’m always trying to learn and write and express and the gratitude comes from that fact that my well could dry up. I’m grateful that it continues to flow and goes in different directions. One thing that hasn’t changed, is that I still don’t know how I do it. I still don’t know where my mortgage payments are going to come from six months from now. 12 years ago, I didn’t have a mortgage payment, but it’s jarring to hear that, because in some way, that never changes. Being an artist is tenuous and requires a lot of trust in your instincts and what you’re doing and I have no idea how I’m going to be doing it 12 years from now, but I hope we can check in to see.
Jeremy Fisher performs at Redstone Winery on December 12.